Mao Zedong once summed up his philosophy on foreign policy with the following metaphor, “a wise monkey sitting on top of the mountain to watch the two tigers fight in the valley below.” The tigers in the Great Helmsman’s formulation were, of course, Moscow and Washington, and Beijing was the wise monkey. And China was able to play the role of “wise monkey” in its foreign affairs quite successfully for a number of years, skillfully manoeuvring in the background of the global confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States. It carefully and calculatingly corrected its foreign policy course depending on the emerging balance of power and the interests of the People’s Republic of China at the given moment in time.
In the 21st century, however, it would seem that Moscow has become the wise monkey. The Soviet Union is gone, and China is now punching in a new weight division. Deng Xiaoping’s words of wisdom that China’s leaders should “observe dispassionately, stay in the shadows and try not to reveal themselves” is no longer relevant for Chairman Xi Jinping, and “staying in the shadows” is not an option. The animosities between China and the United States that have been simmering for decades are now transforming into a full-fledged confrontation, complete with economic, technological, geopolitical, military and even ideological dimensions.
Not only has the coronavirus pandemic failed to slow down this growing confrontation, but it has actually served to accelerate it quite dramatically. The world is moving towards a new kind of bipolarity, albeit one that is quite different from the Soviet–American bipolarity we witnessed during the second half of the 20th century. The two tigers are more than determined, neither is prepared to back down, and no “groundbreaking deal” between Beijing and Washington is on the horizon. And while temporary “ceasefires” and tactical agreements are likely, the battle in the valley will not be over any time soon.
Why Sitting it out on the Mountain Will not Work
Will Moscow, as the wise monkey in our metaphor, be able to sit back and observe this historic and wholly unpredictable battle on top of the mountain while maintaining a careful balance in relations between Beijing and Washington?
The answer seems obvious—no, it will not. Not because Russian diplomacy lacks the necessary professionalism or experience, but because Russia’s reputation in the United States is no better than that of China. The only difference is the seriousness with which the country’s elites perceive the threats emanating from its two main adversaries. Washington sees China as a serious strategic competitor that is ready to challenge the United States’ global leadership. Russia, on the other hand, is seen as a bully that does not have the resources to compete on an equal footing with the United States, but will jump on any chance to harm U.S. interests.
Obviously, the image of a bully and saboteur (a “ruiner,” if you will) is not exactly the best starting point if your goal is to act as a balancing force between the two superpowers of the 21st century. The American tiger would happily gobble up the Russian monkey if it got the chance, and it would not think twice about it. But only to get the annoying monkey out of its hair so it can concentrate on its fight to the death with the truly dangerous China.
What is more, it is far more difficult for a wise monkey to sit atop a mountain in the 21st century. The world has become too cramped, countries depend too much on one another, and even the slightest hint of isolationism involves costs that are simply too great. Politicians, military leaders and business people are forced to choose between the United States and China on a daily basis. This is why the wise monkey, one way or another, whether it wants to or not, is forced to come down the mountain and directly or indirectly take part in the battle that is raging between the two tigers.
There is, of course, no doubt that Russia is on China’s side in this battle. Simply put, there is nothing that the White House could offer the Kremlin that could even theoretically outweigh the value of the strategic relationship between Russia and China for Moscow. What is more, there is no one in the White House or the Department of State who is prepared to work towards developing good relations with Vladimir Putin as persistently and with as much dedication as Henry Kissinger was in relation to Mao Zedong half a century ago.
Russia as the “Monkey King”
That notwithstanding, it is entirely possible that the monkey that has come down the mountain may play a role that is independent of the tigers, and one that could even affect the outcome of their altercation. We should stress here that we are not talking about a monkey in the traditional Russian understanding of the word—the “monkey prankster” from Ivan Krylov’s tale. In Russia, the monkey is seen as a weak and reckless creature, somewhat of a clown, impulsive and unpredictable behaviour with a penchant for tomfoolery and mockery.
