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China and Russia Deepen Their Ties - by Judith Bergman - for The Gatestone Institute - 07.02.23

Just 20 days before Russia's invasion of Ukraine..., Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a statement that said their cooperation had "no limits... no forbidden zones."


"Russia and China are making common cause to better defend their respective interests and their authoritarian systems from Western pressure," said Daniel Russel, a former Obama administration official handling Asia issues, at the time.

Shortly after that, Putin announced new Russian oil and gas deals with China worth an estimated $117.5 billion.


Both countries have also increasingly been conducting this trade in their national currencies.


In February, China and Russia will be holding joint military exercises with South Africa off the South African coast, underscoring the growing influence that China has in Africa

Above all, China's close and increased dealings with Russia have provided a lifeline to Putin, enabling him to continue his war on Ukraine.


This is something that the Biden administration has done little about, apart from threatening last March that there would "absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them. We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country, anywhere in the world."


"There's a number of ways that China's support is just crucial for Putin. I believe the Chinese could stop the war with one phone call to him. It would be like the banker calling you... so far it's not happening... Probably the only way to get ahead is going to be American sanctions on China... the war will go on because the banker is not going to make that call." – Michael Pillsbury, author of The Hundred Year Marathon," Fox Business, March 9, 2022.


So far, the Biden administration's help to Ukraine has been insufficient and slow in coming; however, protecting the West by saving Ukraine may yet go down as Biden's legacy and his administration's greatest achievement.


China's close and increased dealings with Russia have provided a lifeline to Putin, enabling him to continue his war on Ukraine.


China and Russia continue to deepen their ties, a pact that has not gone unnoticed by the European public. In a new poll taken by the International Republican Institute (IRI) across 13 Central and Eastern European countries, there was much concern about this deepening partnership.


Jan Surotchak, Senior Director for Transatlantic Strategy at IRI, said:


"Our data clearly show that many Europeans see a working relationship between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping as a threat to security and prosperity across the continent. As the war in Ukraine rages on, they are worried that an alliance between powerful authoritarians will continue to have a negative impact in their own backyard."


Similarly, a Pew research poll taken in the United States in April 2022 found 62% of respondents saying that the strengthened China-Russia relationship was "a very serious problem."


The collaboration between China and Russia has been deepening since before Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Just 20 days before the invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a statement that said their cooperation had "no limits... no forbidden zones."


"Russia and China are making common cause to better defend their respective interests and their authoritarian systems from Western pressure," said Daniel Russel, a former Obama administration official handling Asia issues, at the time.


Shortly after that, Putin announced new Russian oil and gas deals with China worth an estimated $117.5 billion. On February 18, six days before the invasion, Russia announced a $20 billion deal to sell 100 million tons of coal to China.


Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, China's imports of oil, piped natural gas, liquefied natural gas and coal from Russia have reached a total of $68 billion, up from $41 billion for the same period last year, at a time when the West has banned the import of most Russian energy. In November, Russia even surpassed Saudi Arabia as China's primary supplier of crude oil.


The trade of goods between Russia and China reached $190 billion in 2022, up more than 30% from 2021. Both countries have also increasingly been conducting this trade in their national currencies.


In October 2022, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that China wants to deepen its relationship with Moscow "at all levels."

In December, the Wall Street Journal reported that Xi had given instructions to make economic ties with Russia even stronger:


"The plan includes increasing Chinese imports of Russian oil, gas and farm goods, more joint energy partnerships in the Arctic and increased Chinese investment in Russian infrastructure, such as railways and ports, the advisers say. Russia and China are also conducting more financial transactions in the ruble and yuan, rather than the euro or dollar, a move that helps insulate the two against future sanctions and put the Chinese currency into wider circulation."


"Xi has been strengthening China's relations with Russia largely independent of the Russian invasion," said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank. "The relationship may well be becoming ever closer."


Although China has not provided Russia with materiel for its war on Ukraine, China and Russia's relationship does extend to military cooperation and joint military exercises. In September 2022, China and Russia agreed "on further military cooperation with a focus on joint exercises and patrols, as well as on strengthening contacts between the General Staffs."


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Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

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Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet in Beijing on February 4, 2022. (Photo by Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

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