China-Russia relations January 2022-June 2023

Written by  //  June 30, 2023  //  China, Russia  //  1 Comment

Stimson Center
Peter Zeihan: How China and Russia Will Go Down

Is Russia Losing Its Grip on Central Asia?
What China’s Growing Regional Ambitions Mean for Moscow
By Temur Umarov and Alexander Gabuev
(Foreign Affairs) Last month marked a diplomatic milestone for Chinese President Xi Jinping. He had invited the leaders of five Central Asian states to the city of Xian for their first-ever joint summit with China. … In truth, Chinese and Russian power plays in Central Asia are complex and subtle. China’s clout is growing, but Beijing is nowhere near usurping Moscow as Central Asia’s true hegemon.
Like claims of waning Russian influence in Central Asia, the notion that China is angling to replace Russia as the region’s hegemonic power is inaccurate. …on many issues, Chinese and Russian interests do not compete. … That interdependence extends to their relations in Central Asia.
Nowhere is China’s arrival on the scene more visible than in trade and investment, including through projects loosely tied to the Belt and Road Initiative. Its trade with the region is greater and growing faster than Russia’s, reaching $70 billion last year against Russia’s $40 billion. Yet that expansion has not come at Russia’s expense. Much of it takes the form of Central Asian commodity exports to China—exports that Russia, itself a leading commodities exporter, has little use for.

27 June
What’s at stake for China in the Wagner rebellion?
The Wagner rebellion has likely raised questions about whether China’s strategic alignment with a weakened Russia may turn out to be a net burden rather than a plus to China’s interests
(Brookings) The risks for Beijing are high, too, given Chinese President Xi Jinping’s investment in relations with Putin, as well as uncertainty surrounding Russia’s trajectory, the war in Ukraine, and the broader strategic environment in China’s backyard.
Under Xi’s rule, Beijing has invested heavily in its relationship with Moscow. It has looked to the latter as its chief partner in counterbalancing against the United States and its allies and weakening what both states see as a “Western-centric” global order. Xi and Putin have close personal ties, having met dozens of times over the last decade and directly overseen the inking of their countries’ so-called “no limits” partnership.
Beijing’s first-order concerns likely revolve around the potential for domestic upheaval in Russia, with which it shares a more than 2,600-mile border, to spill over into China or to destabilize its immediate neighborhood. And just as American officials have been closely tracking Russia’s nuclear posture since the crisis, Chinese leaders are also likely anxious about the risk of loose Russian nukes and the threat this would pose to China’s security.

4 June
Arctic chill: western nations fear China and Russia will exploit regional tensions
Arctic Council severed ties with Moscow after it invaded Ukraine, increasing risk of a polar region ‘with no rules’
(Financial Times) Western countries are worried that China and Russia could try to exploit growing geopolitical tensions in the Arctic to increase their influence over the region and its abundant natural resources

1 June
China stands to gain from a weakened Russia. The West should prepare now.
By Andrew A. Michta
(Atlantic Council) As the war in Ukraine enters yet another phase with the coming Ukrainian offensive, it is clear that China is positioning itself to benefit from the outcome regardless of which side ultimately prevails. China has already been able to pocket significant gains in its relations with Russia as Moscow has grown more dependent on Beijing for its economic survival and for political support. China also has gained ground in its relations with the European Union, especially with Germany and France, which appear to have recognized Beijing’s growing role in shaping relations between Kyiv and Moscow. Although there is no consensus in Europe on relations with China going forward, the series of recent high-level visits to China by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock have driven the point home that, though geographically distant, China is increasingly a power in Europe.
How China has stood to benefit from Russia’s war has changed over the last year and a half.

28 April
China and Russia’s Long Dance
Philip Snow, author of, most recently, China and Russia: Four Centuries of Conflict and Concord.
The long history of Sino-Russian relations since the 1600s suggests that bilateral ties can flourish only while there is a semblance of military, political, and economic balance between the two sides. With China’s star rising while Russia sinks into a quagmire of its own making, the writing may be on the wall.
(Project Syndicate) Looking back on the centuries of the Sino-Russian relationship, one can draw some tentative generalizations. First, for Sino-Russian relations to flourish, there needs to be at least a semblance of balance. The more one partner gets ahead of the other militarily and economically, the greater the strain on the relationship. Second, it helps to have a perceived common enemy, such as Japan in the past and the US today. If the enemy ceases to act like an enemy to both parties, the bonds of the partnership will surely weaken. But even if Sino-Russian relations worsen, the two powers are unlikely to end up at each other’s throats (no matter how much some in the West might hope for that outcome). As a former Soviet diplomat in Beijing once observed, China and Russia have never fought a major war. Though they have come to the brink on several occasions, they have always sensed danger and stepped back. Finally, Western arguments about China and Russia being culturally incompatible clearly reflect wishful thinking. Over the years, the two peoples have proven both willing and able to appreciate each other’s literature and art. And whatever their political differences at times, they have managed to form plenty of business partnerships and personal friendships. With no other choice but to share the Eurasian continent, that is what Russia and China have done, though rarely on equal terms.

23 April
Could China help end the war in Ukraine?
by Patricia M. Kim and Michael O’Hanlon
(The Hill) To be sure, Beijing is watching out for its own interests in the Ukraine war — and certainly cannot play the role of honest broker in its eventual resolution. It has categorically skewed toward Moscow over the course of its assault on Ukraine, blunting Western efforts to isolate Moscow through continued economic and diplomatic engagement, and lending support to the Russian narrative that NATO encirclement and “Western hegemony” are ultimately at fault for the conflict. But Beijing’s problematic embrace of Moscow has simply reinforced the reality that China remains Russia’s most consequential ally and trade partner — and thus a critical player in efforts to reduce the risks of escalation and to bring the war to an end.

14 April
China agreed to secretly arm Russia, leaked Pentagon documents reveal
Intercept of Russian intelligence shows Beijing wanted to disguise lethal aid as civilian items, says report
(The Guardian) China approved the provision of lethal aid to Russia for its war in Ukraine but wanted any shipments to remain a secret, according to leaked US government documents.
A top-secret intelligence summary dated 23 February states that Beijing had approved the incremental provision of weapons to Moscow, which it would disguise as civilian items, according to a report in the Washington Post.
The intelligence was gathered by US agents eavesdropping on Russia’s secret service discussions, the newspaper reported. The Russians said China’s central military commission wanted the shipments to remain secret, it added.
A separate intelligence file in the trove of leaked documents said Beijing would consider a “significant” Ukrainian strike with US or NATO weapons on Russian territory as an escalation of the conflict that would merit sending arms to Russia.
Ukraine says it is finding more Chinese components in Russian weapons
Sanctions cut supply of Western parts for Russian arms
Chinese parts found in drones, tanks-Ukraine intelligence
China says prudent and responsible on military exports
(Reuters) – Ukrainian forces are finding a growing number of components from China in Russian weapons used in Ukraine, a senior adviser in President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office told Reuters, as Western supplies are squeezed by sanctions.