The Chinese image of the monkey, however, is quite different, and this is the image to which Mao Zedong quite obviously appealed. In the Chinese tradition, not only does the monkey personify resourcefulness and cunning, but it is also praised for its remarkable mind and considerable strength. Take the mythological Sun Wukong (“Monkey King”), for instance, a figure that is known throughout China—while ambiguous and contradictory, the character is nevertheless more hero than villain, is rather charismatic and has his own set of ethical principles. “Monkey King” may not have the physical strength that other Chinese mythological figures have, but he fears none of them and is always ready to stand up to even the most formidable of opponents.
What advice can we give to the Russian “Monkey King,” who, as fate would have it, has been thrust into the position of a potential participant in this battle of two huge tigers, instead of remaining on the sidelines? First, don’t anger the tigers, and don’t let them provoke each other. It will only hurt Russia in the long term if the confrontation between China and the United States continues to deteriorate—even if from a tactical point of view it would elevate Moscow in Beijing’s eyes and strengthen ties between China and Russia on the whole. The strategic risks of a deterioration in U.S.–China relations are extremely grave, especially if we take the potential pitfalls arising from international stability, regional crises and nuclear non-proliferation, as well as the risks to the world economy, finance and global technological development, into account. These are extremely heavy prices to pay and, as such, they negate any tactical gains that Russia might extract for itself from a further exacerbation of the confrontation between the United States and China.
Second, we should tell Russia that a tiger cannot change its stripes, even if you are fighting alongside it. In many respects, the interests of Russia and China coincide. Yet there are areas where their interests diverge. For example, Chinese corporations and financial institutions are effectively complying with the U.S. sanctions against Russia. Beijing is not inclined to support Moscow on the “Ukrainian issue” and does not recognize Crimea as a part of Russia. Moscow, in turn, is not ready to consider the territorial disputes in the South China Sea exclusively through what we might term the “Beijing prism,” nor does it side fully with China in its disputes with India and Vietnam. The strategic partnership between Russia and China does not exclude the possibility that the two sides might disagree on certain issues, and these differences must not be ignored or minimized. Thus, strengthening cooperation between the two countries does not necessarily have to mean creating a formal military and political alliance.
Third, if the monkey truly is wise, then it will realize that the valley beneath the mountain is home to many animals, not just the two tigers. And the monkey’s interests may coincide with those of a number of these animals. The trend towards a new bipolarity is definitely gaining momentum, but this does not mean that there is already no going back. It is important that Russian politics does not focus exclusively on this emerging bipolarity and instead actively promotes trends that oppose this bipolarity in one way or another. In this regard, developing broad cooperation with the European Union is particularly important—after all, the European Union is another monkey that has been forced to come down from its mountain and step into the unknown valley of tomorrow’s world politics.
From our partner RIAC
Saudi-Iran Truce: China’s Highway to Diplomatic Exploitation
The time-ravaging rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia ranks below few in the assemblage of unresolvable, primeval conflicts since it is based on dogma, entwined in history, and fought through proxies throughout the Middle East. Therefore, being able to get these two arch-nemeses to sign March 10 historic agreement of truce, could potentially have colossal impacts on the world, particularly in terms of mutating China’s global image. At first, as the fog lifts, it could appear as though this development could contribute to greater stability in the region, which has been plagued by political and sectarian tensions, proxy wars, and terrorist activities in recent years. A rapprochement between both the regional major powers could most definitely lead to a reduction in hostilities and an increased focus on addressing common challenges. At the very least, a stable Middle East would be beneficial for the majority of the world especially in terms of global energy security as the region is a major oil and gas producer and exporter. Any disruptions in the production or transportation of oil and gas from the region usually has cataclysmic impacts on the global economy, particularly in energy-importing countries. As two of these are the most powerful countries in the Middle East, their toil for dominance has been felt throughout the region and beyond. However, many connoisseurs of international politics are increasingly starting to believe that China as a third-party player in this game, is set to benefit, immensely and cleverly.
