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The Evolving Sino-Russian Relations Against Western Sanctions

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Amidst the reverberations of Western sanctions targeting China and Russia, an expected consequence emerges: the gradual convergence of the two nations towards an unspoken strategic partnership. As economic pressures mount on Russia and U.S.-China competition intensifies, the bond between Beijing and Moscow strengthens. What initially began as exploratory talks on economic, energy, and military cooperation has evolved into a narrative advocating for a « multipolar, equitable global order » in defiance of Western dominance.

Impact of Sanctions and China-Russia Rapprochement

The trajectory of sanctions against China, stemming from the 2018 U.S. trade war, has evolved into a multifaceted approach extending to involve the European Union (EU). Similarly, Russia’s confrontation with heavy sanctions post-Ukraine conflict prompted the nation to adopt asymmetric strategies. Platforms like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS gained prominence, amplifying the discourse of multipolarity.

The aftermath of the Ukraine conflict witnessed the imposition of severe sanctions by the USA and its allies, ranging from export controls to financial restrictions, culminating in the expulsion of Russian banks from SWIFT. In response, Russia diversified its foreign trade by embracing alternative currencies, notably the yuan.

However, sanctions are not exclusive to Russia; China has increasingly found itself in the crosshairs, evident in recent UK sanctions targeting Chinese entities linked to the Ukraine crisis. Consequently, economic ties between China and Russia deepened, with Russian exports to Asia surging by 5.6% to $306.6 billion in 2023.

Joint Opposition and Geopolitical Cooperation of China and Russia

Bilateral trade flourished, with China-Russia trade volume reaching $240 billion in 2023. Chinese exports to Russia experienced a notable surge post-2022, encompassing a range of sectors including automotive, machinery, electronics, and materials. Concurrently, Beijing substantially increased its imports of Russian energy, amounting to $88 billion in 2023, mitigating losses incurred in the EU market.

The repercussions of Western sanctions propelled China and Russia towards a shared oppositional stance, prompting a strategic realignment towards each other in response to perceived Western threats. This convergence not only underscores their desire for greater autonomy in global governance but also underscores the untapped potential within BRICS and SCO frameworks.

While the United States views Russia as an immediate threat, China is perceived as a long-term challenge. This perception has prompted the USA to rally its allies, mirroring China and Russia’s strategic alignment. According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, this approach destabilizes international security structures. In parallel, China and Russia echo similar geopolitical aspirations, advocating for a « multipolar world » and restraining NATO’s military expansion.

Forging an Unspoken Strategic Alliance of China and Russia

In what appears to be a paradigm shift in global diplomacy, China and Russia are cementing a novel framework termed the « comprehensive strategic partnership, » marking a departure from traditional international relations. At the 2022 summit in China, leaders from both nations emphasized an « unlimited » depth to their friendship, laying the groundwork for a potential alliance of significant strategic implications.

The ensuing joint declaration, issued post-summit, was not merely a statement of mutual cooperation but was perceived as a bold defiance against the established network of the USA and its allies, signalling the dawn of a new geopolitical era akin to a modern cold war. During the farewell exchange between President Xi Jinping and Putin at the subsequent 2023 Moscow summit, Jinping remarked on the unprecedented nature of the current global transformations, emphasizing their collective steering of these shifts.

The convergence between China and Russia extends beyond diplomatic rhetoric into the realm of military cooperation. Heightened joint military exercises and corresponding statements have sent clear signals of burgeoning collaboration. The monumental « Vostok 2018 » military exercise, boasting participation from hundreds of thousands of soldiers, epitomized the growing military synergy between the two nations.

This deepening partnership between China and Russia underscores a strategic alignment aimed at challenging the dominance of the Western-centric global narrative. While ostensibly remaining unspoken, this alliance prioritizes the national interests of both nations, seeking to carve out a multipolar global order reflective of their collective aspirations.

Ümmügülsüm Çavuş
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