Chinese Foreign Minister’s Visit to Moscow: What Is the New Message?

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“Sino-Russian relations are mature and solid as a rock, and will withstand the test of the changing international situation”
– Wang Yi

Vladimir Putin met with Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, and highlighted the importance of the two countries’ cooperation, highlighting the cordial relations between Russia and China within the Kremlin. Russian President Vladimir Putin said relations between his country and China are “reaching new milestones” as Beijing’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, wrapped off a visit to Moscow on February 22. The Russian president claims that relations between his country and China are progressing as expected. Everything is progressing and changing. The Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China have frequently stated that cooperation in the international sphere is crucial for maintaining world peace. Besides, the Chinese envoy spoke with a number of prominent individuals while in the Russian capital, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and one of Putin’s closest supporters, Nikolai Patrushev, who heads the country’s security council. This visit might provide the rift in contemporary world politics caused by the conflict in Ukraine with some additional dimensions.

Relations between Russia and the West are at their lowest point since the Cold War, and ties between China and the U.S. are also under serious strain. Moscow suspended its participation in the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty with Washington. And the U.S. expressed concern that China could provide arms and ammunition to Russia. Under this circumstances, the visit can bring a great deal of tensions in the US-Russia and US-China relations and there can be new moves by the parties to confront in the Ukrainian front.

Creating New Opportunities in a Changing Geopolitical Order
The two nations “frequently encounter catastrophe and upheaval, but there are always chances in a crisis,” Wang continued. To further deepen our comprehensive strategic collaboration, this calls for them to recognize changes more voluntarily and react to them more actively.

Visit of Xi to Moscow
Just days before the anniversary of the Kremlin’s whole invasion of Ukraine, Wang paid a high-profile visit, and many believe that Wang’s trip was a prelude to a meeting between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Putin and Xi met virtually in December 2022, during which Putin hailed bilateral ties as “the best in history,” asserted that they could “withstand any tests,” and extended an invitation to Xi to visit Moscow in the spring of 2023. The two leaders would meet in “the coming months,” according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited sources familiar with the arrangement. According to the WSJ, preparations for the trip are “early stage” and the schedule has not been decided. The trip may take place in April or early May.

Supporting Russia’s Stance on START
After accusing the West of being personally involved in plans to strike its critical air bases, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow is suspending its participation in the New START nuclear weapons reduction accord with the United States. Meanwhile, Wang arrived in Moscow just hours after Putin gave a major speech on the conflict in which he announced plans to suspend Russia’s participation in the last remaining nuclear arms treaty with the US, days after US officials publicly expressed concerns about how China’s continued partnership with Russia could affect the war in Ukraine. So the visit can be demonstrated as a support for the Russian decision.

Strengthening Bilateral Relations
Wang informed Lavrov that he anticipates a “new consensus” between the two nations about the development of bilateral ties. Wang said to Lavrov that he was eager to continue discussing their mutual relationship and that he believed they would undoubtedly come to a new understanding. He also stated that China has been and will continue to be willing to preserve the positive trend with Russia in creating a new kind of cooperative cooperation between big powers, regardless of how the international situation changes. He also assured Patrushev that Beijing and Moscow have “solid as a rock” relations.

Maintaining Strategic Determination
In an apparent jab at the United States, Wang claimed that under the leadership of Xi and Putin, the two nations had maintained their strategic resolve and will steadfastly fight any unilateral or bullying action and defend their respective interests in sovereignty, security, and development. Wang asserts that China is prepared to fiercely protect national interests and dignity and advance mutually beneficial cooperation in all fields with the Russian side, in accordance with top-level accords. Patrushev, using the misleading example of “the bloody events unleashed by the West in Ukraine,” advised Wang that China and Russia should stand united in the face of mounting Western pressure.

The intensification of Russian-Chinese coordination and engagement in the international arena has special significance in the context of the attempt by the collective West to restrict Russia and China. Sputnik cited Patrushev as saying. In addition, Patrushev argued that Russia and China should work to undermine the unipolar hegemony of the West as a whole by establishing a new, “more just” global order.

Reshaping the Global Order
According to a readout from China’s Foreign Ministry, the two leaders agreed to reject the Cold War mindset, bloc conflict, and ideological opposition — a subtly critical reference to the US — and to increase efforts to “better global governance,” which is likely a reference to Beijing’s and Moscow’s goals to remake the international order in their favor. The statement went on to say that Wang and Patrushev “exchanged their opinions” over the situation in Ukraine without going into further detail.

US Reaction to the Visit: Showing Concern of Escalation in Ukraine
Wang’s trip comes after US President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine in a show of support for the embattled country, which Washington and its European allies have rallied together to back over the past year through both military and humanitarian aid, and economic sanctions against Russia. The US State Department expressed alarm on 22 February about the growing alignment between China and Russia after Russian President Vladimir Putin lauded “new frontiers” in relations with Beijing and hinted that Chinese President Xi Jinping may travel to his nation. The news of Xi’s visit comes as Washington has claimed that China is considering arming Russia’s war in Ukraine, a move that may exacerbate the conflict and put Ukraine and the US-led NATO military alliance in direct conflict with each other. “At the same time, we urge relevant countries to immediately stop adding fuel to the fire, stop shifting blame to China, and stop hyping up the discourse of Ukraine today, Taiwan tomorrow,” he said, in an apparent reference to the US and its allies.

The New Messages
The recent visit of Wang Yi, to Russia has implications for the diplomatic relations between the two nations, as well as for the wider international community. Here are some of the key impacts of the visit. Strengthening of bilateral ties will be followed by pushback against Western pressure. Besides there will be enhanced economic cooperation and a boost in the Russia-China Arctic shipping lane will be on the table soon since both faced challenges with the US-influenced Malacca Strait for shipping. China and Russia are already key energy partners, with Russia supplying significant amounts of oil and gas to China. The visit saw further agreements on energy cooperation, including a deal for Russia to supply more liquefied natural gas to China.

Given that the Chinese authorities are making more recent investments in Afghanistan, the visit may be part of a larger attempt by China and Russia to coordinate their approaches to the country. The relationship between China and Russia will help the Chinese leadership maintain its position in Afghanistan and tighten its hold on the region. Their commitment to collaboration in the defense industry and their participation in joint military exercises strengthened discussions of military cooperation throughout the visit. The two countries’ common commitment to regional stability was also underscored by the visit, as both expressed support for the continuing diplomatic efforts to end the war in Ukraine. Yet, due to China’s economic interests in other parts of the world, the Russian government won’t see any direct military help from Chinese authorities anytime soon. Yet, the visit’s strategic implications for the war in Ukraine should be given due consideration. A crucial element is that the Ukrainian government has no sway over Chinese leadership while the west is on the same line as well with the Ukraine without making China support the Ukrainian cause.

Overall, the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister to Russia underscores the growing cooperation and strategic partnership between the two nations, and has important implications for the wider international community, particularly in terms of global dominance and balance of power dynamics. The impact on the Ukraine war will be of the most importance.

– Syed Raiyan Amir is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

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