The Russia-China Axis Grows

Ariel Cohen is senior research fellow in Russian and Eurasian studies and international energy policy at The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org).


China’s new president Xi Jinping will make his first official foreign visit later this month. He will visit Russia, in a trip Chinese sources say “will improve relations and cement strategic partnership.”

Washington should pay attention to the strengthening ties between Moscow and Beijing. These giant neighbors have the longest shared land border in the world, and trade between the two nations is booming–at around $90 billion annually. Washington needs to do everything possible to prevent the emergence of a new Eurasian anti-American axis.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian and Chinese bilateral relations have vastly improved. Currently, both countries would like to displace what they call U.S. “hegemony,” especially along their borders.

Russia has repeatedly demanded that the U.S. pull out of the Manas air force base in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.  Moreover, it insists the U.S. ask for Moscow’s approval before deploying any forces in Central Asia – even when they are needed to fight Islamist terrorism. China would like to keep the U.S. naval presence in Western Pacific in check.

Russia’s assertive foreign policy, with its anti-American propaganda overtones, seeks to establish a Russian “pole” in the global world order. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said that Xi’s “upcoming visit is expected to add new impetus to the further development of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination.” Translated from Chinese diplomatese, this means, “It is really, really important, but we won’t tell you what they are going to talk about.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov echoed his Chinese colleague’s sentiment:

Russia and China have united positions, and promote these united positions in negotiations, on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, including the Syrian crisis, Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear program and other crises….  On all these cases, we and our Chinese friends are led by one and the same principle — the necessity to observe international law, respect UN procedures and not allow interference from outside in domestic conflicts and all the more the use of force.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which Moscow and Beijing founded, aims to fight “the three evils: separatism, extremism, and terrorism.” There are enough secessionist areas to go around: Chechnya, Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan. Both countries want international support to keep their separatists in check.

Sino–Russian cooperation is not just geopolitical but also ideological. Russia and China want to halt the spread of liberal democracy.  This means keeping the U.S. out of their internal affairs, as well as those of regimes friendly to them. They believe that any government has a right to crack down on internal dissent or censure the press, including the Internet.

With these principles in mind, they have worked in concert to check U.S. efforts in the Middle East and protect their own interests, such as legitimizing authoritarian regimes. They vetoed and stifled sanctions and internationally supported peace plans for Syria. They enabled Iran to continue its nuclear program by refusing to tighten sanctions.

China, which is the principal supporter of North Korea, condemns even the possibility of military action against Pyongyang—and so does Russia. They increasingly present an alternative to Western-style democracy and are two stalwarts of the anti-US front, which also includes Iran and Venezuela.

Russia and China are expanding their economic ties. The two countries have already moved to trade with each other using their own currencies—thus excluding the dollar. Moscow and Beijing have promised to increase trade dramatically over the next decade, and they are working on finalizing a deal on the most important sector of their bilateral trade: energy.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich is conducting negotiations in China on a natural gas deal, saying that a “significant breakthrough” has been made over the past few months. This gas pipeline will connect Russia’s abundant gas reserves with China’s ever-growing need for energy.

The United States should work to prevent the Beijing-Moscow axis from taking root. After all, this was the main effort of the Nixon-Kissinger effort 40 years ago. China is making inroads in the Middle East and East Asia—two regions that remain pivotal to U.S. interests. China is using soft power to expand its influence along the Indian Ocean rim and in Africa. Chinese state-owned businesses are investing heavily in Afghan natural resources, and Beijing wields a great deal of influence in Pakistan.

Russia is executing its own “pivot to Asia”—something Moscow highlighted when hosting the 24th APEC summit in Vladivostok last fall. Like China, Russia also has an island dispute of its own with Japan over the Kuril Islands. As Beijing takes a hard line with its quarrel, the two could join forces to exert pressure on Japan and lend international credibility to each other’s territorial claims. Yet Russia is pursuing a rapprochement with Japan, Korea and Vietnam, indicating that it may be weary of the rising giant of China.

