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“Russia Embraces China: US Watches Closely”



Islamabad (Imran Y. CHOUDHRY) :- Former Press Secretary to the President, Former Press Minister to the Embassy of Pakistan to France, Former MD, SRBC Mr. Qamar Bashir analysis :
Chinese President Xi welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin with great fanfare to deepen their “strategic partnership” based on national interests. He expressed his resolve to pursue a “no limits” partnership, unintimidated by US threats communicated by Joe Biden during their summit meeting in California. These threats were later reiterated by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and US Secretary of State Tony Blinken. They warned China that there would be “significant consequences” if Chinese companies supported Russia’s war against Ukraine. They also demanded that China refrain from deepening its bilateral defense and defense production ties with Russia.

While setting aside the US warning, President Putin marks his first visit to a foreign country since he was sworn in for a six-year term, sending a clear message to the world about his priorities and the depth of his personal relationship with Xi.

Putin declared the visit to be of an unprecedentedly high level for the strategic partnership between the two countries undeterred by attempts made by the US and EU to create a wedge between them. This visit was also a signal that they are ready to face the US position, which casts China as its biggest competitor and has labeled the Russia-China bilateral relations as the defining factor in an existential contest between democracies and autocracies.

While defining the aims of his visit, the Russian President touched the raw nerves of the USA and Europe when he stated that both countries would establish closer cooperation in various fields, including industry and high technology, space and peaceful nuclear energy, artificial intelligence, renewable energy sources, quantum computing, synthetic biology, espionage, hard military power, energy, trade, and innovative sectors.

This visit was also a show of strength and resilience against US sanctions imposed on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine and on China for flooding the US market with cost-effective industrial products, especially solar panels, new electric vehicles, lithium batteries, semiconductors, and clean energy products, alongside charges of industrial espionage.

In pre-visit media briefings, both countries expressed their desire to further boost their record $240 billion (S$323.7 billion) trade from last year, marking a 26 percent increase from the previous year. This trade spans various goods, ranging from cars and industrial machinery to smartphones, and includes billions of dollars’ worth of Russian energy exports. Interestingly, following the Ukraine war, relations between the two countries have strengthened, as have Beijing’s geopolitical ambitions.

The upsurge in trade received a significant boost when European suppliers ceased the supply of technologically advanced industrial goods critical to maintaining Russian industries at full capacity due to sanctions. China stepped in to successfully fill the gap with high-quality and cost-effective substitutes, which alleviated many of Russia’s woes. Simultaneously, this shift also compensated for Chinese losses in the US market. This newfound opportunity propelled Chinese exports to Russia to a new level, particularly in key critical technologies. These exports directly or indirectly helped Russia remain strong in industrial and defense sectors despite the depletion of its resources due to the protracted Russia-Ukraine war.

However, China’s defiance did not go unnoticed, and its invitation to the Russian President incurred consequences. US President Joe Biden unveiled steep tariff hikes on Chinese green technologies this week, impacting imports such as electric vehicles, chips, and solar cells. This move added stress to US-China ties and affected Chinese exports to the US, amounting to $18 billion.

The recent tariff increase is in addition to the levies already imposed on Chinese EVs, prompting automakers to avoid the US market. The new increase raises the tariff level from 25 percent to 100 percent, thereby impacting the sales and profitability of some Chinese companies. Under US pressure, the EU is expected to adopt a similarly strong posture in its own China tariff review, which is forthcoming. The European Union launched an inquiry into Chinese electric car subsidies last year, fearing a threat to Europe’s auto industry. This could result in a tariff hike from the current 10 percent.

While reacting to the US tariff hike, China warned the US that it would “take resolute measures” to defend its interests, beginning with announcing export controls on two rare metals essential for the manufacture of semiconductors.

This visit is also significant because, out of the many proposed solutions, plans, and suggestions put forward by various countries and geopolitical experts to end the Russian-Ukraine crisis, the most acceptable to Russia was the solution proposed by President Xi Jinping. He presented this proposal during his meeting with German Chancellor Scholz in Beijing on April 16, suggesting that all parties involved in the Ukraine crisis should abide by four principles: not seeking personal gain, not adding fuel to the fire, not further intensifying conflicts, and not undermining the stability of global industrial and supply chains.

While declaring President Xi’s proposal the most reasonable, Putin asserted that Russia has never refused negotiations for a political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis and is open to dialogue on the issue. However, in the same breath, he criticized the West for attempting to “punish,” isolate, and weaken Russia, and for providing funds and weapons to Ukraine.

The remarkable political maturity demonstrated by Chinese leadership in achieving its political objectives without engaging in a cold war with the US or the West is noteworthy. The outstanding diplomatic maneuvering and positioning of China’s Foreign Minister have successfully navigated through traps, snarls, and obstacles set by the US and its allies. The success of its Belt and Road Initiative, which breached $1.053 trillion in 2023, spanning 149 countries, showcases China’s diplomatic prowess.

Furthermore, China’s innovation capabilities have surpassed those of the US and Europe in many fields. Its economy stands as the largest trading partner of 120 countries, conducting business with nations regardless of their political affiliations. China’s growing role as an economic enabler extends to a wide range of countries, including those antagonistic to the US-led West, such as Russia, Belarus, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela.

China has developed top-notch expertise across various sectors and spheres, positioning itself to potentially rival the US as a broker of peace in conflict-ridden regions. This could start with its role in resolving the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

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