28 March
Xi and Putin share a deep resentment of the US, but China’s new dominance over Russia could eventually shatter the alliance
Russia and China have formed closer ties to counter the power of the US.
But China is the dominant one in the partnership, with Russia weakened by the Ukraine war.
The power imbalance could cause tensions and eventually end the alliance, says an expert.
(Business Insider) …despite the duo’s show of unity against the grandiose backdrop of the Kremlin, analysts said the summit exposed the unequal power dynamics in the relationship, and Russia’s weakened global position.
The imbalance could be what eventually ends up shattering the alliance, according to Jonathan Ward, founder of Atlas Organization, a consultancy on US-China global competition.
World leaders have made Putin a pariah over his military’s brutal and unprovoked bid to seize Ukraine. Meanwhile, wealthy democracies in western Europe have cut their ties with the Russian economy.
Xi power play irks Putin
During the summit Xi asserted his dominance, calling a meeting of Central Asian former Soviet Republics that the Kremlin has long regarded as being part of its sphere of influence, reported the Agence France Presse.
Putin responded with a move of his own likely to irritate Beijing, declaring plans over the weekend to station nuclear weapons in Belarus in direct contradiction to a joint statement issued with China only days before. Former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul described the move as a “humiliation” for Xi.

21-22 March
Xi and Putin just wrapped up talks in Moscow: What does it mean for the war in Ukraine and China’s global standing?
(Atlantic Council) A friendship testing its limits. Russian President Vladimir Putin embraced Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s twelve-point “peace plan” for Ukraine during three days of talks this week in Moscow. The two leaders’ joint statement stressed the need to “respect legitimate security concerns of all countries” to end the war—a talking point Russia has used to blame NATO and legitimize its war of aggression. But the statement didn’t deliver much else. What does Washington need to know about the autocrats’ partnership and how it will shape the war and the world? We reached out to our experts for a look beyond the talking points.

David O. Shullman: China has doubled down on relations with Russia
John Herbst: Putin won’t even take the first step to legitimize China’s sham ‘peace plan’
Michael Schuman: Putin and Xi are building an alternative world order—with Russia as the vassal state
Kimberly Donovan: Economic sanctions bring Putin and Xi closer together
Dexter Tiff Roberts: Mutual antipathy for the US defines this relationship
Hans Binnendijk: It’s possible to exploit the differences emerging between Russia and China
Colleen Cottle: The substance was lacking, but the symbolism was a win for Xi and Putin
Brian Whitmore: Putin gets a lifeline, but less than he probably hoped

Putin welcomes China’s controversial proposals for peace in Ukraine
But US warns against ‘any tactical move by Russia to freeze the war on its own terms’
Vladimir Putin has welcomed China’s proposals for peace in Ukraine at a joint press conference with Xi Jinping in Moscow – a plan the west has warned would allow the Kremlin to “freeze” its territorial gains in the country.
Speaking at the Kremlin during a joint news conference after the second day of talks with China’s president, Xi Jinping, Putin said Beijing’s peace plan “correlates to the point of view of the Russian Federation” and said that Ukraine’s western allies so far have shown no interest in it.

17-19 March
Adam Roberts at The Economist Two stories of global significance are jostling for attention. I’m gripped, first, by the latest chapter in the geopolitical saga that is about to unfold in Moscow. A three-day state visit by Xi Jinping to Russia, in which he will show solidarity with his fellow autocrat Vladimir Putin, is one of those moments when you can almost see great-power politics shifting.
What does Xi Jinping want from Vladimir Putin?
Big questions loom as the Chinese leader heads to Moscow
One thing is clear: in the year or so since Mr Putin visited China in the run-up to the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has grown weaker and more dependent on its bigger Asian neighbour. Not only is Russia suffering directly (incurring immensely high casualties in Ukraine, for example), it has become ever-more isolated diplomatically than before. As Alexander Gabuev writes in a guest essay this weekend, Russia is on the path to becoming a vassal state, cut off from Europe and America, and there to do China’s bidding.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr Putin over the forced abduction of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia. Could he really end up on trial in The Hague? The smart answer is to dismiss the idea—indeed, my Charlemagne colleague is sure that he won’t. But strange things can happen. In 2001 I interviewed Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of an international tribunal established to try war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia. I silently scoffed when she told me that another man indicted for war crimes, Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president, would pay for his misdeeds. But she was right: Milosevic died, mid-trial, in a Dutch cell in 2006. Perhaps Mr Putin should read up on that case.

China as Peacemaker in the Ukraine War? The U.S. and Europe Are Skeptical.
By Edward Wong and Steven Erlanger
(NYT) As Xi Jinping, China’s leader, prepares to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin in Moscow this week, Chinese officials have been framing his trip as a mission of peace, one where he will seek to “play a constructive role in promoting talks” between Russia and Ukraine, as a government spokesman in Beijing put it.
But American and European officials are watching for something else altogether — whether Mr. Xi will add fuel to the full-scale war that Mr. Putin began more than a year ago.
U.S. officials say China is still considering giving weapons — mainly artillery shells — to Russia for use in Ukraine. And even a call by Mr. Xi for a cease-fire would amount to an effort to strengthen Mr. Putin’s battlefield position, they say, by leaving Russia in control of more territory than when the invasion began.
A cease-fire now would be “effectively the ratification of Russian conquest,” John Kirby, a White House spokesman, said on Friday. “It would in effect recognize Russia’s gains and its attempt to conquer its neighbor’s territory by force, allowing Russian troops to continue to occupy sovereign Ukrainian territory.”
China’s Xi to meet Putin in Russia next week.
(WaPo) Chinese leader Xi Jinping will travel to Russia next week to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the strongest show of Beijing’s support for Moscow since the war in Ukraine began.
China’s Foreign Ministry and the Kremlin said in separate statements Friday that Xi will visit Russia from Monday to Wednesday. The Kremlin said the two would discuss ways of “deepening Russian-Chinese cooperation,” adding that “a number of important bilateral documents will be signed” during Xi’s visit.
How a warrant for Putin puts new spin on Xi visit to Russia
(AP) In the immediate term, the ICC’s warrant for Putin and one of his aides is unlikely to have a major impact on the meeting or China’s position toward Russia. Neither China nor Russia — nor the United States or Ukraine — has ratified the ICC’s founding treaty. The U.S., beginning with the Clinton administration, has refused to join the court, fearing that its broad mandate could result in the prosecution of American troops or officials. … However, the stain of the arrest warrant could well work against China and Russia in the court of public opinion and Putin’s international status may take a hit unless the charges are withdrawn or he is acquitted.