A China-Russia partnership is championing a selective commitment to “noninterference in internal affairs.” which plays well with the other authoritarian regimes around the world. They seek arms contracts and economic ties while looking the other way on nations’ human rights abuses.

However, as China continues to expand its sphere of influence through military, economic, smart, and soft power, Russia may become its junior partner in international affairs. China’s rapid economic rise, including in Central Asia, and Beijing’s desire for an enhanced global position could spell trouble for the Sino-Russian relationship down the road.

Russia’s economy is lagging behind China, and Moscow could easily turn into a  natural resource appendage for Beijing. Further, densely populated Chinese provinces border the sparsely populated Russian Far East, provoking fear in Moscow that Chinese immigrants will come to dominate a large part of Siberia.

Today, Russia blames the U.S. for its “time of troubles” in the 1990s, when a weak and corrupt central government presided over the economic slump and inflation. Moreover, Moscow is increasingly rejecting “Western values” such as same-sex marriages.

Nostalgic for the empire gone, Russian post-Soviet elites blame the U.S. for “orange revolutions” such as in Georgia (2003) and Ukraine (2004), and meddling into its “near abroad,” including NATO enlargement. Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, while supported by Russia, troubled Moscow and Beijing. China sees the “pivot to Asia” as containment policy.

For now, mutual geopolitical and economic interests are drawing Russia and China together into a partnership of convenience. Xi’s first visit sends the clear message that China seeks to cement closer ties with its neighbors—and not with the U.S.

Henry Kissinger’s postulate that a Russia-China axis is not in U.S. national security interests still stands.  Washington should plan its policy accordingly.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.  

  • objectivefactsmatter

    "Henry Kissinger’s postulate that a Russia-China axis is not in U.S. national security interests still stands. Washington should plan its policy accordingly."

    So…2 more "reset buttons?"

  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    No one should doubt the cornerstones which bind these 2 red powers together, even when they operate separately. First and foremost, they seek to supplant America's super power status. And there has been no better helpmate, than Barack HUSSEIN Obama. It is not for nothing that he commented, "off mic", about "flexibility" during his second term.
    In any case, the mischief he created, within the Mid East, worked decidedly in favor of the red/green alliance, certainly not an American interest – http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/10/22/world-leaders

    As is said, the proof is in the pudding, the mischief making!

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

    • Jay Yoon

      No, you don't realize that the decline of America isn't because of Barack Obama. It's written in the stars. Slowly but surely, US influence in the Eurasian continent will wane, and the US will be isolated to the Western Hemisphere. The Americas are the US's natural sphere of influence from a permanent geographical standpoint.

      The Democratic Party's foreign policy and overall mentality inevitably lead it toward collision and confrontation with world powers that it cannot win a war with, if those countries are united. An appeal to the pride of the Japanese and the South Koreans will lead to a growing anti-American sentiment. Agitators will fan the flames of dissent, and there will be mass protests along the lines of Arab Spring against the U.S. military forces stationed in these countries.

      China will come across as the benevolent elder brother, contrasting markedly with the American paternalistic style. And since blood is thicker than water, ultimately all of East Asia will unite into its own sphere of influence. Just as Europe has learned its lesson from the World Wars, and it now a united bloc of nations, East Asia is also tending towards unifying rather than disintegrating. The problem is that the United States needs these geopolitical blocs to be divided so that it can maintain and extend its foothold and influence therein.

      The US will soon face a United Front all across Eurasia that says, you are not welcome here, and you have overstayed your welcome. The only choice is for the US to conduct its international relations with a forthright, honorable, and impartial manner, not taking sides or pitting one ideological group against the other, but to be an arbiter between counterparties. And in the end, the US has not learned what China, Russia, and the EU so sorely learned – that to sacrifice making tough decisions that are right for the country in the long run for popularity and electoral advantage, or to adhere to an ideology, and overall having these sacred cows that are inviolable will ultimately lead to unrecoverable crises .

