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December 3, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9662

Chinese And Russian Think Tank Associate Nelson Wong: Russia Is Too Powerful And Proud A Country To Play Balance Of Power Politics Against China

December 3, 2021
Russia, China | Special Dispatch No. 9662

As both Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have recently held summit talks with US President Joe Biden, both Russia and China have strenuously signaled that attempts to drive a wedge between Russia and China will not succeed. The message is also echoed in the Russian media.

Putin addressing the "Russia Is Calling" investment forum of VTB Capital claimed that Moscow is unperturbed by the growth of China's military potential, since Russia enjoys an unprecedentedly high level of diplomatic relations with Beijing.  Putin compared Russia's complacency towards the growth of China's power to the US non reaction to military modernization by its alliance partners.

"Great Britain, France are announcing that they are planning and implementing plans to modernize their nuclear arsenal. Is the US suffering from this, is it concerned by it? No "

The increase in China's military power, explained Putin, naturally followed Chinese economic successes and stressed. Russia, pledged Putin, will not be guided by the interests of third countries, building relations with its eastern neighbor.

“The relationship is stable. Moreover, relations between Russia and China are a significant factor favoring global stability."[1]

Putin scoffed at the attempt to combat Chinese military growth via sanctions: "They have frightened me with China, since 2000. Since then those who frightened me got scared themselves and began to change their policy towards China. The situation, in my opinion, has changed, hence the various sanctions and restrictions that in my opinion, are completely unjustified and contrary to the norms of international law in relation to China."[2]

On November 18 2021 addressing the annual collegium or Russia's Foreign Ministry, Putin said that both Russia and China were aware of the divide and rule strategy and it wouldn't work: ". "We will continue strengthening ties with our good neighbors and friends in the PRC. Our bilateral relations have now reached the highest level in history and in the essence are a comprehensive strategic partnership. It can be said that they are a twenty-first century model for effective interstate cooperation. The Western partners are openly trying to drive a wedge between Moscow and Beijing. We notice this quite well and together with our Chinese friends will continue to respond to them by expanding cooperation in politics, economy and other spheres, and coordinating our steps at the international arena".

Sinologist Nikolai Vavilov, author of the book "Chinese Power", noted that Putin's statement regarding the relations with China was made against the background of the prolonged negotiations between the US President, Joe Biden and Chinese President, Xi Jinping, during which a reconciliation, albeit a temporary and tactical one, occurred at the initiative of the American side.

"Obviously, the US strategy strives to at least weaken Russia - China cooperation, and at most to split the partnership and set the countries against each other. However, the Putin's statement attests to the fact that Moscow is committed to establishing a long-term relationship with Beijing." Putin's comment, noted Vavilov, were intended as a signal to both China and the US,". According to Vavilov, Putin was the first high-ranking Russian official to openly discuss the US and British strategy to restrain Russian-Chinese cooperation. Vavilov claimed that there was a program in place to counteract efforts to drive a wedge between Moscow and Beijing "aimed at actors both abroad and inside Russia [whom Vavilov does not name], who exaggerate the Chinese threat and are trying to counteract rapprochement with China,[3]


Nikolay Vavilov (Source:Ukraina.ru)

Political scientist Sergey Markov claimed that the US was the main architect of the divide and rule policy, but that policy would founder: "The US is trying to solve the most complicated task: how to maintain hostility towards Russia, how to maintain hostility towards China, and how to simultaneously set Russia and China against each other in order to destroy them one by one. This is a very complicated task, which to be all observers appears to be extremely contradictory and even impossible."

Markov conceded that some of the efforts to split Russia and China zeroed in on what he referred to as stumbling blocks in the bilateral relations such as the Arctic issue. "The thing is that the Arctic is a territory where the positions of Russia and the US are closer than that of Russia and China. Russia and the US, as Arctic states, believe that the region is above all their business, while China, as a non-Arctic state, believes that the region is the concern of the entire world community, including non-Arctic states." Another of these stumbling blocks was Afghanistan. "Russia has ties with Iran, which fears the Taliban, and China has ties with Pakistan, which is the Taliban's creator," said Markov.

