From Nezavisimaya gazeta, Sept. 21, 2022, p. 1. Complete text:
The Chinese press took a positive view of Russia’s stance on Taiwan, stressing that Moscow also strongly supports China’s territorial integrity. Meanwhile, certain Russian media outlets say that Russia and China are moving toward a defensive alliance. How well-grounded are such forecasts? Or could Western media be closer to the truth in saying that the course of the [Russian] special operation in Ukraine has disappointed the Chinese, who hoped that it would strike another blow to the US’s prestige, after Afghanistan? It turns out that Russia is becoming a not very reliable partner for China.
Beijing’s Global Times writes that Russia and China are continuing to deepen strategic cooperation that affects their fundamental interests.
It quotes Yang Jiechi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee Politburo, as saying that Russia and China are defending the world system that is based on international law and compliance with the UN Charter. Russia and China are demonstrating to the whole world a new kind of relations between big powers that is permeated with the spirit of equality and mutual respect.
Needless to say, there is no way that Western mainstream media can share this view. The Financial Times published an extensive article saying that following Russia’s military setbacks, relations between Moscow and Beijing have gone downhill. The newspaper recalls that three weeks before the special military operation [in Ukraine] began, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping said that Russian-Chinese friendship has no limits. Seven months on, Xi must be regretting those words.
At the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Putin promised to address China’s concerns about Ukraine [see Vol. 74, No. 37, pp. 18‑19]. Neither Putin nor Xi chose to elaborate on those concerns in public. But it is not hard to guess. The conflict has weakened Russia, destabilized Eurasia and strengthened the Western alliance. None of that looks good from Beijing.
The two leaders’ February statement makes it clear that they do not accept US global domination [see Vol. 74, No. 6, pp. 11‑12]. A swift Russian victory [in Ukraine] – coming [just a few months] after [America’s chaotic withdrawal from] Afghanistan – would have been another serious blow to US prestige. This scenario would have suited China well. By contrast, a protracted conflict in Ukraine is a serious strategic setback for China. As Nigel Gould-Davies of the International Institute for Strategic Studies says: “There are abundant reasons for China to be very unhappy. The most obvious is that Russia is China’s most important [international] partner.”
The two countries are not formal treaty allies. But they back each other in international forums and stage joint military exercises. The first foreign visit that Xi made after becoming president was to Moscow. But now [China’s] friendship with Russia looks like [an embarrassment,] not an asset, The Financial Times says.
The Chinese state media love to stress the [inexorable] decline of the West. But [the war in] Ukraine has engineered a revival of the Western alliance. US leadership looks effective [once again]. American weapons have helped turn the course of combat action.
At home, Xi likes to stress his desire for stability. But the conflict in Ukraine has stoked instability across Eurasia. Fighting has broken out between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Slapped with sanctions, Russia is a much less useful partner for China. But the ultimate nightmare for Beijing would be if the government in Moscow were to be replaced by a pro-Western government – which is improbable, but not impossible, says the newspaper, considered the mouthpiece for the City of London.
However, the American TV channel NBC paints Russia’s position in a totally different light. Despite the temporary setbacks on the battlefield, the Kremlin is successfully building an international coalition. Its participants are concerned about the course of combat operations and their impact on the international landscape, but all of them want to profit from that. From autocratic countries – China, North Korea, Iran – to nonliberal democracies – India, Turkey, Hungary – a host of governments are ready to wish Russia success [and] provide production capacities and markets to support the Russian war machine.
All members of this coalition desperately need Russian oil and gas. Furthermore, they need Moscow’s diplomatic support – for example, China on the Taiwan issue and Turkey on the problem of Kurdish insurgents.
Vasily Kashin, senior research fellow at the Higher School of Economics, told NG that “all of China’s official statements recently point to [its] desire to strengthen ties with Russia, not scale them back. Beijing has simply no other option. After all, the US is ramping up pressure on China, particularly over Taiwan.”