While US President Donald Trump becomes increasingly hostile to China, and stories of Russian collusion with his campaign and interference in the US election dog his presidency, he’s been missing something crucial about the two countries.
China and Russia are playing him together.
Historically, their relationship has been fraught. The USSR and Communist China parted ways in 1969 over an undeclared border war that ended with both sides right back where they started. The countries still compete for influence over their shared region.
That said: If you read Chinese state media you’ll see President Xi Jinping’s regime is singing a different tune this time around.
“China-Russia relations are at their ‘best time in history’ with exchanges between Xi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin playing a crucial role in bilateral relations,” China’s state run news agency, Xinhua, reported from a joint statement signed by the presidents of the two countries. China also just signed a deal to invest $US11 billion in Russia, despite international sanctions being levied against the country.
This sounds lovely, but this isn’t friendship. Trump has provided both countries with an opportunity neither of them can ignore — an opportunity to diminish America’s influence while the world looks askance at his administration. This is their chance to do lasting damage not only economically, but also ideologically.
And so they’re taking it.
In that same report, Xinhua said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to act as a “ballast stone” for world peace. They called for a solution to the escalating conflict on the Korean Peninsula — the two countries put out a plan for peace earlier this week, a form of usurping the United States’ former role as arbitrator.
The statement also expressed “strong opposition against the unilateral installation of anti-missile systems in Europe and Asia-Pacific by some specific countries at the expense of others’ security interests.”
That’s a not-so-subtle dig at US missile defence systems that are placed around the world.
They even threw this sentence in there: “Different from a military alliance, the China-Russia partnership rejects the outdated cold-war mentality and does not target any third party.”
Just in case anyone was getting that impression.
Instead of addressing this issue by strengthening ties in Europe and Asia, the Trump administration threw out the Transpacific Partnership — a trade deal that would have strengthened the US’s hand in Asia, and is upsetting allies in Europe with a potential steel tariff and continues to dodge questions about its ties to Russia.
We should note that Russia boosted trade with North Korea in 2017, even as China was hardening its stance on the country.
Here’s what else has come out of China and Russia’s likely-temporary friendship — a promise to coordinate on messaging.
“Chinese and Russian media outlets should step up cooperation and enhance exchanges for pushing ahead the development of relations between the two countries, said a visiting Chinese senior official on Tuesday.
Huang Kunming, executive vice director of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, made the remarks during a keynote speech at the Third China-Russia Media Forum held in Moscow.
China-Russia relations have entered the best period in history, which creates vast room for media cooperation between the two countries, he said.”
Both China and Russia have news networks created to blast an alternative narrative of global affairs around the world. China has CCTV, and Russia has Russia Today. Both outlets have been around for years — though Russia’s media machine is more advanced and consolidated than China’s — but they have never shown signs of coordination.
They do, however, have a common goal. They want to put down dissent and stop “colour revolutions.”
“The one non-neglectable factor [in the development of] colour revolutions in these countries is the spreading of Western ideology, especially from the US,” Xu Songwen of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences wrote in The People’s Daily (via the South China Morning Post) back in 2015.
That same year, just a few months earlier, The Security Council of Russia railed against the US security strategy, writing, “In relation to Russia, there is a high probability of the US using extensively advanced means for ‘colour revolutions’ to eliminate unwanted political regimes.”
During the Cold War, the US used state-sponsored media outlets Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Liberty to spread democratic ideals through communist countries. However, largely after the Cold War, these outlets were allowed to lapse. We thought the idea war was over.
But it was really just a break, and Trump presents the perfect opportunity for China and Russia to start it all up again.