Chinese President Xi Jinping conducted a state visit to Russia on July 3, followed by a state visit to Germany and the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg. Before President Xi’s trip to Russia, he had a phone conversation with President Donald Trump.
The Chinese leader talking on the phone to Washington D.C. and flying to Moscow on the same day makes one consider the China-U.S. relationship and the China-Russia relationship at the same time. Looking back to all the China-U.S. conflicts in the previous week and the long-term stability of the China-Russia relationship makes one wonder just how many people in China are thinking that America is not reliable, and that China and Russia are true friends.
The total strategic partnership between China and Russia is real in every way, and the two countries’ strategic mutual trust has reached a high level. The two leaders’ visits to each other’s country are as familiar as visiting relatives. President Xi has already visited Moscow six times since he became president, and there have been 21 Xi-Putin meetings. If they were just ordinary friends, living as far apart as Beijing and Moscow, would they have managed 21 meetings in five years?
Both China and Russia are proactive in their attitude toward the strategic partnership, not just for some temporary goal: Both countries see the relationship with the other as a strategic ballast stone, and the China-Russia strategic partnership is a crucial diplomatic asset for both countries.
Whether it’s Beijing or Moscow, developing and managing the relationship with Washington is critical, and keeping it stable is also a challenge for both countries.
America has a very strong anti-Russia sentiment, and this anti-Russia sentiment has almost become “politically correct” in America, which has likely cancelled President Trump’s hope of improving the U.S.-Russia relationship. American strategic thinkers are also more and more extreme in their ideas about China, believing that American policies toward China in the past few decades, which were about acceptance and integration, are a failure, and advocating a harsher attitude toward China.
Washington has never given up on “changing” China, and it has a complicated mindset toward China. America wants to maximize its benefit in China-U.S. economic partnerships but also curb China strategically, to ensure America’s absolute security advantage.
Meanwhile, America is also conflicted toward Russia; it wants to squeeze Russia’s strategic space with NATO expanding east but doesn’t want to appear confrontational. The U.S.-Russia relationship is always full of variables, with indecipherable beginnings and endings.
Of course, the China-U.S. relationship also has some dimensions that the China-Russia relationship doesn’t have. With its enormous scope, the complexity of the China-U.S. relationship could be seen as the flip side of its richness. The China-U.S. trade relationship is one of the world’s largest bilateral trading relationships, bringing concrete benefits to both countries and providing a special tenacity underneath the superficial China-U.S. tension.
We shouldn’t demonize the China-U.S. relationship, and let the conflicts smolder, nor have unrealistic fantasies about it. The strategic problems between China and the U.S. are very profound and the answers take a long time to find. The two great countries need to gather and solidify more mutual benefits in managing their conflicts, in fostering a strong hope and building a pragmatic basis for mutual advancement.
China and Russia should keep going forward as constant strategic partners. The China-Russia relationship could be said to be the most important strategic balancing element in the world today. The continuously enriching and diversifying China-Russia relationship is already a process both societies actively partake in, something about which the public in both countries likely has no doubts.
The more balanced the world becomes, the more proactive the attitude toward interwoven friendships between great countries. The longer there is peace, the more partnerships there are, and the more likely they become habits for the great countries and the world at large. Perhaps one day Washington will feel bored with coming to the South China Sea to play geopolitical games and play the “Taiwan” card; maybe by then America’s energy will be focused on taking care of its own affairs.