6 March
Russia is becoming a political millstone around Xi Jinping’s neck
Roger Garside, former British diplomat and author of China Coup: The Great Leap to Freedom
(Globe & Mail opinion) Nine days after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Hu Wei – a leading scholar and researcher serving as the vice-chairman of a think tank linked to China’s State Council, the country’s chief administrative authority – urged Xi Jinping to move away from Russia and toward the United States. …
Mr. Hu’s policy advice wasn’t ultimately adopted, but his predictions have been proved correct. He has now published a new article, on the anniversary of the invasion, retracting nothing.
[Hu Wei: Reflections on the First Year of the Russo-Ukrainian War]
China, he writes, is “in a dilemma with not much room to manoeuvre politically.” Should it abandon Mr. Putin’s regime, or supply the weapons and money Russia needs if it is to avoid defeat?
Without China’s support, Russia’s prospects are dire. Its battlefield performance has been a deadly shambles, and the oil and gas prices sustaining Moscow’s war have nosedived. … If China does not ride to Russia’s rescue, and Russia falls to both military defeat and economic disaster, the Chinese Communist Party will have lost its only major ally in the global struggle between democracy and autocracy.
The consequences of this for Mr. Xi personally must give him nightmares. His opponents at home and abroad will never let the world forget that he met with Mr. Putin to reaffirm their “friendship without limits” just 20 days before the invasion.

28 February
China spends billions on pro-Russia disinformation, US special envoy says
Beijing propaganda includes messaging aligned with Moscow on Ukraine war, says James Rubin
The west has been slow to respond to China spending billions globally to spread poisonous disinformation, including messaging that is completely aligned with Russia on Ukraine, a US special envoy has claimed.
James Rubin, a coordinator for the Global Engagement Center, a US state department body set up to “expose and counter” foreign propaganda and disinformation, made the remarks during a European tour this week.
Six weeks into the job, he said his aim was not just a passive rebuttal of Russian-Chinese disinformation on Ukraine but to go on the active offensive by urging countries not to harbour those that have been exposed for spreading disinformation.
He claimed Russia and China were spending billions of dollars in an effort to manipulate information but said Beijing was operating globally and spending more than Moscow.

24 February
China issues peace plan; Zelenskyy says he’ll await details
(AP) — China called for a cease-fire and peace talks between Ukraine and Russia on Friday, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy cautiously welcomed Beijing’s involvement — but said success would depend on actions not words.
Beijing claims to have a neutral stance in the war that began one year ago, but has also said it has a “no limits friendship” with Russia and has refused to criticize Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, or even refer to it as an invasion. It has accused the West of provoking the conflict and “fanning the flames” by providing Ukraine with defensive arms
With its release, President Xi Jinping’s government is reiterating China’s claim to being neutral, despite blocking efforts at the United Nations to condemn the invasion. The document echoes Russian claims that Western governments are to blame for the Feb. 24, 2022 invasion and criticizes sanctions on Russia.

22 February
What is China’s peace proposal for Ukraine War?
With its release, President Xi Jinping’s government is reiterating China’s claim to being neutral, despite blocking efforts at the United Nations to condemn the invasion. The document echoes Russian claims that Western governments are to blame for the Feb. 24, 2022 invasion and criticizes sanctions on Russia.

China and Russia deepen ties as top diplomat tells Putin crisis is ‘opportunity’
On eve of Ukraine invasion anniversary Russian leader says China relations ‘proceeding as planned’
(The Guardian) In brief televised remarks Wang said China and Russia were ready to deepen their strategic cooperation. Earlier on Wednesday, Wang met Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, where he said he expected to reach a “new consensus” on advancing the relationship between the two allies.
China in Ukraine war
(GZERO media) China on Monday denied US accusations that it might provide Russia with lethal aid — weapons — to attack Ukraine, telling Washington to stay out of its (albeit complicated) relationship with Moscow. After meeting Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, over the weekend at the Munich Security Conference, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that giving the Russians lethal aid would be a “serious problem” for Beijing, though he didn’t give further details. In the early stages of the war, the US sounded the alarm about Russia asking Beijing for help and China possibly looking to supply Russia with arms, despite the fact that Beijing actually buys weaponsfrom Moscow and doesn’t sell any to the Russians. Ultimately, China didn’t answer Russia’s plea for arms — likely to avoid Western sanctions. Now, however, Blinken says that Xi Jinping wants to have his cake and eat it too by calling in public for a negotiated peace in Ukraine while privately supplying Russia with all sorts of non-lethal stuff, such as spare parts for Su-35 fighter jets, to help Vladimir Putin defeat Ukraine. This week, we’ll be keeping an eye on Wang as he travels to Moscow and perhaps meets with Putin ahead of a big Xi “peace” speech reportedly planned for Friday.


30 December
Putin and Xi highlight Russia-China cooperation against backdrop of war
(WaPo)Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met remotely via video link Friday — an indication of Moscow’s latest efforts to strengthen ties with Beijing as Russia’s isolation grows because of its invasion of Ukraine.
As Western nations have imposed sweeping sanctions and distanced themselves from Moscow, China has been bolstering its economic and political ties with Russia, seeing this as an opportunity that could benefit Beijing in the longer term, analysts say. Crucially, Xi has declined to condemn or put pressure on Putin over the invasion.
On Friday, Putin stressed the importance of Chinese-Russian relations on the world stage, calling them “a model of cooperation between major powers in the 21st century,” and he said Moscow hoped the two countries would strengthen their military cooperation.
Putin invites Xi to Moscow as Russia pursues alliance with China
Analysts say Chinese leader has leverage as Russian counterpart ‘has no one else to turn to’ amid Ukraine war

4 November
China’s Xi warns Putin not to use nuclear arms in Ukraine
Chinese leader makes the call during a visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping made his most direct criticism yet of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine on Friday, warning the Russian president not to resort to nuclear weapons and calling on visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to push for peace talks.
The international community, said Xi, should “jointly oppose the use of, or threats to use, nuclear weapons,” according to a statement carried by Xinhua, China’s state news agency. The world should also “advocate that nuclear weapons cannot be used, a nuclear war cannot be waged, in order to prevent a nuclear crisis” in Europe or Asia, Xi added.

