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Editorial of the Day (23rd May): Russia-China Meet


  • Recently a summit was held in Beijing between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping marking the 75th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations.
  • Their deepening alliance impacts global geopolitics and economies, including India’s complex relations with both nations.

Phases of Russia-China Ties

  • 19th Century:
    • Czarist Russia expanded to the Pacific, taking advantage of a weak China.
    • The Soviet Union retained these territories.
  • Post-1949:
    • A decade of “Comintern brotherhood” followed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
    • Relations soured due to ideological and geopolitical differences, including China’s attack on India in 1962 and armed clashes in 1969 over the Ussuri River border dispute.

Russia- China Meet

  • Post-1972:
    • S. President Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing aimed to wean China from the Russia-led Eastern Bloc.
    • China tilted towards the West, receiving support for economic reforms and transforming into the “World’s Factory.”
    • Moscow-Beijing ties weakened as the Soviet Union collapsed and the Russian Federation faced geopolitical competition with China in Central Asia.
  • Post-2012:
    • The U.S. launched a “pivot Asia” policy in response to China’s growing assertiveness.
    • Russia and China declared “No Limits” to their ties at the Beijing Summit in February 2022.
    • Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Western sanctions pushed Russia closer to China.
    • Trade between Russia and China reached $240 billion in 2023, with Russia heavily dependent on China for energy exports and critical inputs.

Joint Statement from the Summit

  • The 7,000-word Joint Statement was notably silent on bilateral economic, financial, and military ties, possibly to avoid Western sanctions or to conceal disagreements.
  • The joint statement does not address any issues specific to India, such as United Nations reforms, and only a sanitised version of the Ukraine conflict.
  • The statement criticised the U.S. for pursuing “dual containment” and an “Indo-Pacific Strategy,” signalling an anti-U.S. stance.

Short and Long-Term Impacts

  • Short-Term:
    • Potential for intensified bilateral cooperation, especially in supplying dual-use materials for Russia’s Ukraine campaign.
    • China may seek better terms for Russian raw materials, mining rights in Siberia, and access to Russian technologies.
  • Long-Term:
    • China’s profitable engagements with both Russia and the West may become untenable under continued Western pressure.
    • This could lead to a new Cold War, with China pushing for a global order alternative to the U.S.-dominated post-World War II architecture.
    • China’s initiatives like BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and the Belt and Road Initiative could gain prominence.

Impact on India

  • India faces challenges and opportunities from the deepening Russia-China ties.
  • India needs to assess the depth and durability of their current phase, given their erratic past.
  • Russia’s potential vulnerability to China’s hegemony could concern India, which relies heavily on Russia for defence supplies amid border tensions with China.
  • India must carefully navigate its position, leveraging its strategic autonomy and pushing for a higher profile in the existing global order.
  • Unlike during the first Cold War, India now has greater influence and should adopt a clear strategy to achieve its long-term national goals.

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