China and Russia Relations

 

Context:

  • Recently, in a joint statement, China and Russia affirmed that their new relationship is superior to any political or military alliance of the Cold War
  • The statement comes amid Russia’s standoff with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on Ukraine.

 

Background:

  • Despite being together in rejecting US unipolarity, the relationship between Russia and China is complex and layered.
  • Each has its distinct worldview and specific interests in its geographical region, and its own battles to fight.
  • Relations between China and the former Soviet Union were frosty, marked by mistrust and doctrinal differences for most of the Cold War decades.
  • The change came in 1989, when Mikhail Gorbachev became the first Soviet leader to visit China since Nikita Khrushchev in 1958.
  • Russia and China declared “mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual nonaggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence” as the basis of their bilateral relations.
  • A decade after the Soviet Union broke up, disappointed and humiliated by the way the West had downgraded it, and deep in economic crisis, Russia turned to China.
  • In 2001, the two countries signed the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation, paving the way for expanding economic and trade ties, including sales of defence equipment and energy by Russia to China, and Russia’s backing for China’s position on Taiwan.
  • In June 2021, the two countries extended the treaty at a virtual meeting where Russia claimed that “Russian-Chinese coordination plays a stabilising role in world affairs”.

 

Current Developments

 

  • Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea in Ukraine led to a sharp downturn in Russia’s ties with the US, NATO, and European Union (EU).
  • This was also the turning point in Russia’s ties with China, which revealed the possibilities, potential, and the limits of the relationship.
  • When the US, EU, and Australia imposed sanctions on Russia, Russia turned reflexively to China.
  • Russia opened its doors wide for Chinese investments, and struck a USD 400 billion deal for Gazprom, the Russian state monopoly gas exporter, to supply 38 billion cubic metres (bcm) annually to China for 30 years from 2025.
  • Earlier in January 2022, the two countries signed a deal for another pipeline, Power of Siberia 2, which will add 10 bcm of gas to the annual supply for 30 years.
  • Since 2016,trade between the two countries has gone from USD 50 bn to over USD 147 bn.
  • China is now Russia’s largest trading partner. Towards a modus vivendi in Central Asia, the two countries agreed to work towards speeding up the linking of the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.
  • With their ties closer than ever before, the crisis in Ukraine has been an opportunity for each country to express solidarity with the other’s grievance against the US.
  • Should the West impose financial and banking sanctions on Russia, China is expected to assist Russia, perhaps with alternative payment methods.

 

Way Forward:

  • India should also promote mutually beneficial trilateral cooperation between Russia, China and India that could contribute towards the reduction of mistrust and suspicion between India and China.
  • In this context, the BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and RIC trilateral forum must be leveraged.

Source: THE HINDU.

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