Chinese and Russian forces could soon expand their military exercises in a show of unity against the United States and allied democracies, following a new dialogue between Beijing and Moscow.
Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the measures on Wednesday in a virtual meeting. The conversation occurred in a fraught context for both leaders, as NATO suspects Putin of planning a new invasion of Ukraine and Xi is angered by Taiwan’s participation in President Joe Biden’s summit of democracies.
“China and Russia need to launch more joint actions to uphold the security interests of the two sides more effectively,” Xi told Putin, according to a Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry summary. “China and Russia need to step up coordination and collaboration in international affairs, be more vocal on global governance, come up with feasible solutions to the pandemic, climate change, and other global issues, and firmly uphold international fairness and justice in the process of resolving international and regional hot spots.”
The meeting continued a theme of strategic solidarity that has marked their relationship in recent years. The two militaries have made dramatic displays of alignment in recent years, including joint Sino-Russian naval drills in the Baltic Sea in 2017 and joint aerial and naval patrols near Japan in recent months. Still, Western analysts tend to regard those operations as symbolic gestures rather than a sign of deep military alignment.
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“It bears watching. ... I just haven’t seen a lot of evidence of turning talk into action,” American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Zack Cooper said.
Still, Chinese state media sharpened the point of the call by amplifying Russian and Chinese analysts who underscored the adversarial purpose of the conversation.
”The forces who showed up at the U.S.-sponsored 'Summit for Democracy' to groundlessly accuse and attack China and Russia in the name of 'democracy and human rights' are being mentioned here, and their hypocritical moves damage their image and push China and Russia closer together,” China Foreign Affairs University professor Li Haidong said, according to the Global Times.
The hawkish state media outlet quoted a Russian analyst to argue that the summit of democracies amounted to an admission of weakness by the U.S.
“In the Cold War against the Soviet Union, the U.S. relied mostly on its own resources,” said Yury Tavrovsky, who also downplayed the multinational boycott of the Beijing Olympics. “Our experience of the West hindering and boycotting the Olympic Games of 1980 in Moscow and 2014 in Sochi shows that it is important to fulfill international obligations and disregard the enemy.”
Putin said the two governments had “the resolve to turn the joint border [between Russia and China] into a belt of everlasting peace and good neighborliness.”
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Yet China and Russia are not the U.S. and Canada.
“Demilitarizing their border would be a step, but the more China develops larger numbers of nuclear weapons ... that’s going to be a bit of a cause of concern,” Cooper said. “I'm just not convinced that Russian and Chinese interests overlap closely enough to justify some of the recent concern about this.”