24 October
Russia’s Ukraine Disaster Exposes China’s Military Weakness
By Tai Ming Cheung, a professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego and director of the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC).
Beijing knows its own military has much in common with Moscow’s ineffective force.
(Foreign Policy) China’s decades-long military relationship with Russia helps to explain why Chinese leaders see the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait with so much circumspection. Russia and China have an extensive if volatile history of close military cooperation—the Chinese Communist Party based the organization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on the Soviet model and has imported a significant amount of high-end weaponry from Moscow. When Chinese leaders see Russia’s tens of thousands of dead or wounded troops over the course of its sputtering campaign in Ukraine, its loss of several thousand fighting vehicles, its inability to achieve battlefield objectives that once seemed easily attainable, and the end of its military’s ability to inspire any real fear, they are glimpsing a potential catastrophe that has alarming implications for their own security. Chinese leaders fear that if they were to go to war against Taiwan and fail to take the island, this would lead to the downfall of the Communist Party.

22 October
Singapore’s George Yeo hopes China will stay out of ‘long, dark tunnel’ as Russia and the West wade into nuclear talk
The ex-foreign minister is hopeful China will ‘have the wisdom and the statecraft to avoid entering’ the Ukraine war as it would put the world ‘in jeopardy’
He characterised the Ukraine conflict as a ‘proxy war’ that typically occurs before world powers edge towards ‘Armageddon’

8 October
Russia appreciates China’s ‘balanced position’, says envoy as Beijing walks fine line on Ukraine war
Russian consul general to Hong Kong Igor Sagitov says Beijing understands Moscow’s actions after similar ‘threats’ to security interests
Beijing has not made clear publicly whether it recognises referendums in eastern Ukraine that Moscow says supported joining Russia

21 September
Putin calls up more troops and threatens nuclear option in a speech which ups the ante but shows Russia’s weakness
Stefan Wolff, Professor of International Security, University of Birmingham, and Tatyana Malyarenko, Professor of International Relations, National University Odesa Law Academy
The China factor
(The Conversation) Putin met with China’s president Xi Jinping on September 15 at the margins of the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Just before, Xi had also visited Kazakhstan and expressed his clear support for that country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This was a clear signal to Putin to keep out of Central Asia and foreshadowed the subsequent humiliating climbdown of Putin having to admit that China had concerns about Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.
The absence of a similar message on Ukraine, where China continues to avoid speaking out clearly against Russia’s aggression, may have created an impression in Moscow that Beijing’s desire for stability which Xi expressed in Samarkand was primarily about a quick end to the war, not necessarily the path there.
The idea that China is pushing Russia not simply out of Central Asia but in fact towards a more aggressive stance on its western borders is another one of the Kremlin’s misreadings of China. But it is a very dangerous one, considering the applicability of Russia’s playbook to “unfinished business” in the pro-Russian breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova and the fact that Russia also recognised, in 2008, the independence of Georgia’s two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

13-15 September
Putin praises China’s balanced approach
Jeremy Kinsman comments “Putin meets Xi; no high fives this time”, noting what is not said in the communiqué
Putin acknowledges China’s concerns over Ukraine in sign of friction
(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he understood China’s Xi Jinping had concerns about the situation in Ukraine, a surprise acknowledgement of friction with Beijing over the war after a week of stunning Russian losses on the ground.
Xi did not mention Ukraine in his public remarks, nor was it mentioned in a Chinese readout of their meeting, which took place in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of a regional summit.
Since Russia’s invasion, China has trod a careful line, criticising Western sanctions against Russia but stopping short of endorsing or assisting in the military campaign.

Diane Francis: China Isolates Russia
Vladimir Putin has suffered a serious military setback in his war in Ukraine in recent days, but China’s Xi Jinping dealt him a second, diplomatic blow on September 13. He “warned” any country against meddling in Kazakhstan, days before the two leaders meet today (September 15) face-to-face.
No matter what the two say publicly after their meeting today as to how strong their ties are, China is distancing itself from Putin as his war in Ukraine falters.
The Xi-Putin partnership has been uneasy for some time. China has vied with Russia, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, for hegemony over Central Asia, with its vast resources and growing markets. Beijing has already outsmarted Moscow by spending billions to build railways, highways, and pipelines through Kazakhstan and its Central Asian neighbors aimed at improving their trade — and that bypass Russia completely. Called the Middle Corridor, it’s a multilateral institutional development linking the containerized rail freight transport networks of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the European Union through the economies of Central Asia, the Caucasus, Turkey, and Eastern Europe.
…should the Kremlin capitulate or fall into a heap, China will simply lie in wait then gradually take over chunks of Siberia or snap up breakaway regions that want Chinese funds to build railways, highways, or pipelines so that their people can connect with Europe and with Western prosperity.
Is Putin worried China will steal his power?
Former foreign office advisor Mark Galeotti discusses on TimesRadio
“What we’re seeing is a shift in the balance of power. [In Central Asia,]  Russia was the security guarantor and China was the investor, but, Russia is no longer able to provide that, so we’re seeing China fill that vacuum.”
Challenges for Russia and China Test a ‘No-Limits’ Friendship
By Keith Bradsher, Anton Troianovski and Jane Perlez
Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are set to meet later this week. Russia’s battlefield losses and China’s slowdown could complicate their relationship.
(NYT) The summit this week between President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China is a show of force by two autocratic leaders united against what they consider American hegemony. It is also a moment of mutual weakness as Russia suffers losses in Ukraine and China endures an economic slowdown.
They come to the meeting, expected to take place later this week in Uzbekistan, with their own agendas and their own challenges that will test an important relationship both have described as a friendship with “no limits.”
Moscow needs Beijing. Russia’s recent routs on the battlefields of Ukraine, coupled with the broad damage inflicted by Western sanctions, have made Chinese support all the more important. China has emerged as a major buyer of Russian commodities, purchases that have helped replenish Moscow’s coffers.
Beijing, though, remains cautious. It wants to project strength in the increasingly acrimonious competition with the United States and can’t afford for its main partner in an authoritarian alliance to face a humiliating defeat. But providing substantial, additional help to Russia, either economically or militarily, risks running afoul of Western sanctions and imperiling China’s economy.

