Authors: Yang Yi-zhong & Zhao Qing-tong*
On July 9, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi revealed that relations between China and the United States were facing the most serious challenges since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1979. This is primarily due to the fact that the hawk groups in the U.S. view China as a strategic competitor and rival or even an “enemy” out of geopolitical concern and ideological prejudice. For example, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has taken every opportunity to suppress China’s development and obstruct the connection between the two countries: presently the world’s largest and second largest economies. Yet, Wang said simultaneously that “Together, China and Russia have forged an impregnable fortress against the “political virus” and demonstrated the solidarity of the bilateral strategic coordination.”
Just one day ago, Chinese President Xi held phone-call with his Russian counterpart Putin to express Chinese staunch support of Russia’s political course including the efforts to accelerate the development and revitalization of its economy. Then both political strongmen once again vowed to remember history and safeguard peace together with people worldwide. It is held widely that China and Russia, as comprehensive strategic coordination partners, would further close consultation and cooperation amid the fast-changing international situation. Due to this, Xi pointed out that “China is willing to continue working with Russia in supporting each other, rejecting external sabotage and intervention, safeguarding respective national sovereignty, security and development interests and upholding common interests.” In effect, the two Eurasian powers have been supporting each other at the height of the battle against coronavirus, which has enriched strategic connotation to Sino-Russian relations in the new era, and taking the Year of Scientific and Technological Innovation (2020) as an opportunity to enhance solidarity in the fields such as high technology, vaccine and drug research, and biosafety. Internationally, Xi is more frank and firm on the position that Beijing stands ready to work with Russia to coordinate and cooperate closely within the UN and other multilateral frameworks, safeguard multilateralism, oppose any hegemony and unilateral acts and jointly safeguard international equity and justice. All these consensus between Beijing and Moscow aims to make greater contributions to serving global governance and promoting the construction of a community with a shared future for mankind.
In echoing Xi’s remarks, President Putin confirmed that Russia and his government firmly supported China’s efforts to safeguard national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. As usual, Moscow has openly stressed that Russia opposes all kinds of provocative actions that violate China’s sovereignty, and believed it is fully capable of ensuring long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong. In addition, he took the occasion to say the overwhelming approval of the constitution amendments in Russia would help maintain its long-term political stability, better safeguard national sovereignty and oppose external interference. Noting that bilateral ties between the two great powers are at their highest point in history, Putin said Russia is prioritizing its diplomatic relation with China. This includes Moscow’s solidarity with Beijing surely serves to promote pragmatic cooperation between the two sides, to strengthen strategic consultation and coordination under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the UN and eventually to safeguard global strategic stability and security.
Here it is necessary to note that China has never ignored the vital relations with the United States simply because the bilateral ties between Beijing and Washington not only concerns the interests of the two-side peoples, but also matters greatly to the future of the world and mankind in the new century. As it has repeated that China hopes the U.S. can build a more objective and calm understanding of China’s rise and formulate a more rational and pragmatic China policy. Yet the U.S. has been critical of China’s handling of its own domestic issues such as Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Beijing has repeatedly warned Washington against meddling in its internal affairs. In so doing, China has been patient and sincere to talk to the United States that both sides should not seek to change each other. Since China is committed to the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, it is a path only suited to China’s national conditions and a choice made by the Chinese people in taking account of the vast developing country of 1.4 billion people who are still struggling for shaking off poverty and backwardness. Given this, no force has the right to deny the legitimacy of the path chosen by other countries including China, nor will any country change its system according to other government’s dictates. This is the key point of the strategic consensus between Beijing and Moscow, yet the fundamental divergences between Beijing and Washington which is believed firstly to make all efforts to slow down China’s amazing economic growth by denying it access to the large U.S. market; second to adopt the containment strategy of China through building up alliances with its neighbors in order to provide an effective counter-weight to China’s growing power, though obviously exaggerated.
In effect, China, in order to avoid confrontation with the United States, has reiterated that it will neither copy the model of other countries nor export the “China model” as China will not and cannot become another America. In foreign affairs wherein states act and react independently, China never asks other countries to follow its practices. Equally, the U.S. should not seek to change China, rather than to explore ways for peaceful coexistence together. Therefore, they should respect, appreciate, learn from and benefit each other like the bilateral relations between China and Russia. This has been the core foundation of the solidarity between Beijing and Moscow since the end of the cold war in 1992.On the contrary, the United States has been aggressive and even hostile towards China, even though the latter argues for willing to develop its relations with the U.S. with goodwill and sincerity. As Chinese FM Wang Yi said, China never intends to challenge or replace the U.S. and has no intention to engage in an all-out confrontation with the U.S. As many scholars have insisted that what Beijing has cared about most is to improve the wellbeing of Chinese people, what it value most is the rejuvenation of China as one of the greatest powers, and what it expects most is respect and equality in the world. The true requirement for the ruling elite in Beijing is that the CCP is the legitimate party to govern China and the people through the vast territory. Due to this, as the only ruling party of China, it has the very right to defend its sovereignty, security, and development interests and refuse any bullying and unfairness against it. In a power politics, China and the U.S. stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation.
To be sure, under the uncertain and unexpectedly changing circumstances of the world affairs, all Chinese goals depend on its comprehensive and long-term strategic partnership with Russia which is definitely in need of China reciprocally. First of all, China and Russia will turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity which will surely receive a strong boost after the pandemic. Secondly, considering Russia’s tremendous resources and complete industries through which they can pool their relative advantages and caliber to advance their economic power, China’s strong financial and manufacturing capacity will be able to boost the economic recovery efficiently in the post-pandemic era. Moreover, since China and Russia have agreed to advance the strategic connection of the Belt and Road Initiative with the Eurasia Economic Union, they have earnestly expanded cooperation in energy, agriculture, scientific-technological innovation, and finance which will turn out more advantages in software, cybersecurity and big data, regardless of the vicissitudes in the geopolitical landscape.
In light of this, it is not exaggerated to argue that the solidarity between China and Russia, two permanent members of UN Security Council and responsible powers of the world affairs, would certainly benefit the two countries’ interests, the peace and stability of the region and also global development.
*Zhao Q. T. is a post-graduate student majored in Diplomacy at China Foreign Affairs University.