China is in the “dominant position” in its relations with Russia, and President Xi Jinping is no longer willing for Moscow “to do as it pleases,” according to a political analyst.
“It’s an unequal partnership and China has a dominant position in the relationship,” said Matthew Sussex, associate professor at Griffith University in Australia. He attributed this to the fact that Russia needs China more than China needs Russia.
The comments come a day after the Chinese leader met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Samarkand. It was the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since Russia launched an unprovoked war against neighboring Ukraine in February.
During the meeting, Xi expressed Beijing is “ready to work with Russia” so they can support each other’s “core interests,” according to Chinese state-backed media Xinhua, which listed the areas of cooperation as trade, agriculture and connectivity.
However, Sussex pointed out that a Sino-Russian partnership does not necessarily have to be on an equal footing.
China’s President Xi Jinping (R), Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Mongolian President Ukhnaa Khurelsukh (unseen) hold a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) leaders’ summit on September 15, 2022 in Samarkand. China and Russia’s relationship doesn’t necessarily have to be on an equal footing, said a Griffith University associate professor, Matthew Sussex.
Aleksandr Demianchuk | AFP | Getty Images
While China is buying up cheap oil from Russia, Beijing has consistently denied supplying arms to Moscow.
Sussex said this could be an indication that Beijing has “some real concerns and real irritation” with Russia over the conduct of the conflict.
According to an August New York Times report, the conflict has claimed about 34,000 lives so far, with Ukraine losing 9,000 soldiers, while Russia has lost an estimated 25,000 lives on the battlefield. Moscow has repeatedly described the attack on Ukraine as a “special operation”.
Still, the strategic partnership between China and Russia will continue, said Xiaoyu Pu, an associate professor at the University of Nevada.
He said the alliance is such that both powers can counteract “Western hegemony,” a term used to describe the West’s dominance — political, social or economic — in the global community.
“China needs Russia’s strategic type of partnership to counterbalance … Western hegemony, so China and Russia will continue to trade to maintain some sort of normal economic relationship,” he said.
Russia and China held a week-long joint military exercise in the Sea of Japan last month with other troops including India, Laos and Mongolia. Both countries have conducted joint exercises in recent years, including in Russia’s Far East.
However, Pu pointed out that “the relationship has limits.”
“China will not provide military support to Russia, so I think China has its own reservations about Russia’s war,” he said. “This Russian-Chinese partnership is not some form of military alliance. It is more… [a] symbolic support.”
At their last face-to-face meeting in February, Xi and Putin sealed a partnership without borders. They pledged each other diplomatic and political support and agreed not to have any “forbidden” areas of cooperation.
Similarly, Sussex pointed to Beijing’s inhibitions, as evidenced by China’s unwillingness to supply arms to Russia.
Since early September, Ukraine has regained more than 6,000 square kilometers of territory from Russian control, including the second-largest city of Kharkiv, its president said.
“I think Xi will likely remain on the sidelines for the foreseeable future,” Sussex said. “And yet this causes significant damage to the Russians in warfare.”
“The ‘No Limits’ partnership has limits, and increasingly those limits are being set by Beijing rather than Moscow,” Sussex said. “China is no longer prepared for Russia to act as it pleases.”
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