The leader of the Chinese regime Xi Jinping just concluded a three-day visit with the Russian president Vladimir Putin, a warm meeting in which the two men praised each other and spoke of a deep friendship. It is a high point in a complicated secular relationship in which both countries have been allies and enemies, but it also reflects asymmetries of a new kind of bond.
In the years since the Cold War, when Moscow was the capital of one of two world powers, the world has changed a lot, as have the fortunes of both countries. China is now the world’s second-biggest economy, while Russia’s economy was stagnant long before its invasion of Ukraine last year. Currently, China is facing the United States in a strategic competition fueled by intense nationalism on both sides.
Sam Greene, British academic and specialist in Russian politics, the Sino-Russian relationship is no longer symmetrical. “China’s dominance over Russia is total,” he said in a Twitter thread in which he reviewed various highlights of Xi’s tour in Moscow.
As a starting point, he said that the peace plan presented by China has no significance since it will not advance on either side. “This is a gift to Putin, basically permission from Beijing to keep fighting.”, he remarked. But she maintained that that was the only grace for the Kremlin in the visit of the Chinese leader, beyond the superficial praise and rhetoric about the alliance of the two countries.
“Putin, by contrast, was almost obscenely generous, and not just with his praise”, considered Greene, director of Democratic Resilience at the European Center for Policy Analysis (CEPA).
As a first point, he highlighted Putin’s promise to complete the Siberian Force 2 pipeline and others for the “uninterrupted” supply of oil and gas to China. Not only is it an income for Russia, it also replaces Europe’s dependence on hydrocarbon exports. ”It is a strategic victory for China”, assured the researcher.
In a similar framework, he explained that China is winning again with Putin’s announcement of a reorientation of agricultural trade towards the Asian giant and a strategic role for this country in the development of the far east and north of Russia.
Also, Russia offered to trade yuan with non-Western countries, which would weaken the ruble, a currency Xi has shown no sign of wanting to use.
On the other hand, Russia offered Chinese companies priority in taking over the assets of Western firms that are leaving the country, which opens the doors to a strong presence of Chinese capital without Beijing opening the doors in the same way. to Russian investors.
“To be clear, there are situational benefits for Moscow in each of these things, and in others. But I’m having a hard time finding anything Xi wants from Putin that he hasn’t gotten, and the list of things Putin wants from Xi that he hasn’t gotten is long.Greene remarked.
The author marked other contrasts of the meeting. Putin praised the world figure of Xi, who limited himself to returning the praise as a “reliable partner”. The Russian president offered privileges and subsidies, the Chinese leader only talked about facilitating trade.
“Putin greeted Xi with a rhetorical bear hug. Xi patted him on the head and told him to go playsaid Greene, director of the Russia Institute at King’s College London, metaphorically.
He even called Xi’s endorsement of Putin’s 2024 re-election prospects “humiliating,” “coming from a man who doesn’t even have to pretend to win an election.”
Therefore, he concluded: “This summit shows exactly how much Putin has lost. Before the war – even after 2014 – Putin was in a position of strategic maneuverability. He could arbitrate between east and west, reaping windfalls for his regime along the way. Now all that has disappeared. Putin tells his people that he is fighting for Russia’s sovereignty. Actually, he has mortgaged the Kremlin to Beijing”.
And he wonders what Xi will do with his “new acquisition”.
This marks a historic shift in Sino-Russian relations.
Russia’s power over China was not only historical, but also cultural. Students read translated Russian short stories and poems in their literature classes, while many educated Chinese from an earlier generation learned Russian instead of English.
“Many Chinese, including elites, have not yet realized the historical reversal of China’s national strength compared to Russia,” Feng Yujun, a leading Russia specialist at Shanghai Fudan University, wrote in a published article. last month that was widely shared. “Although China’s national strength is now ten times that of Russia’s, the biggest challenge is that many Chinese remain ideologically subservient to Russia,” he wrote.
The one who does seem to be clear that the relationship has changed is Xi.
(With information from AP)
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