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.
Steering Russia-US Relations Away from Diplomatic Expulsion Rocks
As the recent expulsions of Russian diplomats from the US, Poland, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic demonstrate, this measure is becoming a standard international practice of the West. For the Biden administration, a new manifestation of the “Russia’s threat” is an additional tool to discipline its European allies and to cement the transatlantic partnership. For many European NATO members, expulsions of diplomats are a symbolic gesture demonstrating their firm support of the US and its anti-Russian policies.
Clear enough, such a practice will not be limited to Russia only. Today hundreds, if not thousands of diplomatic officers all around the world find themselves hostage to problems they have nothing to do with. Western decision-makers seem to consider hosting foreign diplomats not as something natural and uncontroversial but rather as a sort of privilege temporarily granted to a particular country — one that can be denied at any given moment.
It would be logical to assume that in times of crisis, when the cost of any error grows exponentially, it is particularly crucial to preserve and even to expand the existing diplomatic channels. Each diplomat, irrespective of his or her rank and post, is, inter alia, a communications channel, a source of information, and a party to a dialogue that can help understand your opponent’s logic, fears, intentions, and expectations. Niccolo Machiavelli’s adage, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” remains just as pertinent five centuries later. Unfortunately, these wise words are out of circulation in most Western capitals today.
A proponent of expulsions would argue that those expelled are not actually diplomats at all. They are alleged intelligence officers and their mission is to undermine the host country’s national security. Therefore, expulsions are justified and appropriate. However, this logic appears to be extremely dubious. Indeed, if you have hard evidence, or at the very least a reasonable suspicion that a diplomatic mission serves as a front office for intelligence officers, and if operations of these officers are causing serious harm to your country’s security, why should you wait for the latest political crisis to expel them? You should not tolerate their presence in principle and expel them once you expose them.
Even the experience of the Cold War itself demonstrates that expulsions of diplomats produce no short-term or long-term positive results whatsoever. In fact, there can be no possible positive results because diplomatic service is nothing more but just one of a number of technical instruments used in foreign politics. Diplomats may bring you bad messages from their capitals and they often do, but if you are smart enough, you never shoot the messenger.
Diplomatic traditions do not allow such unfriendly actions to go unnoticed. Moscow has to respond. Usually, states respond to expulsions of their diplomats by symmetrical actions – i.e. Russia has to expel the same number of US, Polish or Czech diplomats, as the number of Russian diplomats expelled from the US, Poland or the Czech Republic. Of course, each case is special. For instance, the Czech Embassy in Moscow is much smaller than the Russian Embassy in Prague, so the impact of the symmetrical actions on the Czech diplomatic mission in Russia will be quite strong.
The question now is whether the Kremlin would go beyond a symmetrical response and start a new cycle of escalation. For example, it could set new restrictions upon Western companies operating in the country, it could cancel accreditation of select Western media in Moscow, it could close branches of US and European foundations and NGOs in Russia. I hope that the final response will be measured and not excessive.
The door for US-Russian negotiations is still open. So far, both sides tried to avoid specific actions that would make these negotiations absolutely impossible. The recent US sanctions against Russia have been mostly symbolic, and the Russian leadership so far has demonstrated no appetite for a rapid further escalation. I think that a meeting between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin remains an option and an opportunity. Such a meeting would not lead to any “reset” in the bilateral relations, but it would bring more clarity to the relationship. To stabilize US-Russian relations even at a very low level would already be a major accomplishment.
From our partner RIAC
Russia becomes member of International Organization for Migration
After several negotiations, Russia finally becomes as a full-fledged member of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). It means that Russia has adopted, as a mandatory condition for obtaining membership, the constitution of the organization. It simply implies that by joining this international organization, it has given the country an additional status.
After the collapse of the Soviet, Russia has been interacting with the IOM since 1992 only as an observer. In the past years, Russia has shown interest in expanding this cooperation. The decision to admit Russia to the organization was approved at a Council’s meeting by the majority of votes: 116 states voted for it, and two countries voted against – these are Ukraine and Georgia. That however, the United States and Honduras abstained, according to information obtained from Moscow office of International Migration Organization.
“In line with the resolution of the 111th session of the IOM Council of November 24, 2020 that approved Russia’s application for the IOM membership, Russia becomes a full-fledged member of the organization from the day when this notification is handed over to its director general,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a website statement in April.
Adoption of the IOM Constitution is a mandatory condition for obtaining its membership, which opens “extra possibilities for developing constructive cooperation with international community on migration-related matters,” the statement stressed in part.
It is significant to recall that Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an order to secure Russia’s membership in the organization in August 2020 and submitted its Constitution to the Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament) in February 2021.
Headquartered in Geneva, the International Organization for Migration, a leading inter-government organization active in the area of migration, was set up on December 5, 1951. It opened its office in Moscow in 1992.
IOM supports migrants across the world, developing effective responses to the shifting dynamics of migration and, as such, is a key source of advice on migration policy and practice. The organization works in emergency situations, developing the resilience of all people on the move, and particularly those in situations of vulnerability, as well as building capacity within governments to manage all forms and impacts of mobility.