China’s role in repairing the Saudi Arabia-Iran relationship could significantly enhance its own diplomatic and economic influence in the Middle Eastern region. As Beijing continues to expand its economic and political ties with countries in the region, its ability to play a constructive role in regional affairs could be further bolstered. The Chinese leadership has been quietly increasing its presence and influence in the Middle East for years, but the Saudi-Iran rivalry seems to have served the perfect opportunity for Beijing to promote its national objectives, on a silver platter. As the greatest oil consumer in the world, Beijing mainly depends on imports to meet its energy needs and with Saudi Arabia being one of its main oil suppliers, it cannot afford to ignore Iran which also boasts large oil reserves, serving as a highly crucial alternative source for energy supplies. By brokering a hostility-reduction agreement between the two countries, the Xi administration is able to influence the region’s energy environment by preserving close commercial connections with both nations. China is making significant investments in Saudi Arabian and Iranian infrastructure projects in addition to the energy sector. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to diversify the country’s economy away from oil and establish a more modern and diversified economy, has seen significant Chinese participation. China has also contributed to the development of a high-speed rail link connecting Tehran and Mashhad as well as Iran’s energy, transportation, and telecommunications industries.
Global implications of this Chinese diplomatic triumph
These investments have expanded China’s political influence as well as its economic relations with both the nations. It has been able to sway Saudi Arabian and Iranian goals and policies through economic pressure, allowing it to participate in regional politics without getting involved in their skirmishes. Nevertheless, the growing influence and presence of the dragon in the Middle Eastern region has not gone unnoticed by other world powers. Beijing’s expanding influence in the region and its potential to harm its interests have raised concerns, particularly in the United States and also in Israel. The Israeli administration has been engaged in a long-standing battle with Iran and has decided to thaw the ice with Saudi Arabia; any initiatives to ease hostilities between these two nations might be viewed as a danger to Israel’s interests. Reduction in Saudi-Iranian hostilities also serves Russia and Turkey’s purposes of gearing towards a more multipolar order in the region, a goal they desire due to their perception of the US as a geopolitical rival. In the case of India, any Chinese role in tension-reducing efforts between Saudi Arabia and Iran poses a complex and multifaceted dilemma for its interests. India’s historically violent territorial disputes with China, along with its concern about the latter’s increasingly assertive presence in South Asia, particularly its investments in countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh, are some of the main factors behind New Delhi’s apprehensions towards this Middle Eastern conundrum. Additionally, India’s close ties with the US, which has traditionally been a significant ally of Saudi Arabia and has been involved in attempts to contain disruptions in the area, make it unfavourable for the country. Any decline in US influence in the region will be perceived as a negative development for the Indian side.
Chinese mediation efforts: trust or scepticism?
Despite these concerns displayed by major powers all over the world, Beijing has continued to openly welcome the opportunity to play a role in reducing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Beijing’s professed policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries, has made it an attractive partner for other countries in the Middle Eastern region looking to reduce tensions and find peaceful solutions to various regional conflicts that persist there. From China’s perspective, its involvement in the region is driven by two main factors. First is to secure its energy needs until it finds an alternative source that makes it less dependent on the Middle East; until then at least in the short-term, its reliance on the region for energy is set to increase. Beijing’s decision to ramp up purchases of heavily discounted Russian oil, diminishing procurement of cheap Iranian oil, was met with uneasiness in the Middle Eastern oil community. This might have further influenced their decision to allow China to play the role of a broker in the Saudi-Iran dispute to regain the dragon’s trust. Second is to further promote its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the expansion of which may provide Beijing a backdoor entry into various partner countries’ political and security affairs, boosting its cover of non-interference even further. With the signing of this truce agreement, China has officially attained the peculiar role of a global peace-negotiator. It shows that Beijing is now ready to flex its economic muscle in the face of its observers as a third-party broker; its goal to reinvent the country as a world leader at the expense of the United States may be a deciding factor in the current global transition of power poles. China has used its position as both the largest consumer of Middle Eastern oil exports and the top economic partner for both nations to its advantage in mediating this dispute. What is quite straightforwardly obvious is that the Chinese government is more than willing to play the role of a mediator in situations where diffusing it serves in extending its own national objectives. Whether or not it applies to situations where its objectives stay completely unaffected, for instance, the India-Pakistan and Russia-Ukraine issues, remains to be seen. How it plays out for its own image as a regional aggressor or backyard bully, is also another matter to observe.