      Examples are excessive and unaccountable military spending, refusing to radically reform entitlements, not changing the tax code and raising taxes to reduce and eliminate the deficit, economic bubbles in healthcare, higher education, real estate, insurance, finance, and other service and financial industries that are caused by a combination of crony capitalism and government meddling in the private sector. China was forced to confront the reality that the Great Leap Forward and mass collectivization didn't lead to economic growth, and the Soviet Union was forced to confront the harsh reality that orthodox Marxism-Leninism was a failure in the real world. The US hasn't yet realized that the combination of problems, each one not sufficient to lead to a severe crisis, together will lead to its impending doom.

  • Bankotsu

    But U.S is pivoting to asia, this causes China to move closer to Russia as it feels the U.S threat from the east.

    The U.S pivoting is helping to bind Russia and China closer.

    • Mad Monkey

      Just because the US wants to protect its' trade with Australia, Singapore, the Phillipines, Japan and all the other Asian & South East Asian countries does not make it a threat to China.

      If China considers it a threat it says more about china than the US.

      If we engage in fair trade with let's say Australia or Japan how does that hurt a "good" China? If Australia & Japan are not trading under duress, then we are not hurting those countries nor China.

      there are only 3 possible flash points with China
      Taiwan, North Korea, & the south China sea resources/islands.

      In regards to Taiwan you can get more with honey than vinegar. Over time if good policies are adopted, then it will happen without anyone much thing about it

      North Korea is a catspaw or a stalking horse. China is looking to reap a great war. Careful for what you wish for Bankotsu.

      The resource issue of oil & metals can be side stepped. If you cannot see the way, then you are not trying. And if you are not trying then you should not be in the kitchen.

      "Bankotsu: A psychopathic serial thrill killer, Bankotsu is known for slaughtering demons and humans alike, which made him feared." Oh God you are so predictable. GTFU. Sociologists have adequately described your type. "he retains a sense of honor and compassion, but only for his six companions." blah, blah, blah.

      • Mad Monkey

        "Bankotsu: A psychopathic serial thrill killer, Bankotsu is known for slaughtering demons and humans alike, which made him feared."

        Sociologists have adequately described your type. "he retains a sense of honor and compassion, but only for his six companions." blah, blah, blah.

        http://inuyasha.wikia.com/wiki/Bankotsu

  • EthanP

    Interesting. The thugocrocy's always need to oppose the US of A. I don't know about you but it gives me a warm fuzzy fealing. I judge people by their enemies. We always seem to have the right enemies.

    Iran, N Korea, Cuba, Taliban, Russia, China.

  • Omar

    The United States needs to invade Russia soon. We need to invade Russia so that we can topple Putin's Stalinist dictatorship and transform that country into a Western-oriented democracy with a pro-American, pro-Western leader who will do everything that the West tells him to do. Putin and his cronies need to be sent to Guantanamo Bay to serve a life long sentence without parole for supporting totalitarianism and anti-Americanism. If Putin doesn't want to be in Gitmo for life, he will obey all of Washington's commands and to stop his totalitarian games. The United States needs to force Putin to be pro-Western or else he will pay a price, which is a long prison term sentence in Gitmo until he acknowledges that he is wrong in almost everything the United States and its democratic government is right on almost everything. The U.S. should tell Putin this: "Convert to our side and support pro-Americanism or pay the price and live in Gitmo".

    • pET

      Some homo-sapiens stopped evolving. I didn't you you existed! COME AGAIN!!!

      • Omar

        Excuse me? What do you mean by "stopped evolving"?

    • richard

      That never going to happen because americans are the biggest cowards in the world who only take on countries who cannot fight back.

