Washington Times on April 30, 2015, reported that from the moon to the Mediterranean to the heart of Moscow, China and Russia in recent days have announced a striking number of moves to strengthen military, financial and political ties, raising the specter of a deeper alliance between the U.S. rivals. Excerpts below:
Adversaries during the long Cold War, Beijing and Moscow have increasingly found common cause in challenging the U.S. and Western-dominated order in Europe and Asia, finding ways both symbolic and concrete to challenge what they see as Washington’s efforts to contain their rise.
The latest sign of closer ties emerged with the announcements of the first joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean and that Russia will be one of the biggest outside investors in China’s proposed development bank, which the Obama administration tried to undercut.
“Russia and China are now becoming, as we wanted, not only neighbors but deeply integrated countries,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told reporters on a trip to the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou this week.
The two sides discussed making China the “main partner” in a Russian program to establish a scientific station on the moon by 2024. Russia has been trying to revive the space program carried out under the Soviet Union, and China has been gearing up its own manned lunar mission.
“While the Russians and the Chinese expect the United States to continue to be the most powerful nation in the world for several more decades, they see its grip on the rest of the world rapidly loosening,” Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote in a lengthy analysis of the “Sino-Russian entente” in April.
“Both Moscow and Beijing see the world going through an epochal change away from U.S. domination and toward a freer global order that would give China more prominence and Russia more freedom of action,” he wrote. “They also see the process of change gaining speed.”
But this year has brought a string of signals that the rapprochement between the two capitals is going much deeper.
Those moves include:
• In March, Russia’s state-owned airplane manufacturer announced the production schedule for a joint venture with Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China to build a long-haul wide-bodied commercial airliner by 2025, with the bulk of the $13 billion project coming from China. In April, China became the first foreign customer for the advanced S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, in a $3 billion deal set to be completed by 2017. The S-400 sale “underlines once again the strategic level of our relations,” Anatoly Isaikin, chief executive of the state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, told the Russian business newspaper Kommersant.
• Russia has emerged as a founding member and major backer of Beijing’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a proposed $100 billion development bank widely seen as a challenge to the U.S.-dominated World Bank and other Western-led financial institutions. Russian Deputy Minister for Economic Development Stanislav Voskresensky told reporters this week that Russia could be the third-largest contributor among the dozens of nations — not including the United States or Japan — that have joined the investment bank, and that Russia could be given a seat on the board of directors.
• Mr. Rogozin and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang discussed in depth this week plans to collaborate on space exploration in the decades ahead. Mr. Rogozin said Beijing and Moscow share “deep mutual understanding and mutual interests” in space-related joint ventures. In February, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said Beijing is planning to boost its cooperation with Russia in a number of spheres, including space, as Beijing develops its Long March-9 rocket ahead of the country’s first manned lunar mission by 2028.
• The Joint Sea 2015 exercises announced Thursday are the latest in a growing web of informal military collaborations between China and Russia, military analysts say. The mid-May, live-ammunition exercises will feature nine surface ships and involve rescue, resupply and other missions, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng told reporters in Beijing.
Carnegie’s Mr. Trenin said the warming may prove more significant because neither side has other obvious major allies as they seek to expand their clout and challenge the U.S.-designed global order in Asia and Europe. Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi, he added, have the incentive, clout and job security to move an alliance forward.
“From its new levels reached in 2014, the relationship between Moscow and Beijing is likely to move forward in a number of key areas,” he wrote. “In lieu of a Greater Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok, a Greater Asia from Shanghai to St. Petersburg is in the making.”
Comment: The British geographer and geopolitician Sir Halford Mackinder ended is famous 1904 journal article, “The Geographical Pivot of History” with a warning with disturbing reference to China. He posited that the Chinese should they expand their power well beyond there borders they might constitute a peril to the world’s freedom just because they would add an oceanic frontage to the resources of the great continent [of Eurasia], an advantage as yet denied to the Russian tenant of the pivot region. Russia is a Eurasian giant but it is a landpower with an oceanic front blocked by ice. China owing to a 9,000-mile temperate coastline with many good natural harbors, is both a land power and a sea power.
Mackinder’s fear was that China might one day conquer Russia. China’s reach starts in Central Asia and reaches out in the Pacific.
In Democratic Ideals and Reality Mackinder predicted that China would eventually guide the world by:
Building for a quarter of humanity a new civilization, neither quite Eastern nor quite Western.