Sino-Russia Relations Termed as “With No Boundaries”
The relations between China and Russia go back to the 17th century when the Qing dynasty tried to drive Russian settlers out of Manchuria, which ended with the signing of the Treaty of Nerchinsk.
After the communist revolution in Russia, it inspired much youth in China and the creation of the Communist Party of China (CPC), in 1921 was the first step toward Russia. The Russian revolution was an aspiration for CPC. In the early days, Russia provided limited support to CPC, but, after the liberation of China in 1949, Russia extended a helping hand to establish a Communist/Socialist state. In addition to political reforms, Russia assisted China in all sectors including Agriculture, Industry, Defense, economy, etc. Thousands of Russian experts were deployed in China to assist them. A huge number of Chinese were educated and trained in Russia. The Russian language was common in China and a symbol of prestige to learn the Russian language. But differences broke out in the 1960s and relations deteriorated.
But in 1991, the restoration of Sino-Russian relations was initiated. The Key Features of the Relationships are:-
Building on the foundation of the 1991 Sino-Soviet Border Agreement, the 2001 Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation, among other things, noted Beijing’s and Moscow’s satisfaction on border issues and set broad areas of cooperation ranging from economics and trade to counterterrorism. The renewal of the treaty in 2021 reflects the overall positive trajectory of relations.
The direction of the bilateral relationship appears, in part, to reflect close personal ties between President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin. Since 2013, Xi and Putin have met numerous times and established regular dialogue mechanisms at lower levels. In 2019, PRC and Russian leaders announced their intention to develop a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for a New Era,” professing a “high degree of political trust” and “all-around cooperation.”
Military cooperation between the PRC and Russia is significant, encompassing exchanges and joint exercises, as well as intelligence sharing and joint development of weapons systems. In November 2021, the two sides signed a Road Map for Military cooperation for 2021-2025 to guide collaboration in this sphere. The PRC and Russia are founding members of the Eurasia-based Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an intergovernmental group mainly focused on security affairs.
The PRC and Russia also enjoy strong commercial and financial ties and are partners in their attempts to “de-dollarize” the global economy, which they see as beholden to the United States. Both governments express opposition to the use of unilateral sanctions as tools of policy.
The PRC and Russia often cooperate and coordinate in multilateral settings, including the United Nations; the SCO; the Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) grouping; and the Group of 20 (G20). In 2022, the PRC joined Russia in vetoing a U.S.-led draft U.N. resolution that would have tightened sanctions against
North Korea over its missile launches. Where frictions may arise, the PRC and Russia have tried to harmonize the interests of overlapping ventures, such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
The recent visit of President Xi
Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a three-day state visit to Russia at the invitation of his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin.
Many in Russia applaud the high-level development of China-Russia relations in recent years and are eagerly looking forward to the visit. They expect deeper cooperation in politics, economy, trade, people-to-people, and culture as well as new progress in bilateral ties in the new era and greater contribution to world development.
Exchanges between the two heads of state are the compass and anchor of China-Russia relations. Under their guidance, the China-Russia relationship is brimming with new dynamism and vitality, setting a fine example for developing a new model of major-country relations featuring mutual trust, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation.
Russian officials and scholars believe that with Xi’s visit to Russia, the two heads of state will work together for steady and sustained progress in bilateral cooperation, which will continuously benefit the people of the two countries.
The Russian people respect President Xi very much and eagerly look forward to the old friend’s visit, said Galina Kulikova, first deputy chairperson of the Russia-China Friendship Association. Kulikova has been engaged in Russian-Chinese public diplomacy for more than 65 years and was awarded the Friendship Medal, China’s highest state honor. She said that Xi’s visit shows that China attaches great importance to bilateral relations and will promote practical cooperation between the two countries.