7 September
China’s Xi Jinping to meet Putin on first foreign trip since COVID pandemic
Moscow-Beijing ties remain strong, amid Western pressure over Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The two leaders are expected to meet on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, a Eurasian political and security forum, which will take place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on September 15-16.

1 September
Russia and China launch large-scale military drills amid tensions with US
Drills involving several allied nations showcase increasing defence ties between Moscow and Beijing
(The Guardian) Russia and China have launched large-scale joint military exercises as both countries face growing tensions with the United States and Western nations. The drills will be held until Sept. 7 with troops from several former Soviet countries, as well as India, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Syria. The drills, which will be held in Russia’s Far East and the Sea of Japan, are also a means for Moscow to display its military capabilities in light of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
26 July
Far from Ukraine, Russia plans big eastern war games next month

10 June
(The World) Russia and China have opened a new cross-border bridge between their two nations in an attempt to boost trade. Moscow has been reeling from Western sanctions over its war in Ukraine, and both China and Russia have been at odds with the United States and its allies. Russia’s Ministry of Transport said the bridge would help boost bilateral annual trade to more than one million tons of goods. It links the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk to the Chinese city of Heihe, known in China as the Heilongjiang. Its construction began in 2016 and was completed in 2020, but the opening was delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Russia and China open cross-border bridge as ties deepen

24 May
China’s leader thought he couldn’t lose from backing the Kremlin’s war, but it is ending in tears
Roger Boyes, Diplomatic Editor
(The Times) … Xi was subjected to some rude shocks from the first weeks of Putin’s invasion. There was no surrender by Volodymyr Zelensky, no puppet regime installed in Kyiv, no triumphant welcome of Russia’s tanks, no Russian military governor. Just very public setbacks for the Russian military, and the creeping realisation that China was going to have to bankroll a protracted war in Europe, and to accept, too, that it was in harness to a military incompetent.
Since so much of the theatre of this unhappy axis was based on a personal understanding between the two supposedly invincible leaders, Xi will take a political hit. Suddenly, due to extend his presidential tenure later this year, Xi does not seem to be infallible. The quietly ambitious prime minister, Li Keqiang, may soon be considered to have sounder judgment than Xi.
After a fortnight of combat, Moscow was already asking for ammunition and kit, and only then did Xi realise he had walked into a mantrap. Russia, after all, was Beijing’s main arms supplier: what kind of crisis on the battlefield could have so dramatically reversed that role? China was ready to buy Russian oil when Europeans started to boycott it, but even then it demanded a rebate. It was also ready to help Putin sidestep western sanctions. Hatred of western financial warfare was, after all, a common cause. But rearming Russia would make China an active participant in the war, multiply the sanctions risk from the US and close down options.
Xi is having to learn plenty about his friend Putin. How can he stand shoulder to shoulder with a regime that has plainly been so deeply penetrated by western intelligence agencies? Chinese spooks now see Russian military technical data as a legitimate hacking target. How can Russia be cut out of the global financial system with such ease? Xi is determined before autumn to make China siege-proof. And perhaps, just perhaps, he will change the way China is governed. “Maybe allowing one man to turn an authoritarian system that was benefiting myriad interest groups into a personalised fiefdom that risks everything isn’t such a good idea after all,” writes the Cold War scholar Stephen Kotkin in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs.
Chiefly, Xi has to understand that the Ukraine war, with its Putinflationary effect on global food and fuel prices and his supposed meeting of minds with the Kremlin leader, is a shortcut to catastrophe for China. The souring bromance on top of other governing blunders is leading to huge capital outflows, plunging growth rates and an increasingly open questioning of Xi’s judgment. It may even require him to rethink his confrontation with the US.

6 May
Putin and Xi are accelerating their push against democracy. Here’s how the US can fight back.
(Atlantic Council) Both Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping view the expansion of democracy as a threat to their grip on power and key to the advancement of US and allied influence around the world. Disrupting democracy and strengthening authoritarianism globally are therefore central elements of their strategic competition with the United States.
Before Putin’s brazen invasion of Ukraine, both he and Xi had long recognized that interference in open societies to advantage illiberal friends is preferable to and far less costly than military invasion. There is no shortage of examples: In Ethiopia and Kenya, for instance, Beijing has invested in training the ruling parties on the same strategies and tactics the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses to stay in power. It has also poured money into countries such as Cambodia and Serbia without demanding progress on human rights or democratic development, reinforcing authoritarian trends there. For its part, Russia actively uses a range of online information operations to advantage illiberal populist allies abroad—from bolstering euroskeptic actors in the Netherlands to promoting a Kremlin-friendly narrative in government-controlled media in Hungary.
Chinese and Russian efforts to undermine democratic institutions and bolster illiberal leaders also frequently complement one another. Russian disinformation campaigns and efforts to exacerbate societal divides are often more effective in countries that are increasingly dependent on Chinese investment and convinced by its promotion of an authoritarian development model. While these efforts are typically undertaken independently, there is mounting evidence of coordination, particularly on propaganda and disinformation.
The Kremlin’s evident failings in Ukraine will likely spark fear among among Putin, Xi, and their elite support networks that this could snowball into more democratic successes in their neighborhoods. As this perceived threat escalates, so too will the dedication among the leaders of Russia and China to advance illiberalism and undercut democratic movements.

20 April
China looks to learn from Russian failures in Ukraine
(AP) … No country is paying closer attention than China to how a smaller and outgunned force has badly bloodied what was thought to be one of the world’s most powerful armies.
China’s military is highly opaque and outside the purview of civilian judges and corruption investigators, so it’s difficult to know how thoroughly the organization has been exorcised of practices such as the selling of commissions and kickbacks on defense contracts.
For Xi, the military’s primary mission remains to protect the ruling Communist Party, and he has followed his predecessors in fighting back hard against efforts to have the military shift its ultimate loyalty to the nation.
Xi’s overriding political focus could mean the lessons he draws from the Ukraine conflict are off base, Graham said.
“Xi Jinping will always apply a political solution because he’s not a military specialist or an economic specialist,” Graham said. “I think the military lessons have to go through a political filter, so I’m not sure that China will take the lessons that are abundant and on show for everyone to see.”