Markov accused the Americans of politicizing to the extent possible any issue related to trade deals and competition between Russian and Chinese companies. He also claimed that entire departments in the US were tasked with stoking Russia - China confrontation.[4]


Sergey Markov (Source: Vnnews.ru)

The campaign to counteract efforts to cause a split between Russia and China is not limited to attacks against those allegedly behind these efforts, but also accentuates the positive. Gazeta.ru interviewed Nelson Wong, who is both Vice President of the Shanghai Center for Strategic and International Studies, and an expert for Russia's influential Valdai Discussion Club think tank. Wong praised the level of Chinese-Russian cooperation, suggested measures for deepening it, and expressed his full confidence that Russia would not side with the US against China, especially as Sino-American tensions had abated following the Biden-Xi summit. The interview with Wong follows below:

Gazeta.Ru: How far can the Russia-China convergence go? For example, The Jerusalem Post recently wrote that Russia and China could form a military alliance. From your point of view, is this realistic? And if so, under what circumstances?

Nelson Wong: I can say that over the past 10 odd years, quite significant progress has been achieved. This can be seen both in the growing confidence by the leaderships of our countries, and in the fact that both sides respect and well understand each other’s main interests.

The main thing is that both China and Russia view multipolarity in the same way and recognize the UN as a platform for resolving global issues. Both countries categorically oppose third country intervention in the internal affairs of others, as well as unilateral measures, which the United States often resorts to.

It is also respect worthy that Russia always responds well and in a timely manner to all major problems on the world stage and openly says what it considers right or wrong.

- Still, what about further convergence between Moscow and Beijing?

- China speaks of its commitment to a foreign policy of peaceful coexistence and non-accession to alliances. But at the same time, as the Chinese leadership has repeatedly stated, the scale and scope of the comprehensive partnership between China and Russia is such that only the sky is the limit.

For anyone who understands Chinese culture, these very rarely used statements by high-ranking Chinese diplomats already reflect the PRC's utmost confidence in Russia.

Nevertheless, I still believe that to further strengthen our bilateral relationship, both sides have much more work to do to build trust between peoples. It is a lengthy process that requires enthusiasm, patience and persistence. I personally see great opportunities in economics alone, but a number of things will have to be done first.

- For example?

- The exchanges between our governments at the state and local levels will help both parties understand the similarities and differences in our systems of governance and legislation in the economy.

In general, the areas of our cooperation can involve many more areas - energy, agriculture, public transport and electric mobility, travel and hospitality, banking and financial services, aerospace and technology, etc.

And if cooperation expands from state-owned companies to the private sector, then this will become a decisive factor in strengthening the confidence of our peoples. To achieve this goal, it will be necessary to conduct educational forums and promotional events. All this will help our business communities to jointly find and develop new business and investment opportunities.

- Is it true that some Chinese experts believe that Russia can, under some conditions, quickly change its attitude towards friendship with China and move on to improving relations with the United States, which will change the balance of power? Can Moscow play a key role in this scenario?

- I have not heard such discussions, to be honest. But look here’s the thing.

The Chinese leadership declares the country's commitment to a peaceful rise and that China will never strive to become a hegemon. And I have said many times that a better future cannot be achieved if the world is again divided into two competing camps, as was the case during the Cold War.

Disagreements and disputes between America and China on some issues can be called inevitable. But the so-called "US-China rivalry" is too great an exaggeration dramatized by Washington to spark widespread fear of a quickly evolving China. At the same time, Beijing has never called Washington a rival.

Take the recent 3.5-hour meeting of the Chinese and American leaders on November 16. It is believed to have been quite constructive. On it, both sides were quite frank and open about their interests. Although the details of this meeting are unknown to the public, we saw clear signs of decreasing hostility and a willingness by both sides to reduce the risks of mutual confrontation. This attest to the achievement of a certain level of mutual understanding between the two countries’ governments.

