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Top Chinese officials visit Putin in Moscow as China reaffirms its alliance with Russia

Chinese acts to reaffirm alliance with Russia and to quell attempts by Trump administration to make trouble between Russia and China.

Alexander Mercouris

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The pace of Russian-Chinese contacts has suddenly intensified with Russian President Putin hosting this month no fewer than three senior officials of the Chinese government, each one following the other in quick succession.

The first was Zhang Gaoli, the First Vice-Chairman of China’s State Council (ie. China’s deputy prime minister).  He has now been followed by Zhang Dejiang, the Chairman of the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (China’s parliament), who met with Putin yesterday.

Now comes news of the pending visit of Li Zhanshu, the Director of the General Office of the Communist Party of China, who the Chinese Foreign Ministry says will visit Moscow on 25th April 2017, where he will meet over several days with President Putin and with various other senior Russian officials.

Of these three officials the most important is Li Zhanshu, whose position approximates to that of Anton Vaino, the head of the Russian President’s Executive Office.

Li and Vaino can be described as the chiefs of the staff of their respective leaders, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin.  Moreover it has been clear for some time that contact between China and Russia does not take place through the foreign ministries of the two countries (their foreign ministers – Wang Yi and Sergey Lavrov – rarely meet), but at some other level, and it is likely that it is conducted by Li and Vaino, who have immediate access to their chiefs, Xi and Putin.

If so then Li’s visit to Moscow is the visit to the Russian capital of the Chinese official in charge of managing China’s relations with its closest ally, Russia.

What explains this visit, coming so soon after the visits of two other high-ranking Chinese officials to Moscow?

At the most basic level it is likely that Li’s visit, like those of Zhang Gaoli and of Zhang Dejiang, is intended to prepare the way for Putin’s visit to China next month.  It is clear that this visit is going to be a major visit, and is seen as such by the leaderships of the two countries.  It is likely that intense discussions are underway to fine-tune arrangements for this visit, and to complete the details of whatever agreements are expected to be signed during it.

However it is difficult to avoid the impression that at least in Li’s case his visit is in part intended to coordinate with the Russians in light of the Trump administration’s ham-fisted attempts to cause trouble between Beijing and Moscow.  What suggests that this is the reason for Li’s visit is that there was so little advanced notice of it, suggesting that unlike the visits by Zhang Gaoli and Zhang Dejiang it was not arranged long ago but was arranged hurriedly at short notice.

That the Trump administration is indeed trying to make trouble between Beijing and Moscow has been all but confirmed by no less a person than President Trump’s National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster, who in an interview with ABC television said the following

What we do know is that, in the midst of responding to the mass murder of the Syrian regime, the president (Trump) and the first lady hosted an extraordinarily successful conference, summit, with President Xi and his team. And not only did they establish a very warm relationship, but… they worked together as well in connection with the response to the mass murder on the part of the Assad regime in connection with the U.N. vote.  I think President Xi was courageous in distancing himself from the Russians, isolating really the Russians and the BoliviansAnd I think the world saw that, and they (Xi) saw, well, what club do you want to be in? The Russian-Bolivian club? Or the — in the club with the United States, working together on our mutual interests and the interests of peace, security

(bold italics added)

This comment serves as a further illustration of the inexperience and naivety of US diplomacy in the age of Trump.  It confirms that China abstained in the vote in the UN Security Council on 12th April 2017 following a personal request from Trump to Xi Jinping.  However it completely misconstrues the meaning of that act.

The Chinese almost certainly cleared their decision to abstain in the UN Security Council vote ahead of the vote with Moscow.  From their point of view and that of the Russians a decision by China to abstain would have meant little.  There was no possibility that the draft Resolution would pass because Russia had already made known it would veto it, whilst the US had already removed the most offensive words in the draft of the Resolution before it was put to the vote by deleting wording in the draft which blamed the Khan Sheikhoun incident on the Syrian government before any investigation had taken place.

Why would China hurt and humiliate Trump – whom Xi Jinping had met just days before – by refusing his request and voting against a Resolution which was no longer controversial, which did not concern an issue important to China, and which the Chinese knew the Russians were going to veto anyway?

What was undoubtedly intended by the Chinese as a simple diplomatic courtesy to the new US President over an issue which for China is of secondary importance, is however now being misconstrued by the Trump administration as a big step by China against Russia.

To be clear, it would have been an entirely different matter if China had voted for the Resolution after Russia had made known it would vote against it.  In that case it would have been legitimate to speak of a serious rift over the Syrian issue between Beijing and Moscow.  However an abstention should not be construed in that way.

China has previously abstained on votes in the UN Security Council on Syria and Ukraine, and it is far from unusual for China to sidestep Western criticism by acting in this way over issues which it regards as being of only secondary importance to itself.  The Russians understand this fully, and have never shown any concern about it.

It is however fully understandable that in light of the sort of comments that have been coming out of the Trump administration the Chinese leadership should now be pulling out the stops to make clear that China’s alliance with Russia is unaffected and as strong as always.

