In Depth

Russia-China: the new world order

Former communist rivals look to forge closer ties under autocratic rulers

Russia and China will look to cement their burgeoning partnership and growing influence on the world stage when their leaders meet later this year.

After his landslide election win, Vladimir Putin will travel to Beijing in June to meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

Xi visited Russia last year and has since pushed through changes to China’s constitution abolishing term limits and effectively making him leader for life.

Russian state media says the visit will build on a promise made by the two leaders during last November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting to enhance bilateral ties and co-operation on international affairs.

“Noting that China and Russia have firmly supported each other in safeguarding their core national interests, and further strengthened political mutual trust, Xi said the two countries are strategic partners that have truly placed trust in each other,” China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported at the time.

Areas of increased co-operation are likely to include the development of a free trade agreement for the Asia Pacific region, as well as increased bilateral trade in the fields of energy, investment, technology, aviation, aerospace and infrastructure.

A closer alignment of security objectives, particularly in promoting so-called cyber sovereignty - to counterbalance to what is seen as increasingly bellicose behaviour from the US, Nato and Japan - is also expected.

Following Western sanctions in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Crimea, Beijing upped its economic support for Moscow, “and both countries have long supported each other at the United Nations on issues such as North Korea and Syria, where they are in opposition to or disagreement with the US”, says CNN.

At a meeting at the UN in September, foreign ministers from both countries criticised Washington’s aggressive stance and said the world was moving away from being dominated by a single superpower and transitioning towards a more “multipolar world”.

It has not gone unnoticed that June’s meeting will be held in conjunction with a gathering of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), “which is a major part of that multipolarity”, according to CNN.

The broadcaster says the SCO - which includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan - “has been compared to an eastern Nato, and is designed in part to counterbalance western influence in Asia and the Middle East”.

Dmitry Kosyrev, writing for the Kremlin-backed website Sputnik, says that Donald Trump’s protectionist trade policies have forced globalists in the West to admit “defeat by recognising that neither Russia nor China will dance to their tune”.

But Robert Kaplan in The Wall Street Journal has a word of warning for those who predict the unstoppable rise of a world increasingly dominated by a Russian-Chinese duopoly.

He argues that explosions of middle-class wealth and technological advancement are putting pressure on governments to be more alert to the needs of their citizens.

“The thought controls the Chinese regime is attempting to place on its own people will work for now,” he says. “But the ultimate result will be more psychosis, repression and anxiety on the individual level. From this new social explosions will ultimately emanate”.

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