As for Russia’s role, as the largest and most resource-endowed country on Earth, located between Europe and Asia, Russia by itself is an important force in a multipolar world. She is too strong and proud to take sides or switch between China or the United States to equalize power.

- How do you assess the US factor in the issue of the reunification of China and Taiwan? How far is President Joe Biden ready to go on this issue, what can Washington's participation here lead to?

- He did not tell me anything about this, we do not know each other. Whatever he chooses to do by continuing to interfere in China's internal affairs, he will be wrong anyway.

It is shameful that, while recognizing the policy of "one China" and the PRC as the only legitimate government, the United States contradicts itself, by adhering to its "Taiwan Relations Law" of 1979 (Pursuant to which, Washington undertakes to provide assistance to the island in the event of a military threat. - " Gazeta.Ru ").

The US still hasn't abandoned its strategic ambiguity. They are still trying to use the Taiwan issue as a strategic lever, or more precisely, as one of the "cards" that US believes can contain China. All the while, separatists on the island have exploiting the US position, from time to time trying to exceed the limits of the possible.

But with the adoption in China of the "Law on Combating Secession" in 2005 and the clear designation of the "red lines", it became clear that China is ready to defend the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity not only verbally. It has already physically demonstrated this to the United States and to anyone who dares to continue interfering in China's internal affairs.

And now tensions in the Taiwan Strait can be expected to ease as the US realizes that it has a broader agenda that requires cooperation with China.

- Do you agree that, in general, Biden's policy towards China is softer than Trump's? Or is there no difference on a broad basis?

- I would not say that Biden is softer towards China. But yes, being a career politician with a rich foreign policy experience, he is certainly more resourceful. He is able to assemble a team of experts and advisors who can offer a more thoughtful, practical and balanced set of actions regarding China.

- Is there any chance that the parties can end their confrontation, or at least stop it at the current level?

- Recent events show that the White House has realized that America's goal is not to contain China or a new Cold War. It is obvious that, on the one hand, the US administration is faced with internal political, economic and social challenges, which some view as a national schism. On the other hand, there are the challenges of a rapidly changing world that Biden's predecessors did not face.

And while the pandemic caught the world by surprise, caused an economic downturn and human casualties, it is also a wake-up call for all countries, including the United States. Perhaps it was against this background that the United States finally came to the conclusion that China is not their enemy, even if it is ready from time to time to cross the United States here and there.

If this assumption of mine holds water, then both countries will be able to cope with further escalation of tension or to stop it.

- What is most effective in the issue of regional security, in particular in Central Asia, after the Taliban (the organization is banned in Russia) came to power in Afghanistan? SCO [Shangai Cooperation Organization? Bilateral agreements? Something else?

- Bilateral agreements between countries are always necessary in any case. But to ensure regional security, multilateral platforms such as the SCO are important and, in principle, should be more effective.

No less important is the cultural tolerance of all participants in such organizations, the communication and negotiation skills of the main delegates.

Regional security often includes complex issues related to national interests. They can also mesh with both bilateral and multilateral relationships. And so sometimes it would be good to think outside the box.

For example, a good and smart business negotiator will tell you that a bad deal is usually the result of not only the wrong price, but possibly also the wrong deal structure and, ultimately, a lack of creative thinking.

At the same time, I am of the opinion that regional security is always a matter of the leading countries of the region, without the involvement of external forces. But instead of clinging to gunboat diplomacy, leading countries can tackle regional security issues while also respecting the interests of less privileged countries. As the old saying goes: Respect must be earned.[5]


Nelson Wong (Source: Youtube.com)

 

[1] Lenta.ru, November 30, 2021

[2] Ria.ru, November 30. 2021.

[3] Ura.ru, November 18, 2021

[4] Lenta.ru, November 18, 2021.

[5] Gazeta.ru, November 28, 2021.

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