18 April
Thomas L. Friedman: China and Russia Are Giving Authoritarianism a Bad Name
The last decade looked like a good one for authoritarian regimes and a challenging one for democratic ones. Cybertools, drones, facial recognition technology and social networks seemed to make efficient authoritarians even more efficient and democracies increasingly ungovernable.
The West lost self-confidence — and both Russian and Chinese leaders rubbed it in, putting out the word that these chaotic democratic systems were a spent force.
And then a totally unexpected thing happened: Russia and China each overreached.
Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and, to his surprise, invited an indirect war with NATO and the West. China insisted that it was smart enough to have its own local solution to a pandemic, leaving millions of Chinese underprotected or unprotected and, in effect, inviting a war with one of Mother Nature’s most contagious viruses — the Omicron mutation of SARS-CoV-2. It’s now led China to lock down all of Shanghai and parts of 44 other cities — some 370 million people.
In short, both Moscow and Beijing find themselves suddenly contending with much more powerful and relentless forces and systems than they ever anticipated. And the battles are exposing — to the whole world and to their own people — the weaknesses of their own systems. So much so that the world now has to worry about instability in both countries.

13 April
China’s trade with Russia up by 12% in March from a year earlier
Increase outstrips 7.75% growth in China’s global trade, suggesting Beijing is maintaining strong links with Moscow
Beijing has refused to call Russia’s action an invasion and has repeatedly criticised what it says are illegal western sanctions to punish Moscow.
Several weeks before the attack on Ukraine, China and Russia declared a “no-limits” strategic partnership, whereby there are no forbidden areas of cooperation. Last year, total trade between China and Russia jumped 35.8% to a record $147bn.

4 April
Bristling Against the West, China Rallies Domestic Sympathy for Russia
China’s Communist Party is mounting an ideological campaign aimed at officials and students. The message: The country will not turn its back on Russia.
(NYT) While Russian troops have battered Ukraine, officials in China have been meeting behind closed doors to study a Communist Party-produced documentary that extols President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia as a hero.
The humiliating collapse of the Soviet Union, the video says, was the result of efforts by the United States to destroy its legitimacy. With swelling music and sunny scenes of present-day Moscow, the documentary praises Mr. Putin for restoring Stalin’s standing as a great wartime leader and for renewing patriotic pride in Russia’s past.
To the world, China casts itself as a principled onlooker of the war in Ukraine, not picking sides, simply seeking peace. At home, though, the Chinese Communist Party is pushing a campaign that paints Russia as a long-suffering victim rather than an aggressor and defends China’s strong ties with Moscow as vital.

20 March
Chinese article urging country to cut ties with Putin gets 1m views
Essay on US site republished in China before being censored, reflecting balancing act between Russia and west
(The Guardian) Despite being published late on a Friday evening in the Carter Center’s US-China Perception Monitor, Hu Wei’s essay soon gained a million views in and outside China, and was republished into Chinese blogs, non-official media sites and social media accounts.
Then came the backlash, as the article was criticised for being “reckless and dangerous” vitriol. Personal attacks on Hu and the USCPM followed. By Sunday morning, their websites were blocked in China.
… China’s position on the invasion and how far it is willing to go in supporting Russia is one of most stridently debated topics of the war, but inside China the conversation is strictly controlled, with little tolerance for dissenting views.
Published in English and Chinese, Hu’s essay argued that Russia’s advancement was faltering and China needed to cut ties with Putin “as soon as possible” to avoid being on the losing side and facing “further containment” from the US and the west.
Since the 24 February invasion, China has struggled to navigate an awkward position as a close ally of Russia but one unwilling to share the international condemnation and economic sanctions. It has sought to hold incompatible positions respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty and what it calls Russia’s “security concerns”. The confusion is reflected in its media and public statements.
Possible Outcomes of the Russo-Ukrainian War and China’s Choice
(US-China Perception Monitor) Text of article by Hu Wei, vice-chairman of the Public Policy Research Center of the Counselor’s Office of the State Council, chairman of Shanghai Public Policy Research Association, the chairman of the Academic Committee of the Chahar Institute, a professor, and a doctoral supervisor. (12 March)

18 March
U.S. seeks China’s help to end Russia’s war in Ukraine
(Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden sought to prevent Beijing giving new life to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in a video call with his Chinese counterpart on Friday as stalled Russian forces pressed on with bombardments of towns and cities.
China is the one big power that has yet to condemn Russia’s assault, and Washington fears Beijing may be considering giving Moscow financial and military support, something that both Russia and China deny.
“The Ukraine crisis is something that we don’t want to see,” Chinese state media quoted President Xi Jinping as saying in the call, which they said was requested by the U.S. side.
NATO should hold talks with Russia to resolve the factors behind the conflict, Chinese state media quoted Xi as saying, without assigning blame to Russia for the invasion.

14-15 March
What China stands to gain—and lose—by wading into the Ukraine war
(Atlantic Council) How far will these autocrats take their “no limits” friendship? As Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine grinds on, the Kremlin has reportedly reached out to Beijing for some extra military muscle. Meanwhile, there’s chatter among foreign-policy thinkers in both China and the West that President Xi Jinping could play a uniquely useful role in mediating the conflict. So today we’re taking a different approach to our Fast Thinking alerts. Call it Fast Forward: Insight from our top Sinologists about China’s potential options for dealing with its combustible next-door neighbor.

How plausible is Chinese military aid for Russia?
(AP) — The U.S. says Russia has asked China to provide military assistance for its war in Ukraine, and that China has responded affirmatively. Both Moscow and Beijing have denied the allegation, with a Chinese spokesperson dismissing it as “disinformation.”
Still, the claims have generated conjecture over how far Beijing would be willing to go in backing its “most important strategic partner,” as China’s foreign minister recently described Russia.
China “probably wants to avoid high-profile or big-ticket arms sales to Russia in the midst of a conflict which would expose Beijing to international sanctions,” said Drew Thompson, a former U.S. Defense Department official currently at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.
Beijing would be more willing to provide spare parts, consumables, ammunition, and dual-use items that don’t contravene sanctions and could fall below the threshold of international reprisals, Thompson said.
US warns Chinese on support for Russia in Ukraine war
(AP) — Face to face, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser warned a top Chinese official on Monday about China’s support for Russia in the Ukrainian invasion, even as the Kremlin denied reports it had requested Chinese military equipment to use in the war.
U.S. adviser Jake Sullivan and senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi met in Rome, with the Biden administration increasingly concerned that China is using the Ukraine war to advance Beijing’s long-term interest in its competition with the United States.
Sullivan was seeking clarity on Beijing’s posture and was warning the Chinese anew that assistance for Russia — including helping it avert sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Western allies — would be costly for them.

