|Image Credit: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office|
June 2, 2014
During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to China last week, China and Russia signed a huge natural gas deal that is worth about $400 billion. The natural gas deal is a win-win for China and Russia, as China secures a long-term (30 years) provision of natural gas from Russia and Russia can reduce its dependence on the European markets as well as strengthen Russia’s position against Western sanctions. In the meantime, China and Russia conducted a joint naval drill in East China Sea, sending a deterrence message to Japan and the U.S. This also indicates that Russia is now moving closer to China’s side with regard to the territorial disputes between China and Japan. Furthermore, China and Russia last week vetoed a draft UN resolution to send Syria to the International Criminal Court for war crimes. China and Russia had vetoed three previous UNSC resolutions condemning Syria.
In the joint statement issued by China and Russia, the main message is that China-Russia relations have reached a new stage of comprehensive strategic partnership and this will help increase both countries’ international status and influence, thus contributing to a more just international order. Of particular importance is the agreement that China and Russia will deepen cooperation under the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building in Asia (CICA), a new security framework in Asia-Pacific that conveniently excludes the U.S. and Japan.
The question that everybody now is asking is this: Why this new development in China-Russia relations? Obviously, the main trigger is the recent Ukraine crisis that has seriously damaged Russia-West relations, thereby pushing Russia closer to China. However, there is also a larger strategic reason. That is, there are mutual strategic needs as both China and Russia want to create a multipolar world that is not dominated by the U.S., particularly as China faces threats from the US-led alliance in Asia. As previously pointed out by Zachary Keck, China’s chance of winning maritime disputes with Japan partly depends on maintaining a good relationship with Russia. From Russia’s perspective, the NATO expansion is a serious threat to Russia’s national security and as such Russia has to fight back. Russia’s current and future capabilities are limited, however, and it desperately needs a reliable strategic partner, which happens to be China.