The result is a series of articles which have appeared in the Chinese media, which have been strongly critical of the Trump administration’s actions (discussed here and here), a strong statement reaffirming support for Russia’s position in Syria rushed out by the BRICS group, which is unofficially led by China and Russia, and the visits by the three important Chinese dignitaries to Moscow.

The statement by the BRICS group is the most public expression of these Chinese steps.  It seems to have been hurriedly put together at a meeting of the BRICS special envoys in Visakhapatnam in India, and was published on 12th April 2017 – the same day as the UN Security Council vote – in a way that was obviously intended to offset any misconception arising from China’s decision to abstain in that vote.

Its full text has been published by Russia’s Foreign Ministry, and was undoubtedly agreed in advance following detailed discussions at the highest levels of the Russian and Chinese governments, but also involving the governments of the three other BRICS states: India, Brazil and South Africa.

The statement reaffirms the primacy of international law in settling disputes in the Middle East and elsewhere, and importantly it reaffirms the primary role of the UN Security Council as the only body empowered to authorise the use of force

BRICS Special Envoys on Middle East expressed their concern about internal crises that have emerged in a number of states in the region in recent years. They firmly advocated that these crises should be resolved in accordance with the international law and UN Charter, without resorting to force or external interference and through establishing broad national dialogue with due respect for independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the countries of the region…..

….In the course of the meeting, the role of the UN Security Council as the international body bearing the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security was underlined.  It was also stressed that military interventions that have not been authorized by the Security Council are incompatible with the UN Charter and unacceptable.

(bold italics added)

The highlighted words are straightforward criticisms of the US missile strike on Al-Shayrat air base on 6th April 2017, which was carried out without authorisation from the UN Security Council, though the statement is careful not to refer to the US by name.

Li Zhanshu’s pending visit to Moscow is almost certainly connected to these steps.

The idea that China can be sweet-talked out of an alliance with Russia it has spent 25 years creating as a result of a single meeting between the US and Chinese Presidents during which nothing of substance was agreed, is fanciful in the extreme.  It is a further illustration of the lack of understanding or experience of international diplomacy within the Trump administration.

President Trump is right to believe that establishing good personal relations with foreign leaders is critically important for the successful conduct of diplomacy.  The fact that he spent time meeting and talking to Xi Jinping and made a serious effort to establish a personal rapport with him promises well for the future.  It contrasts with the arrogant disdain towards foreign leaders of Barack Obama, who as President barely communicated with foreign leaders on a personal level at all.

However President Trump has to be realistic about what such personal diplomacy can do.  If he over-invests in it, and thinks he can change the entire foreign policy of a superpower like China by a single meeting and a few phone calls, then he is setting himself up for failure and disappointment.

In the meantime the way President Trump through his officials has misconstrued the habitual courtesy of the Chinese President, and tried to use it to make trouble between Moscow and Beijing, has almost certainly taught the Chinese of the need to handle him carefully.  He may find that in future meetings they are not quite so polite.

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Tape recorded evidence of Clinton-Ukraine meddling in US election surfaces (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a look at new evidence to surface from Ukraine that exposes a plot by the US Embassy in Kiev and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to leak Paul Manafort’s corrupt dealings in the country, all for the benefit of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Hill’s John Solomon, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week, according to The Hill

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A State Department spokesman told Hill.TV that officials aware of news reports regarding Sytnyk. –The Hill

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” said Lutsenko, speaking with The Hill’s John Solomon about the anti-corruption bureau chief, Artem Sytnyk.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” Lutsenko continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s wrongdoing in Ukraine.

“This member of parliament even attached the audio tape where several men, one of which had a voice similar to the voice of Mr. Sytnyk, discussed the matter.” –The Hill

What The Hill doesn’t mention is that Sytnyk released Manafort’s Black Book with Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko – discussed in great length by former Breitbart investigator Lee Stranahan, who has been closely monitoring this case.

Serhiy Leshchenko

T]he main spokesman for these accusations was Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian politician and journalist who works closely with both top Hillary Clinton donors George Soros and Victor Pinchuk, as well as to the US Embassy in Kyiv.

James Comey should be asked about this source that Leshchenko would not identify. Was the source someone connected to US government, either the State Department or the Department of Justice?

The New York Times should also explain why they didn’t mention that Leshchenko had direct connections to two of Hillary Clinton biggest financial backers. Victor Pinchuk, the largest donor to the Clinton Foundation at a staggering $8.6 million also happened to have paid for Leshchenko’s expenses to go to international conferences. George Soros, whose also founded the International Renaissance Foundationthat worked closely with Hillary Clinton’s State Department in Ukraine, also contributed at least $8 million to Hillary affiliated super PACs in the 2016 campaign cycle. –Lee Stranahan via Medium

Meanwhile, according to former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr, Leshchenko was a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. –Daily Caller

Also absent from The Hill report is the fact that Leshchenko was convicted in December by a Kiev court of interfering in the 2016 US election.

A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.

The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.

-RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty (funded by the US govt.).

So while Lutsenko – Solomon’s guest and Ukrainian Prosecutor is currently going after Artem Sytnyk, it should be noted that Leshchenko was already found to have meddled in the 2016 US election.

Watch:

Meanwhile, you can also check out Stranahan’s take on Leshchenko being left out of the loop.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Via RT


Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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