On February 4th, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing and met his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, just hours before the Winter Olympics 2022. At the end of the meeting, both sides released a joint statement of over 5000 words on the “new era of international relations.”The joint statement highlights consensus on democracy, various regional and international issues, economic and social development and opposition to US hegemony, ideological cold war approaches, and the formation of blocs and camps.
It is the true manifestation of strategic engagement between the two countries and consolidates their bilateral partnership. It also implies that the two nationalist dictators share a common understanding of global governance and principles for a future world. Both Russia and China appear to be calling for a “global power redistribution,” and neither country is apologetic about its ambitions.
Stabilizers for the Future World
Russia and China seem to be preparing for a new cold war with the United States and its partners. In the joint statement, both countries have resisted US pressure, thus claiming to be the stabilizers for the changing world. Putin’s visit coincides with the United States’ diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics, which was prompted by the Chinese human rights record. It appears to be clear evidence of the two states fortifying their ties in the face of the United States. Correspondingly, the joint statement singles out the United States and its allies as fraudulent democracies.
Both leaders are opposed to external forces interfering in internal affairs. They agreed that there is no one-size-fits-all model for establishing democracy in the world. Based on its political system, cultural and historical context, any state can choose any method of implementing democracy. Both parties criticize Western countries for imposing their democratic standards to maintain global hegemony. In a similar vein, the statement expresses grave concerns about NATO expansion, the US Indo-Pacific strategy, and the trilateral security partnership AUKUS. These concerns highlight Chinese and Russian ambitions to shape a new world order and serve as a stabilizing force in the face of global challenges.
Strong Bilateral ties and pursuit of Multilateralism
The “Responsible Powers” appear to advocate for multilateralism as well. Russia and China intend to strengthen the role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), according to the joint statement. This appears to be a deliberate move based on multilateralism principles in shaping a polycentric world order and developing resistance to the United States’ dominance in international relations. Both countries also imply polarization of force and stated the principles which other Western and Southeast Asian countries can adopt. Furthermore, since the end of the Cold War and the emergence of the Russian Federation, Russian and Chinese leaders have paid special attention to improving relations.
The bond between the two countries has grown even stronger under Xi Jinping’sleadership. China and Russia are now more important to each other than ever before, whether in terms of economy, military, energy, information security, or space exploration. China’s massive economy has long relied on Russia for oil, gas, and coal. Russian President Vladimir Putin also emphasizes close economic ties, including a new gas contract with China in the statement. Russia is also sharing sensitive military technologies with China. In addition, the two countries are actively participating in a number of multilateral frameworks, including BRICS, SCO, and the G20.
The Trend of Power Redistribution
Russia and China are attempting to position themselves as a counterbalance to the US-led bloc. The joint statement asserts a deep partnership between Russia and China. The statement ushers in a global trend of tectonics and power redistribution. This trend appears to be shifting power away from the United States and toward Russia and China.
China has demonstrated to Russia its support over the Ukrainian issue as well as its opposition to NATO expansion in the region. Russia reciprocated by supporting China’s role in Taiwan, endorsing its One China Policy, and acknowledging the Russia-India-China cooperation format. The trend of power redistribution appears to be pointing to the dawn of a new cold war with the West.
Power Redistribution- A Possibility
The joint statement issued at the Putin-Xi Summit has abuzz the world with a mighty duo that will be a force to be reckoned with. The joint statement is direct in its wording. Russia and China seem to have crossed a red line. The geo-strategic contents of the joint statement make its new cold war objectives and the possibility of power redistribution crystal clear. Russia completely supports China’s position on Taiwan. China also supports Russia’s position against NATO membership expansion in Ukraine.
However, given the unconventional foreign policy models of the major powers involved, the power shift is not as simple and seamless as it appears. Russia has denied any plans for an offensive but has pressed the US to ensure that NATO does not expand or deploy weapons in Ukraine or other former Soviet republics. Still, the West explicitly rejects these demands. China is also likely to monitor the actions of the United States and its allies in the Ukraine standoff as it considers further Taiwan strategy. One can argue that US indecision may encourage China to become more assertive.
The joint statement necessarily requires a more collaborative and savvier stance on the part of the US and its allies. Russia and China are primarily united in their opposition to the United States. If the democracies respond more aggressively, a more Chinese-Russian opposition is expected. Moreover, economic coercion by China and Russia appears to be a wake-up call for the United States and its allies. If the United States wants to avert unexpected consequences that could alter the power equation, it is high time for it to join hands with allies to confront the two emerging global stabilizers.
However, this will not be a simple task, as the international community is increasingly demanding leadership that promotes peaceful development. On the other hand, Russia and China should realize that reshaping existing power structures is not as easy as slicing a cake. Other regional players with skin in the game, such as Japan, India, Australia, South Korea, and the European Union, are also vying for influence in international relations. Thereby, from a pragmatic perspective, involvement in direct military confrontations will be catastrophic.
The writer is a student of International Relations at the National Defence University Islamabad. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space