In March 2013, Xi chose Russia for his first trip abroad as Chinese president. Ten years later, Xi again picked Russia for his first overseas visit following his re-election.
Since 2013, Xi and Putin have jointly blueprinted the development of bilateral ties and practical cooperation in various fields, held frank and in-depth exchanges of experiences in state governance, communicated and coordinated closely on major international issues, and attended multiple major events organized by each other. The two sides remain committed to building a multipolar world, advocate and practice true multilateralism, and have reached an important strategic consensus on upgrading China-Russia relations, safeguarding regional security and stability, and building a community with a shared future for mankind.
Xi’s visit once again testifies to the importance of Russia-China relations and reaffirms that Russia and China will continue to practice true multilateralism, promote the construction of a multipolar world, enhance global governance, and contribute to world development, said Sergei Lukonin, head of the Department of Chinese Politics and Economics at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
This visit has opened many avenues of cooperation and collaboration. The relations have entered into a new era – and Sino-Russia relations are termed as “With No Boundaries”
Chinese MFA Report 2023: American hegemony and its risks around the world
An official report issued by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on: “Criticizing the concept of American and Western hegemony and democracy, and defending other and new forms of democracy in the world according to the circumstances of each country around the world,” emphasizing on:
Criticism of the United States of America intensifying its efforts to stir up divisions around the world by organizing the so-called “summit for democracy”, inciting confrontation between the authoritarian and democratic camps according to its ideology, and attempting to transform other sovereign states in the American style in order to serve the special American strategy.
To understand how American-dominant democracy operates globally, we will find that the United States classifies other countries for several degrees according to its criterion, that is, its proximity or distance from the concept of democracy, and Washington asks those countries to apply to fill out the “test papers” for democracy issued by the United States of America and its government.
Those American actions in and of themselves are undemocratic, contradict the current trend, and contravene the will of the majority of the members of the international community, and will inevitably lead to a complete and abject failure.
Here, the United States must realize that if it does not completely abandon the theory of “the superiority of American democracy”, and if it does not change its behavior of domination and bullying, which often imposes “American democracy” on others, you will find mockery of it in history books and records.
China, like most countries in the world, searches for the path of development in the first place, not the path of democracy and the policies of hegemony and liberalism in the American way. Therefore, as an affirmation by the Chinese leaders of China’s adoption of the high-quality development model, Chinese Premier “Li Keqiang” presented the Chinese government’s work report at the opening session of the first session of the Fourteenth National People’s Congress, in which it was emphasized that China would follow a development model. A democracy with socialist characteristics in line with China’s real conditions. China has pushed the process of democracy on the basis of national development by taking development as a task of highest priority. Followers agreed, so here remains the final conclusion to evaluate any democratic system around the world, by asking: whether the quality of life of citizens has improved and whether the people are satisfied with the societal situation? It is clear that the model of democracy with socialist characteristics adopted by the Chinese government has succeeded. Chinese socialist democracy is a real democracy, represented by the government’s interest in serving the people, and it has nothing to do with the political system represented by one-party rule or multi-party rule in the American and Western style, which recent experiences have proven to fail to achieve the well-being and prosperity of its people, unlike the ability of the Chinese Communist Party and its leaders to achieve a well-off society model and a high-quality development in all Chinese provinces and cities.
Therefore, the report on the work of the Chinese government came, which was presented by “Li Keqiang”, Premier of the Chinese State Council, on behalf of the State Council of China, at the opening session of the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress. The sessions of the 14th session of the National People’s Congress this year 2023 are of special importance, as the model of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics succeeded in outperforming many Western democracies through the success of many delegates in the National People’s Congress in forming many of the main institutions of the Communist Party and the state. They also tightened control over the bodies supervising the financial sector and scientific and technological work in the Chinese state, with an agreement to “strengthen party work” in private companies, in order to preserve the interests of the Chinese people and achieve a high-quality development model.
Therefore, the Chinese government’s 2023 action plan is based on adhering to the general basic business idea of making progress by maintaining stability, comprehensively applying China’s new development thinking, accelerating the establishment of a new development pattern, comprehensively deepening reform and opening up, and adhering to development, which is driven by innovation, and the high-quality development.
