Russia-China Strategic Coordination in a World with Great Changes

2021-11-25 17:32SergeySanakoev
当代世界英文版 2021年4期

SergeySanakoev

In recent years, the international situation has undergone profound changes rarely seen in a century, and in addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has become an important incentive of global turbulence and uncertainties. Economic globalization and IT application to all aspects of social life have greatly liberated and improved social productive forces, bringing about unprecedented development opportunities on the hand and on the other giving rise to new threats and challenges calling for serious attention. The existing world order, or “Pax Americana” to be exact is breaking down, global Neo-Liberalism of the “Western scenario” is collapsing, and the Western “democratic values” and the so-called “rule-based order” are losing traction.

Profound World Changes Deepening Further and Becoming More Complex

As known to all, the Cold War happening at the end of the Second World War was not only a competition between the two victorious nations the United States (US) and the Soviet Union (USSR) but also a contest between two systems of socialism and capitalism. Come the late 1980s and the early 1990s, when dramatic changes happened in Eastern Europe and the USSR disintegrated, some of the scholars in the West claimed “the end of history” and the West began its extensive global expansion, establishing a world hegemonic order centering on the US. ?It is precisely the erroneous cognition of the West that triggered off the current crisis of the existing world order. It is also owing to continued expansion of the sphere of influence of the West that the current world hegemon has come about marked by a single political center and a long monopoly of the Dollar, among which the Dollar has been the principal global payment currency and the basis of the global financial system, that is the so-called Bretton Woods System. However, the “glaring victory” of the West attributes mainly to the self-collapse of the USSR. If, during the Cold War, the US demonstrated the rationale of its conduct and that of its allies as in defense of “democratic values”, then after the disintegration of the USSR, the West would spare the efforts to explain their actions but more and more it takes the arms for the sole basis of negotiations, reflecting not only in military and political terms but also in economic interests.

However, since the late 20th century some occurrences have took place beyond the imagination of the neo-liberalists. Since the disintegration of the USSR, China has held high the standard of progress and justice and led the 1.4 billion Chinese people in completing the construction of a moderately prosperous society. By a giant leap forward, China has entered the club of “world leaders”, a stable second largest economy of the world. ?At present, as the West has come to realize the rapid rise of a socialist China and a Russia at revival, the US is blunt to regard Russia and China as its competitors, immediately readjusting its international strategy to contain the development of Russia and China under the same old pretext of defending “democratic values” and building “rule-based order”.

Sanctions have become a means for the neo-liberalists to suppress their opponents. In different times, the US-led West have respectively applied unlawful sanctions to Cuba, the DPRK, Iran and China, and todays Russia included. Looking back to the “official reasons” for the Western countries declaration of sanctions, most of them cannot stand. ?The West including the US and Europe hope to resolve the issue of competition by this unfair means. However, as these sanctions take place against the background of world economic bodies (WTO, IMF and the World Bank) in serious crisis, the attempts to suppress and isolate China and Russia are bound to fail. When globalization encounters reversal, Western countries cannot create a new process of integration, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has not gone far in quarrels. Nor has the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) effectively integrated countries concerned.

At the same time, as sanctions are a “double-edged sword”, US trade war on China has resulted in a series of serious consequences, which more and more affect the current world order, and will eventually and gradually sink the West into isolation. Meanwhile, the trend toward a world multi-polarity is more and more evident. If previous trade wars involved preserving the so-called “hegemonic power”, then in the post-COVID era, with even more evident trend toward multi-polarity, as the balance of force of major world powers tends to be more equalized, countries of the world will have to consider the fact of continuously underscored development of multi-polarization.

China and Russia in Face of Similar Threats

As the emerging markets represented by China and Russia have impacted the order of Western powers, after concluding the war in Afghanistan, the US will necessarily concentrate its strength on containing China and Russia. No doubt, it will use all possible tools at its disposal to attack China, including to launch “human rights attacks” on different Chinese regions, to play “the Taiwan card”, and to attack and tarnish China with the so-call COVID origin tracing.

At present, the US Biden administration is trying to build a so-called “global democratic alliance”, constructing cliques and factions for a common purpose of containing China. In such an alliance, there will be not only hardcore US allies like Japan but also small countries in Europe like Lithuania. However, for European countries at large, they will not benefit from the US strategy of containing China. As Europe needs to solve its own problems, it is not necessary for it to confront such an important economic partner as China. If European leaders are sensible enough, then the best policy is to resist the US plan, build on independent diplomatic ties with China and Russia, and deeply participate in the construction of Eurasian integration which will be the smartest choice. ?At the same time, China is not and will not be afraid of US containment. China espouses the most clear-cut foreign strategy and policy, the vision of “building a community with a shared future for mankind” having been well received and gained traction. Nor will the Chinese people allow any country to hold sway over the direction of the countrys development. China is ready to cope with all threats.

It would be worth noting that since the beginning of the 21st century, remarkable changes have happened to Russian foreign policy. In July 2001, Russia and China signed the Russia-China Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation. In the same year, after the 9/11 attacks, Russia also demonstrated solidarity with the US in the international arena. In recent years, the Russian leadership has hardened its determination to change Russian foreign policy towards enhancing Russias sovereignty interest, which was made clear in Russian President Putins speech at the Munich Security Conference of 2007. ?Since then, to safeguard the interest of Russia, that of the former Soviet republics and that of the people of other parts in the world has become a permanent priority of Russian foreign policy. At present, relying on its great victory of the Second World War and its peoples heroic struggle, Russia resolutely defends international justice and security and advances multi-polarization and multilateralism on the basis of international law.