11 March
China and Russia are joining forces to spread disinformation
Together, China and Russia have provided the world with what a 2019 Brookings report described as “technology-driven playbooks for authoritarian rule.” For China, implementing this playbook globally is a key objective, and Russia has an interest in pushing global norms that legitimate its own system of control.
David Bandurski
(Brookings TechStream) Though Russian and Chinese interests diverge in important ways, they are increasingly collaborating on the narratives being supplied to domestic audiences, feeding similar disinformation and propaganda to a citizenry increasingly cut off from the global web. In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Beijing has on the one hand avoided fully backing the incursion while on the other amplifying Kremlin propaganda on the issue. This week, for example, China’s foreign ministry repeated false Russian claims about the presence of U.S. biological weapons in Ukraine.
Against the backdrop of last month’s joint statement from Xi and Putin, this collaboration should be seen as part of a broader project to reshape the global information landscape to favor the Kremlin and Beijing’s authoritarian political projects.
In its ambition to be free of Western-controlled narratives, China has found a friend and compatriot in Russia, which shares its ambition for information control and has its own formidable machine of disinformation. Although Moscow and Beijing still have separate interests and strategies for information competition, the two sides have nonetheless grown much closer in recent years in their shared authoritarian vision of global information control and related questions of national sovereignty. A key part of last month’s joint statement was a call for the “internationalization of internet governance,” by which Xi and Putin mean that the internet should be subject to the control of sovereign states.

9 March
Why China could become a mediator in negotiations between Russia and Ukraine

7-8 March
China unsettled by Ukraine, but don’t underestimate Xi’s Taiwan resolve -CIA head
By David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina
(Reuters) – China appears to have been unsettled by the difficulties Russia has faced since its invasion of Ukraine, but Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s determination with regard to Taiwan should not be underestimated, the CIA’s director said on Tuesday.
David Leonhardt: China’s Russia Problem
The war is arguably the most problematic international development for China in years.
China is trying to shape and lead the existing world order. “It benefits enormously from international stability,” Fareed Zakaria, the foreign-policy journalist, has pointed out. As The Times’s Thomas Friedman wrote, “Peace has been very good for China.”
Russia is both weaker and less satisfied with the recent developments. “Putin may dream of restoring Soviet-era greatness,” Paul Krugman wrote yesterday, “but China’s economy, which was roughly the same size as Russia’s 30 years ago, is now 10 times as large.” Today, Russia’s economy largely revolves around energy exports, giving it an incentive to foment political instability; oil prices often go up when the world is unstable.
Has Xi Jinping miscalculated in aligning himself with Vladimir Putin?
Tony Walker, Vice-chancellor’s fellow, La Trobe University
(The Conversation) If not turning into a debacle for Vladimir Putin, the Ukraine war is carrying with it risks for his tenure. Russia’s economic stability is in peril in the face of global economic sanctions such as have not been witnessed in a generation or more.
Putin’s apparent failure to anticipate the full extent of a co-ordinated international pushback against his recklessness remains a mystery.
However, in all of this there is a bigger question. This has to do with China’s contradictory responses to Russia’s ruthless breach of a neighbouring country’s sovereignty.
‘No Wavering’: After Turning to Putin, Xi Faces Hard Wartime Choices for China
(NYT) Beijing aligned itself with Putin as Russia prepared to invade Ukraine. Now its efforts to edge away are constrained by leadership politics.

U.S. storing ‘dangerous pathogens’ at biolabs in Ukraine, China says
(Bloomberg) China accused the U.S. military of operating “dangerous” biolabs in Ukraine, echoing a Russian conspiracy theory that Western officials warned could be part of an effort to retroactively justify President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

2 March
China Asked Russia to Delay Ukraine War Until After Olympics, U.S. Officials Say
A Western intelligence report indicates that Chinese officials had some level of direct knowledge about President Vladimir V. Putin’s war plans or intentions.
(NYT) The report indicates that senior Chinese officials had some level of direct knowledge about Russia’s war plans or intentions before the invasion started last week. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia met with President Xi Jinping of China in Beijing on Feb. 4 before the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Moscow and Beijing issued a 5,000-word statement at the time declaring that their partnership had “no limits,” denouncing NATO enlargement and asserting that they would establish a new global order with true “democracy.”

28 February
‘They were fooled by Putin’: Chinese historians speak out against Russian invasion
An open letter written by five historians denounced the war. They hope to persuade Beijing to make their stance clearer
(The Guardian) On Saturday morning, five renowned Chinese historians – Xu included – wrote an open letter denouncing Russia’s action on its neighbour and calling for peace. The authors of the letter hope to persuade Beijing to make its stance clearer: that what Russia is doing is wrong, and China should say it out loud.
In public, China opposes any act that violates territorial integrity. China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, articulated this position again in a late-night post published on his ministry’s website on Friday. But over the course of the past week, as civilians were killed and western sanctions intensified, Beijing continued to echo Putin’s argument that Moscow’s action is a response to Nato’s eastward expansion.
Ukraine: Did China Have a Clue?
A careful examination of the events suggests that China was, in fact, played.
By Yun Sun
(Stimson Center) Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, one of the most intriguing questions related to China is whether Beijing had been informed of the plan when China and Russia issued their Joint Statement on February 4. Given the strong language about mutual support in that document, if China did indeed know, it would mean it had played the role of an accomplice. The question is important as it defines the nature and depth of Sino-Russian relations as well as what can be expected from Beijing in the days to come. Despite the impression that Putin intentionally created, a careful examination of the events suggests that China was, in fact, played.
Chinese Dismissals of Potential Russian Invasion
Before Russia sent troops to Donetsk and Luhansk on February 21, the Chinese policy community did not believe that Russia was going to invade Ukraine, let alone lead a full-scale invasion. In a half dozen dialogues and roundtables with the Chinese experts on this topic since January, not a single Chinese policy wonk bought the idea. Only one expert on U.S.-China relations commented privately that he worried Russia might support the independence of the Donbas.