IOM’s stated mission is to promote humane and orderly migration by providing services and advice to governments and migrants. It works to help ensure proper management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, be they refugees, displaced persons or other uprooted people. It is part of the structured system of the United Nations, and includes over 170 countries.
Senator Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chairman of Russia’s Federation Council (Senate) Committee on International Affairs, noted that the organization’s constitution has a provision saying that it is in a nation’s jurisdiction to decide how many migrants it can receive, therefore the IOM membership imposes no extra commitments on Russia and doesn’t restrict its right to conduct an independent migration policy.
On other hand, Russia’s full-fledged membership in IOM will help it increase its influence on international policy in the sphere of migration and use the country’s potential to promote its interests in this sphere, Senator Dzhabarov explained.
Russia has had an inflow of migrants mainly from the former Soviet republics. The migrants have played exceptional roles both in society and in the economy. The inflow of foreign workers to Russia has be resolved in accordance with real needs of the economy and based on the protection of Russian citizens’ interests in the labor market, according to various expert opinions.
The whole activity of labor migrants has to be conducted in strict compliance with legislation of the Russian Federation and generally recognized international norms.
State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and many state officials have repeatedly explained the necessity of holding of partnership dialogues on finding solutions to emerging problems within the framework of harmonization of legislation in various fields including regional security, migration policy and international cooperation. Besides that, Russia is ready for compliance with international treaties and agreements.
Relegating the “Russia Problem” to Turkey
Turkey’s foreign policy is at a crossroads. Its Eurasianist twist is gaining momentum and looking east is becoming a new norm. Expanding its reach into Central Asia, in the hope of forming an alliance of sorts with the Turkic-speaking countries — Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan — is beginning to look more realistic. In the north, the north-east, in Ukraine, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, there is an identifiable geopolitical arc where Turkey is increasingly able to puncture Russia’s underbelly.
Take Azerbaijan’s victory in Second Karabakh War. It is rarely noticed that the military triumph has also transformed the country into a springboard for Turkey’s energy, cultural and geopolitical interests in the Caspian Sea region of Central Asia. Just two months after the November ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey signed a new trade deal with Azerbaijan. Turkey also sees benefits from January’s Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan agreement which aims to jointly develop the Dostluk (Friendship) gas field under the Caspian Sea, and it recently hosted a trilateral meeting with the Azerbaijani and Turkmen foreign ministers. The progress around Dostlug removes a significant roadblock on the implementation of the much-touted Trans-Caspian Pipeline (TCP) which would allow gas to flow through the South Caucasus to Europe. Neither Russia nor Iran welcome this — both oppose Turkey’s ambitions of becoming an energy hub and finding new sources of energy.
Official visits followed. On March 6-9, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Defense cooperation, preferential trade deals, and a free trade agreement were discussed in Tashkent. Turkey also resurrected a regional trade agreement during a March 4 virtual meeting of the so-called Economic Cooperation Organization which was formed in 1985 to facilitate trade between Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan. Though it has been largely moribund, the timing of its re-emergence is important as it is designed to be a piece in the new Turkish jigsaw.
Turkey is slowly trying to build an economic and cultural basis for cooperation based on the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency founded in 1991 and the Turkic Council in 2009. Although Turkey’s economic presence in the region remains overshadowed by China and Russia, there is a potential to exploit. Regional dependence on Russia and China is not always welcome and Central Asian states looking for alternatives to re-balance see Turkey as a good candidate. Furthermore, states such as Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan are also cash-strapped, which increases the potential for Turkish involvement.
There is also another dimension to the eastward push. Turkey increasingly views Ukraine, Georgia, and Azerbaijan as parts of an emerging geopolitical area that can help it balance Russia’s growing military presence in the Black Sea and in the South Caucasus. With this in mind, Turkey is stepping up its military cooperation not only with Azerbaijan, but also with Georgia and Ukraine. The recent visit of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Turkey highlighted the defense and economic spheres. This builds upon ongoing work of joint drone production, increasing arms trade, and naval cooperation between the two Black Sea states.
The trilateral Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey partnership works in support of Georgia’s push to join NATO. Joint military drills are also taking place involving scenarios of repelling enemy attacks targeting the regional infrastructure.
Even though Turkey and Russia have shown that they are able to cooperate in different theaters, notably in Syria, they nonetheless remain geopolitical competitors with diverging visions. There is an emerging two-pronged strategy Turkey is now pursuing to address what President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sees as a geopolitical imbalance. Cooperate with Vladimir Putin where possible, but cooperate with regional powers hostile to Russia where necessary.
There is one final theme for Turkey to exploit. The West knows its limits. The Caspian Sea is too far, while an over-close relationship with Ukraine and Georgia seems too risky. This creates a potential for cooperation between Turkey and the collective West. Delegating the “Russia problem” to Turkey could be beneficial, though it cannot change the balance of power overnight and there will be setbacks down the road.
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