Russia and China continue to forge ever closer bonds across many fields of interaction.
Here are some important recent developments that underlie what has become the world’s most important multifaceted bilateral partnership.
During Chinese President Xi Jingping’s recent visit to Moscow where he brought with him scores of representatives from the business and government sector, Russia and China agreed to increase bilateral trade in local currency.
There were also discussions about the need to rely on gold rather than the US Dollar as a major trading currency.
This week, Russia’s largest bank, the government-owned Sberbank began trading on the Shanghai Gold Exchange.
“Sberbank was granted international membership of the Shanghai exchange in September last year and in July completed a pilot transaction with 200 kg of gold kilobars sold to local financial institutions, the bank said.
Sberbank plans to expand its presence on the Chinese precious metals market and anticipates total delivery of 5-6 tonnes of gold to China in the remaining months of 2017.
Gold bars will be delivered directly to the official importers in China as well as through the exchange, Sberbank said.
Russia’s second-largest bank VTB is also a member of the Shanghai Gold”.
As Russia and China just signed a number of agreements on bilateral commerce and join-infrastructure project, many suspect that the economic weight of the accompanying transactions could do damage to the monetary hegemony of the US Dollar.
2. One Belt–One Road/New Silk Road/Belt and Road and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
Since One Belt–One Road was initially announced in 2013, Russia has been a stalwart supporter of China’s global project to harmonise international trade through the creation of logistical land and maritime ‘roads’ as well as trans-national political agreements to smooth the process of sending raw materials and finished goods between the borders of multiple states.
On May 15, at the largest ever meeting of heads of state and government in Beijing to discuss the Belt and Road initiative, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated,
“All the proposals (under the One Road, One Belt initiative) are in the trend of modern development and are deemed to be extremely necessary and highly demanded.
This is why Russia not only supports ‘One Road, One Belt’ project, but will also actively participate in its implementation jointly with its Chinese partners and, of course, with all other interested countries”.
During the forum in China, Putin also praised Moscow’s strong economic ties with Beijing saying,
“Not only were we able to cope with trade and economic decline, but we also entered a path for growth”.
The recent deals that Russia has signed with China covering a variety of areas should be understood as implicit efforts to strengthen relations which will help to eventually complete the prominent China-to-Russia corridors of the New Silk Road,
As the Duran reported on 4 July, 2017,
“Russian banks, high-speed rail projects, projects for cooperation in space and investment funds which will trade in the national currencies of China and Russia. This represents a big blow to the US Dollar in respect of its position as the standard currency of Internationale trade.
There were also deals between multiple companies from both nations including between Russia’s Gazprom and Chinese energy companies.
Deals for cultural cooperation in the areas of film and cartoon production, education and tourism were also signed. Vladimir Putin stressed the importance of helping Russians and Chinese people to visit each others countries which are already popular mutual destinations.
Furthermore, the Foreign Ministers of Russia and China, Sergev Lavrov and Wang Yi, signed a memorandum of cooperation on the issues in the Korean Peninsula. Both sides stated that in this respect it is the desire of both China and Russia to freeze Pyongyang’s nuclear program as well as end US-South Korean military drills in the region.
Finally, President Putin and President Xi signed a Treaty of Friendliness and Cooperation between the two countries which will see further and deeper integration of Russia and China’s work towards mutual global problem solving.
President Putin later spoke of his optimism for what the One Belt–One Road Chinese economic, commercial and infrastructure project can offer for both countries.
President Xi spoke of the strategic partnership between the two countries as an “historic choice” and thanked President Putin for awarding him the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle“.
As leading founders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Russia and China recently welcomed both India and Pakistan into the group of nations. This will help to not only de-escalate latent tensions between China and India in the long term, but could also help India and Pakistan to eventually resolve their lingering disputes. All of this of course will help to expedite the progress of the New Silk Road.
Lingering issues between China and India while problematic in the short term, can and must be overcome through joint initiatives of the SCO. This is in India’s long term interests as well as China’s.
3. The Arctic
Russia has recently announced plans to expand its fleet of Arctic Icebreaker nuclear powered ships. New technologies involving lazer-armed technology could make sailing through the arctic vastly more efficient and faster in the coming years.
Military expert Dmitri Yurov stated that where once Arctic warfare would be considered an “absurdity”, thanks to new technology, the need to ready Arctic ready military vessels is becoming increasingly necessary.
As Russia continues to develop, modernise and innovate within its expanding fleet of icebreakers, many are looking at the possibility that a China-Russia trans-Arctic trading route could be a future possibility, one that would allow important goods to bypass many of the conflict zones of the Middle East and southern Europe.
Independent journalist and Asia expert Pepe Escobar published the following map on 17 July, 2017 which shows what a trans-Arctic ‘Silk Road’ might look like.
In recent years, China and Russia have increased cooperation in respect of joint military exercises.
This week, the two countries will conduct a wide range of drills in the Baltic Sea surrounding Russia’s Kaliningrad region.
A statement from the Russian Defence Ministry reads as follows,
“The main goals of the exercises are to increase the efficiency in cooperation between the two fleets in countering security threats at sea, to train compatibility of the crews of Russian and Chinese warships, to strengthen friendship and cooperation between the Russian Navy and the Naval Forces of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army”.
The location of the drills is also of importance. NATO continues to increase its presence the three Baltic states as well as Poland in a clear provocation towards Russia. By coming to Russian waters in the Baltic to conduct drills, China and Russia are demonstrating a clear united front against NATO manoeuvring in the region.
During President Xi’s visit with President Putin in early July of this year, RT’s Editor-In-Chief Margarita Simonyan spoke before both leaders, emphasising the need to fight disinformation from western mainstream media outlets with a unified yet diverse voice.
In an impassioned speech, Simonyan offered RT’s content to Chinese media outlets free of charge as a gesture of goodwill in the spirit of further cooperation.
It was later announced that Russia’s Katusha television channel would begin broadcasting in China, one of the first non-Chinese media outlets to do so.
As Simonyan indicated, cooperation between two of the world’s three superpowers in the so-called information war is vital to the interests of both countries in giving news from the two countries and their partners a wider international, multi-lingual platform. She described cooperative media initiatives between Russia and China as efforts to fight “media terrorism”.
These are just some of the crucial ways in which China and Russia continue to be the dominant world partners in the 21st century.