Naturally, the Russian change has posed a threat to the hegemonic system of the West. ?Since 2008, the West has continuously squeezed Russias strategic space, its most important action being the eastward expansion of the NATO. ?From the Russia-Georgia War of 2008 to the Crimea Incidence of 2014, it was the Western countries like the US and Europe that had worked from behind to induce concerned countries to impair Russias national interest. In order to uphold its national dignity and protect its own interest, Russia took effective counter measures, which thoroughly enraged the Western countries. As such, Russia will keep facing serious antagonism of the West in the future, especially that of the US. The Democrats and the forces behind it coming to power in the US can only intensify US-Russia contradictions. ?After the Russia-US summit in Geneva of June 2021, the original cautious optimism disappeared with the passing time. It is necessary for Russia to enhance relations with neighboring countries, especially those in the Asia-Pacific region, the most important strategy of Russian foreign policy being to build on Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era.

Fruitful Russia-China Strategic Coordination

On June 28, 2021, the heads of state of Russia and China adopted a statement through an online meeting to officially announce the extension of the Russia-China Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation which was about to expire for another five years. Both Russian President Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated that the relationship between the two countries is a “comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era”. As Russia and China are back to back in defending their sovereignty interest, Russia and China have similar interest in the future development of the world order, and Russia-China cooperation for the new era serves as an example of good-neighborliness and mutual coordination.

Over the years, promoted by the leaders of both countries, Russia-China cooperation mechanisms have continued to grow, the number of inter- governmental committees having increased to five, covering all areas of the bilateral relationship, with dozens of different sub-committees. The two countries have continued to enhance trade, investment and economic cooperation, bilateral trade volumes having increased by ten folds for the past twenty years. In trade structure, the proportion of emerging industries is on the increase. Not only have the two countries strengthened cooperation in traditional fields of space exploration, nuclear energy, aviation industry, and information technology, they also conduct cooperation in new areas such as regulating the digital space, which will enable Russia and China to establish safe and independent information system, such as for instance payment system like the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT). To a large extent, Russia and China have switched payment for bilateral trade to local currencies, a process that will go on. ?In the past few years, the two way visitor flow between both countries has increased markedly. A large number of cooperative projects in films, television, concerts, art and education have raised bilateral cultural cooperation to a new high. Russia and China have enhanced regional cooperation between local authorities like provinces and cities. Of particular importance is Russia-China cooperation in coordinated development in Russian Far Eastern regions and Chinese Northeastern provinces. It is the priority area for Russian national policy for the past decade to promote the accelerated development of Russian Far Easter regions and increase input to the Asia-Pacific regional market.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) put forward by President Xi Jinping is warmly received in Russia, which is one of most active countries in responding to the BRI. Russia is developing the project of the Northeast Passage and conducting modernizing transformation of the new Trans-Siberia Railway. Since 2015, Russia and China have, according to a resolution unanimously adopted by the two countries, jointly promoted the dovetailing of the BRI and the Eurasian Economic Union. Experts of both countries describe this process as “integrating integration”. Unlike Western countries, Russia-China cooperation is non-exclusive, remaining open to all countries willing to accept concerned principles. Not only does this process mean to build transportation corridor, it also means both countries will coordinate development plans for all departments. Guided by the Russia-China Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation, Russia and China have forged a model of new-type international relations which is in the fundamental interests of both countries and serves the aspirations of both peoples, playing an important role in promoting the development of a multi-polar world and securing international and regional security and stability. More and more countries in the world share Russia-China consensus on a modern world order.

Furthermore, Russia and China have also been engaged in promoting cooperation on regional level, pushing for and establishing a number of effective regional cooperative platforms. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Through its development over the past two decades, the SCO has gained the concurrence and support of more and more countries. The BRICS cooperation mechanism which includes Russia and China has also become an important multilateral organization, the BRICS Summit becoming increasingly pragmatic and the New Development Bank (NBD) becoming operative in Shanghai, which together with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) are considered alternatives to the World Bank by many developing countries. The above emerging regional organizations share one common feature, that is relatively high openness, which fundamentally distinguishes a new world order by countries represented by Russia and China from the old exclusive model of the West. Given that, the goal of emerging markets represented by Russia and China is not to prevail over the West but to conduct with it equitable and mutually benefiting cooperation, a goal that in itself has set development direction for the future world order.

To sum, in the post-Cold War years, the West has established a hegemonic world order through continuous global expansion, and the emerging markets represented by China and Russia impact the hegemonic order of the West, which results in containment by the US-led Western forces. But containment is also a “double-edged sword”, and as the trend toward global multi-polarization is irresistible, the power politics of the US is bound to collapse. Russia and China are in face of common threat of hegemonism. Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era sets an example for new-type major country relations and provides support for building a more equitable, stable and prosperous new world order.

Sergey Sanakoev is the President of the Asia-Pacific Region Research Center and Vice President of Russia-China Friendship Association