    • Ruslan

      США должны вторгнуться в Россию. Я в шоке. Ребята, а потом вы удивляетесь, что вас не любят и готовы объеденяться хоть с Китаем, хоть с демонами.
      Это имоции, теперь по теме.
      1. Как бы и кто не относился к Путину у нас – он законно выбранный НАМИ президент, за которого даже по данным нанятой вами оппозиции проголосовало более половины избирателей. Чтобы вы не расстраивались, напомню вторым пришел кандидат от коммунистов и выиграй он вам точно бы легче не стало. Нам впрочем бы тоже.
      А теперь вопрос – кто такие американцы, чтобы прибегать через океан и указывать – за этого голосуй, а за этого нет? Ситуация примерно такая, приходит ко мне сосед с карабином и говорит – мне не нравиться твой выбор жены, Наташа не подходит и срочно женись на Ольге. Ответ тут один – тебе она нравиться, ты и женись. Если вам так нравяться те кто оставил меня нищим в 90 – да выбирите их себе и не мучайте нас.
      2. Просто напоминаю – Россия не Ливия и просто напасть не получиться. Русские быстрей похоронят мир, чем сдадуться. Не верите – спросите у татар, Гитлера и Наполеона.
      3. Особенно порадовало упоминание Guantanamo , если вы не в курсе, то помимо США этот лагерь называют кто конлагерь, кто GULAG.

      А теперь обвините меня в том, что я не имею права жить по законам свой страны и любить не США, а все таки свою Россию

  • Crossbow87

    Japan needs to re-arm and we need to enthusiastically cultivate ties with our natural ally India.

  • http://WWW.MEDIACRAPMATTERS.US ABUTOM

    IT IS EASIER TO SPLIT THE WORLD PIE INTO TWO PIECES. WILL THEY DRAW THE LINE THRU THE USA?
    CHINA IS MAKING BIG PROGRESS IN AFRICA. HELPING THE POOR. THE POOR MAKE GOOD COMMUNISTS AND/OR GOOD CATHOLICS. I SAW A PHOTO SHOPPED PHOTO. IT IS TWO ASTRONAUTS ON THE MOON. AN AMERICAN FLAG ON THE GROUND AND THE CHI COM FLAG ON THE POLE
    PERHAPS OBAMA WILL BE MADE CHANCELLOR AND THE DEMO COMMOS THE PRESIDEUM. http://WWW.MEDIACRAPMATTERS.US http://WWW.SPIRITOFAMERICAPARTYRADIOSHOW.COM

  • obama Guy

    Nothing to worry about. China and Russia = Oil and Water. This will last 2 more weeks.

  • Adams Foreign

    There are however significant constraints to a viable sino russian alignment, at least since both view each other as potential future adversaries.

  • SuperSerb

    North Korea is going to nuke USA out of existance. I hope they do it soon.

  • Mongoose

    Under 8 years of GW Bush and the Chinese were content to keep their head down and make money. Chavez, Putin and other members of the Hate-America brigade tried to recruit the Chinese to no avail. Then Obama comes in and pulls his pivot stunt to line up Asian countries against China, and surprise-surprise, the Chinese hopped into Putin's arms. Good move Obama, that'll show em.

  • mrka

    Neo-colonialist elites and particulary anglo-saxon neo-colonialist elites should really try to get over themselves, sometime this century.

  • David D Y Choi

    My following activities were not
    successful.

    (job searching in homeland, to acquire
    basic living cost via selling my harsh experience basis story,

    isolated site worker, facility manager, farm
    labor position, Asylum seeker’s status … etc.)

    Meanwhile, under the heaven,

    I am in need of some place in searching of
    a normal life back.

    While exploring of web site,

    I have keen interest whether, there may be
    a reliable settlement opportunity.

    Please help me to settle in there,

    I would like to join as the voluntary
    position before acquiring of residency related visa in there.

    Basis on my harsh experience including of
    war zone and conflict zone from pre-joined work sites,

    I have fresh vision to fulfill acceptable
    given duties within given time frame at a reliable work site.

    Over the visa affairs, I am eligible to
    apply any of requested work related visa in there.

    In case, your side is in need of my
    personal file,

    Please send your regard via e-mailed notice
    to me without hesitation.

    David D Y Choi

    duly@gmx.com, dulywork@hushmail.com

    personal web : http://www.cdyera.wordpress.com

    ==