Posts Tagged ‘xi jinping’

CHINA-RUSSIA RELATIONS WARMING

August 12, 2013

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on August 9, 2013, commented on China-Russia relations. The two great powers share a border running 4,300 kilometers, but have long been divided by mistrust. Excerpts below:

China and Russia, [however], are enjoying a distinct warming in relations. A historic oil deal in June and a major joint military exercise in July are the clearest signs of a deepening partnership. Analysts say suspicions are likely to linger,…. But economic and geopolitical considerations — including the urge to counterbalance the United States — are bringing the countries increasingly in line.

In March, a mere eight days after he was installed as China’s new president, Xi Jinping visited Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has increasingly turned his country away from the West since returning to the Kremlin in 2012, signed treaties. He declared that relations between the countries were “the best in their history.” Some analysts said the Russian leader was enjoying the images of aligning himself with an economically booming and increasingly assertive power.

In June Rosneft, Russia’s state-controlled energy giant, inked a $270 billion agreement to double oil supplies to China. The deal was one of the biggest in the history of the global oil industry.

Disagreement over pricing had constrained past oil deals between the countries. Aleksei Maslov, head of the School of Asian Studies at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, says the most significant element of the new agreement was how that roadblock was overcome.

With Russia well-aware of European efforts to become less dependent on its oil and natural gas, as well as a predicted energy boom in the United States, stronger energy ties with Beijing have become all the more important, experts say. China, in turn, is expected to remain energy-thirsty for decades to come.

The oil deal also included some $60 billion-$70 billion in prepayments from Beijing — funds that would be a significant boost to the indebted Rosneft.

China has its own reasons for cozying up to Russia, and they increasingly extend beyond energy and trade. Last month, China conducted its largest-ever military exercise with a foreign country, as warships from Beijing and Moscow joined forces in the Sea of Japan. Expanding on exercises last year, the latest war games included fleet air defense and antisubmarine and surface warfare.

Many read the display of force in part as a signal to the United States, which has repositioned military assets eastward and made new overtures to Pacific allies.

Reports appeared in the Chinese state-owned press following the March summit that the sides had agreed to a deal in which Beijing would purchase 24 Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets from Russia.

While most analysts say Chinese and Russian interests in the West will prevent the formation of a full-fledged anti-Western axis, both have been comfortable with playing the foil.

Both countries have also expressed skepticism about the presence of U.S. missile interceptors in Alaska and have floated the idea of establishing a new international lending institution to rival the Western-led International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Just how deep ties can become remains to be seen. Skeptics say energy and arms deals could fall apart before being implemented. Moscow fears Chinese demographic pressure on the sparsely populated Russian Far East. Despite the bold show of military cooperation in July, Moscow is also wary of Beijing’s might. Russia has not backed Chinese claims to territory in the South China Sea. China, in turn, has refused to recognize the pro-Moscow breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Likely their greatest point of divergence is on Central Asia — a region that Russia continues to consider its “near abroad,” but one that China is fast integrating into its economic orbit. In 2012, all Central Asian states except for Uzbekistan traded more with Beijing than Moscow. Analysts say Putin’s efforts to establish a Eurasian Economic Union is largely an attempt to limit Chinese economic dominance of the region.