21 February
China’s Ukraine Crisis: What Xi Gains—and Loses—From Backing Putin
Xi’s growing alignment with Moscow presents something of a catch-22 for China. As it competes with the West over global order, Russia becomes a more attractive security partner. But by elevating the relationship with Russia—and choosing to do so in the middle of a Putin-provoked crisis—Beijing is inviting pushback it can ill afford.
By Jude Blanchette and Bonny Lin, Center for Strategic and International Studies.
(Foreign Affairs) The Ukraine crisis is primarily a standoff between Russia and the West, but off to the side, another player stands awkwardly: China. Beijing has tried to walk a fine line on Ukraine. On one hand, it has taken Russia’s side, blaming NATO expansion for causing the crisis and alleging that U.S. predictions of an imminent invasion are aggravating it. On the other hand, especially as the risk of military conflict has grown, it has called for diplomacy over war.
If Beijing had its way, it would maintain strong ties with Moscow, safeguard its trade relationship with Ukraine, keep the EU in its economic orbit, and avoid the spillover from U.S. and EU sanctions on Moscow—all while preventing relations with the United States from significantly deteriorating. Securing any one of these objectives may well be possible. Achieving all of them is not.
The crisis in Ukraine is exposing the limits of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s foreign policy. Beijing’s global aspirations are now clashing with its desire to remain selectively ambiguous and aloof. Although Chinese leaders may not recognize it, their country’s closer alignment with Russia is far from prudent. The upsides of this move are notional and long-term: Russia might someday return the favor by supporting Chinese territorial aspirations or cooperating on revising the structures of global governance. The costs to China’s larger global strategy, however, are real and immediate.
Beijing would no doubt prefer that the current crisis didn’t exist. For starters, Ukraine is an important trade partner for China in its own right, with more than $15 billion in bilateral trade flows in 2020. The country is also a vital gateway to Europe and a formal partner of the Belt and Road Initiative.

3-7 February
Russia and China Unveil a Pact Against America and the West
In a sweeping long-term agreement, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, the two most powerful autocrats, challenge the current political and military order.
Robin Wright
(The New Yorker) Agreements between Moscow and Beijing, including the Treaty of Friendship of 2001, have traditionally been laden with lofty, if vague, rhetoric that faded into forgotten history. But the new and detailed five-thousand-word agreement is more than a collection of the usual tropes, Robert Daly, the director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, at the Wilson Center, in Washington, told me. Although it falls short of a formal alliance, like NATO, the agreement reflects a more elaborate show of solidarity than anytime in the past. “This is a pledge to stand shoulder to shoulder against America and the West, ideologically as well as militarily,” Daly said. “This statement might be looked back on as the beginning of Cold War Two.” The timing and clarity of the communiqué—amid tensions on Russia’s border with Europe and China’s aggression around Taiwan—will “give historians the kind of specific event that they often focus on.”
Beyond security, the declaration also pledged collaboration on space, climate change, the Internet, and artificial intelligence. Politically, the document claimed that there is “no one-size-fits-all” type of democracy, and heralded both forms of authoritarian rule in Moscow and Beijing as successful democracies.
Russia and China to deepen cooperation in the Arctic
(RCI) To achieve such cooperation, both countries are counting on the Belt and Road Initiative, a Chinese project launched in 2013 to strengthen trade ties with the rest of the world. It devotes significant spending to infrastructure development in dozens of countries around the world. The project also involves the Arctic, where China wants to develop shipping lanes opened up by global warming.
Russia and China’s growing ‘friendship’ is more a public relations exercise than a new world order
By Marcin Kaczmarski, Lecturer in Security Studies, University of Glasgow, & Natasha Kuhrt, Lecturer in International Peace & Security, King’s College London
(The Conversation) … It was not until 2021 that NATO explicitly recognised the challenge presented by a Russia-China rapprochement. The two powers declared their “strategic partnership” in the 1990s and have since regularly signalled their growing convergence, coalescing around a shared antipathy to liberal democracy and opposition to what they perceived as externally sponsored regime change – for example, the “coloured revolutions”, when popular uprisings pushed such states as Ukraine or Georgia towards closer cooperation with the west.
But both the 2020-21 protests in Belarus and the stand-off between Russia and the west over Ukraine have created problems for Beijing, which has significant trade and investment ties with both countries which play key roles in China’s Belt and Road programme.
While the current Russian-western stand-off arguably diverts US attention away from Asia-Pacific and Taiwan, China would not want a potential armed conflict in Ukraine to cast a shadow over the Winter Olympics.
Given these differences, news of apparent security cooperation between the two should be taken with a pinch of salt. While there is growing collaboration between Chinese and Russian armed forces, the primary function of their military cooperation consists in political signalling, rather than in preparing for a joint military action
In Beijing, Olympic Spectacle and Global Power Games
The opening of the Winter Games gave Xi Jinping and Vladimir V. Putin a chance to cement their partnership against Western censure.
In a joint statement after Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin met, they said their friendship had “no limits,” and China sided with Russia on one of its critical security demands: an end to NATO expansion to the east and closer to Russia’s borders.
The two leaders called for the United States to abandon plans to deploy intermediate range missiles in Europe and Asia and denounced what they see as American interference in their internal affairs by fomenting “color revolutions,” the public uprisings in former Soviet republics like Georgia and Ukraine calling for greater democracy.
Russia and China tell NATO to stop expansion, Moscow backs Beijing on Taiwan
(National Post) – Russia and China called in a joint statement on Friday for NATO to halt its expansion while Moscow said it fully supported Beijing’s stance on Taiwan and opposed Taiwanese independence in any form.
The joint statement, including harsh criticism of the United States, was issued during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to China for the Winter Olympics.
The Kremlin said Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping held warm and substantive talks in Beijing and described the relationship as an advanced partnership with a special character.
Putin also unveiled a major new gas deal with China, a further sign of the deepening of the relationship between the two neighbours at a time of high tension in their relations with the West.

31 January
China-Russia ties: as the West forces them together, Xi and Putin show up for each other
The relationship may be the closest the two nations have been since 1950s honeymoon that followed China’s fight against US and allied forces in the Korean war
As the second-largest economy, China could provide Russia with some immunity against possible US sanctions over Ukraine
(SCMP) While US President Joe Biden got personal and threatened sanctions on Vladimir Putin if he invaded Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping tendered a warm welcome to the Russian leader as a guest of honour at the grand Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing on Friday.
And while Biden and his allied Western leaders announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games because of human rights concerns, the Russian leader will be among a limited number of foreign VIPs turning up to the “Bird’s Nest” stadium in support of the Chinese hosts.
It mirrors the situation in 2014 when Xi made a high-profile appearance at the Winter Olympics in Sochi as Putin was criticised by some Western leaders for Russia’s human rights record. In the following years, the two met nearly 30 times and became “best friends to heart”, as Xi described their relationship.

One Comment on "China-Russia relations January 2022-June 2023"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson September 16, 2022 at 9:38 pm ·

    Re: Diane Francis: China Isolates Russia
    This is very much as I have seen it. My years dealing with the Chinese taught at least something. Putin is rocking the boat and hurting business. Simple as that. A very illuminating article to those not familiar with the Chinese logic.
    European diplomat and friend of Wednesday Night

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