Here, we must refer to the report of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, issued on Monday, February 20, 2023, regarding American hegemony and its dangers, with the aim of exposing the United States’ abuse of hegemony in various fields, and attracting the Chinese Foreign Ministry to the attention of the international community for a greater understanding of the dangers of American practices to peace. And stability in the whole world, by interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, causing subversion and international chaos, deliberately waging wars and harming the entire international community.
The United States of America has also developed a book on hegemony to organize “color revolutions” and incite regional conflicts and even wage wars directly under the guise of promoting democracy, freedom and human rights, and Washington has sought to impose rules that serve its own interests in the name of supporting a “rules-based international order”, which is itself is far from it.
There have been many cases of US interference in the internal affairs of other countries, under the guise of “promoting democracy”, such as the American incitement to “color revolutions” in the Eurasia region, and the “Arab Spring” revolutions in West Asia and North Africa to spread chaos, which led to chaos and vandalism and destruction in many countries in which Washington intervened.
The United States practices double standards in international rules, as the United States put its self-interest first and moved away from all treaties, charters and work mechanisms of recognized international organizations and placed its domestic law above international law.
The United States has also been issuing arbitrary judgments regarding assessing the level of democracy in other countries, and fabricating false narratives about “democracy versus authoritarianism” to incite estrangement, division, competition and confrontation. On December 2021, the United States hosted the first “summit for democracy”, which was met with criticism and opposition from many countries because it mocked the spirit of democracy and worked to divide the world.
Also, “American military dominance has caused human tragedies. The wars and military operations launched by the United States in the name of fighting terrorism have claimed the lives of more than a million civilians and displaced tens of millions”.
The United States of America also seeks to deter the scientific, technological and economic development of other countries through the exercise of monopoly power and measures of repression and technological restrictions in the areas of high technology. The United States monopolized intellectual property in the name of protection, and reaped huge profits through this illegal monopoly.
The United States has also used disinformation as a weapon to attack other countries, and for this it has recruited groups and individuals who fabricate stories and spread them around the world to mislead world public opinion with unlimited American support.
Therefore, all forms of American hegemony and power politics must be opposed, to refuse to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, to force them to abandon their hegemonic and tyrannical practices around the world.
Here, It becomes clear that the Americans are victorious in a clear way for the pragmatic philosophy in theory and practice, and that their segment of the intelligentsia (intellectuals and intelligence) adopts the principle of “the end justifies the means”. Perhaps the French thinker “Alexis de Tocqueville” explained this in a practical way in his book published in two volumes in 1840, entitled (Democracy in America) and its summary: (Democracy in the United States of America can be as tyrannical as dictatorship when voters decide to vote for themselves with money).
And (American democracy) did not stop at these characteristics only, because its sources are basically built philosophically at the hands of European philosophers who went to the United States, because they found in it the right soil for ideas and strategies that are based on plunder, occupation, siege, sanctions, overthrowing governments, and most importantly neglecting real and free popular choices to build the country and the human being, these thinkers came to it to perpetuate this behavior based on individualism, power and domination, and this is what is actually happening now.
In this context, it was natural for President “Biden’s” American Summit for Democracy to be a disgrace and an intellectual, political, and moral defect, as half of the peoples of the earth were absent from it, and China did not invite to it, and the text of the peoples and systems of the world was absent from it, so the summit’s democracy was synonymous with American arrogance, and it raised issues: (Tyranny- corruption- human rights) in it is a purely political proposition far from promoting the values of dialogue, peace, and friendship between peoples, framed by the previous ideas of the theorists of American hegemony and unipolarity, and whoever is not with us is against us, so the American Democracy Summit 2022 focused blatantly in its functional attack on the Chinese experience and on different in this respect. In my belief, what happened by Washington will not result in the emergence of any new and stable world order, with those in charge of the American administration adhering to the same old concepts and mentality of hegemony, control, and steering the helm of the world according to their interests.
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