Valdai/Sputnik perspective on Russia/China creative relations

EXPERT OPINIONSTHE EASTERN PERSPECTIVE
Russia-China: A Chance to Break the Mould

Today’s Russia is not the Soviet Union during the Cold War, nor is China the same as it was forty years ago. The fast developing relations between China and Russia has far more strategic relevance worldwide than purely bilateral in nature, and should be appreciated as an endeavour of the two countries to grasp this historic opportunity to create a new horizon for peace and development that befits the wisdom and advancement of mankind. 

Against the backdrop of the trade war between the US and China, the continuing sanctions that the US has imposed on Russia and the US’s current trade disputes with the EU, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Moscow at the beginning of this month, setting a new milestone in the relations between China and Russia. The subsequent joint statement signed by the two leaders on “Developing a Comprehensive Partnership and Strategic Interaction Entering a New Era” has sent a clear message to the world that the political links between the two countries are to be strengthened and taken to a higher level. However, this relationship should not be viewed as a defensive pact as a response to the current turbulent geo-political scene but one that is a complimentary element to the journey towards the goal of a more sustainable, prosperous and peaceful world.

The Cold War has become history, the G7 became the G8 and now we have the G20. The subsequent days when there was only “one policeman in town” are gone notwithstanding the policeman’s frustration because the world is changing and changing fast away from the direction as was predicted by Francis Fukuyama in “The End of History and The Last Man”. Rather than accepting the reality that the rise of China is a given, the return to the world stage of the powerhouse Russia is a matter of course, the growing strength of the European Union is on an unstoppable trajectory, and finding a solution through friendly talks to build a new world order to ensure continued peace and development, President Trump of the United States is trying to push everyone else down to create the illusion of “Making America Great Again”, threatening to back out of the various world clubs that the US was instrumental in making, and declaring Russia and China its “strategic competitors” and now even “enemies”.

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It is natural under the circumstances for many to think that China and Russia should have come together to face the common threat because both are being pressed and isolated by the US. For the same reason, some even suggest that it is high time that China and Russia should form a military alliance to protect each other because a world war is inevitable. These arguments or suggestions are extremely unconstructive and counterproductive, if not totally groundless. It is perhaps fair to admit that the on-going strengthening of political links between China and Russia may have been forced by the actions of the US, and could be considered as a partnership of convenience. But this provides no logical reason to suggest that the two countries should become allies. In fact, any attempt to encourage a military alliance between China and Russia could bring us back to the Cold War, and is in contradiction with the expressed aspirations of the leaders of the two countries to enhance cooperation jointly to build a community of common destiny for all mankind.

Equally understandable is for many to argue that Russia’s set policy of Eurocentric orientation must not to be affected by the strengthening of its ties with China. It goes without saying that its relevance to Europe is never in contradiction to the fundamental objectives for Russia to forge a closer relationship with China. In fact, if the on-going disputes and tensions between the US and Europe continue to accelerate, it is not unrealistic to predict that Europe may eventually turn friendly towards its traditionally less favoured but forever-needed neighbour Russia. In this context, China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” and its ever expanding economic cooperation with Europe is the perfect bridge to enhance connectivity between Asia and Europe with Russia right in the middle.

Although some may still believe that the Sino-Russian partnership is temporary and fragile, and can be easily divided by the changing policies of the US towards either China or Russia, they tend to neglect the power of the political determination behind the recent joint statement of the Chinese and Russian Presidents and their mutual commitment to and the growing desire of the peoples around the world for a new and multi-polar world order where the voices of the European Union, Russia, China, and others will no doubt need to be heard loud and clear instead of being manipulated by a single self-appointed law enforcer.

However, doubters do have reasons to question the sustainability of the Sino-Russian relationship due to the insufficient trade volumes and lack of economic interdependence between the two countries. Whilst China has become Russia’s leading trade partner reaching USD108 billion in 2018, it is still far from comparable to the Sino-US trade of USD360 billion and Sino-EU trade of USD380 billion in the same year. But things are changing. Russia’s continued supply of oil and gas to China has set the base tone of economic ties between the two countries that have now extended their cooperation to the building of nuclear power plants in China and China’s investment in Russia’s LNG sector. More noteworthy achievements are Huawei’s recent agreement with MTS to develop a 5G network in Russia, and Great Wall Motor’s production plant in the Tula region claiming an anticipated manufacturing capacity of 150,000 cars by 2020.

Consequences of Cooperation Between Russia and China in the Global Natural Gas Market
The signing of a cooperation agreement between Chinese and Russia energy companies is, without a doubt, a major breakthrough, and an important emblem of the comprehensive strategic partnership between Russia and China, as well as their cooperation in the new era. As Chinese President Xi Jinping stated at the Second China-Russia Energy Business Forum, China and Russia have a vast amount of territory, and great potential in the area of energy cooperation, writes Hu Angang, Economics professor at Tsinghua University, China.

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Further opportunities for cooperation can be found in Russia’s planned development of its vast Far East region for which China is the most ready and natural partner. But to realise these aspirations, many more Chinese companies, particularly those from the private sector, must be incentivised to engage in such endeavours whereby China’s experience and financial resources accumulated over the past forty years can be shared as true partners. It is therefore imperative for both China and Russia to double up the effort to work towards not only a fuller integration of the two economies but also constant interactions at all levels of our respective governments and increasing social and cultural exchanges between the two peoples.

Today’s Russia is not the Soviet Union during the Cold War, nor is China the same as it was forty years ago. The fast developing relations between China and Russia has far more strategic relevance worldwide than purely bilateral in nature, and should be appreciated as an endeavour of the two countries to grasp this historic opportunity to create a new horizon for peace and development that befits the wisdom and advancement of mankind.

About Ove Svidén

Ove Svidén was born on March 10, 1937 at 12:15 in Stockholm, Sweden. M.Sc., 1960, Aircraft Engineering, KTH, Royal Inst. of Technology, Stockholm. B.A., 1980, Psychology, Education, Politics at Linköping University. Received a Ph.D. 1989, on Scenarios, Dept. Management and Economics, Linköping University. Futures Research 1988-91, Systems Engineering and Consensus Formation Office at Drive Project, DGXIII, Brussels. CEO at ARISEeeig on Road Transport Informatics, 1992-99, Brussels. President, World Peace Foundation from 2001-, Stockholm (www.peace.se).
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