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#Geopolitics: did the United States make a strategic mistake in tying China and Russia to fight together?

China and Russia have become good partners for three reasons: strategic needs, good economic complementarities and simultaneous "double containment" of the United States. After the end of the Cold War, the United States pursued a policy of simultaneous "dual containment" of China and Russia. All this, objectively pushed the two countries to unite in the struggle against the West. According to Professor Canrong, the United States has made a serious mistake by overestimating its own capabilities

Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a state visit to China May 16-17. The fact that he made China his first foreign visit immediately after taking office as president reflects the high degree of mutual trust and close interaction between the heads of state of the two countries.


The results of Putin's visit can be summed up in three key words: comprehensive, strategic and fruitful. There were many issues discussed by the Russian and Chinese heads of state, ranging from macro topics to micro issues.

Prominent among them is the joint statement issued by Putin and Xi Jinping on May 16.

This statement is very long, at over 12,000 words, and covers everything from the economy to the military. What stands out, however, is the strengthening of coordination of strategic positions between the two sides. In Putin and Xi Jinping's logic, this strengthening is embodied in a check on Western "hegemony"; indeed, the United States was mentioned several times in the declaration.On the other hand, both Putin and Xi Jinping share the same goal: to counter the West.

The two sides also stressed that China-Russia relations are now at an all-time high.

China and Russia are "really good partners, with good strategic cooperation, but they have not yet reached the stage of an alliance. Both sides have also stated that they will not go that far. If China and Russia really allied, the world would have a 'new cold war,' which would not be good for Beijing," said Jin Canrong, Professor and Associate Dean at the School of International Studies at China's Renmin University.

China and Russia have become good partners for three reasons:

  • strategic needs;

  • good economic complementarities;

  • simultaneous "double containment"

The first is that of strategic needs. The biggest strategic need for China and Russia is the stability of the Russo-Chinese border. The two countries have more than 4,000 kilometers of border. Good Sino-Russian relations mean that both China and Russia are stabilized in the rear.

The second is that China and Russia have very good economic complementarities. Russia has energy, China has strong manufacturing. So the complementarity is very good.

Finally, the "double containment" of the United States by China and Russia-in terms of force multiplication-is also an important reason to push the two countries to create a strategic alliance.

U.S. strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski has repeatedly reminded the United States that China, Russia and Iran must not be lumped together, otherwise the West will be in trouble.
Brzezinski (Source: Reuters)

Even Kissinger always said that China and Russia can only fight one-on-one. But after the end of the Cold War, in these 30 years, the super-confident United States has simultaneously pursued a policy of "double containment" of China and Russia. All this, objectively pushed the two countries to unite in the struggle against the West.

According to Professor Jin Canrong, that is why the United States made a grave mistake and overestimated its own capabilities.

"At the strategic level, China and Russia have 8 billion people, while the West has only 1 billion." This is also why, Canrong adds, it is a strategic mistake to have brought Russia and China closer together to the point where they have created an all-round partnership, from the military to the economy.

Of most concern to the West is the flow of Chinese technology and other useful items to Russian manufacturers of weapons. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has referred to China as the “top supplier” of machine tools, microelectronics, and other items deemed by America to be “dual use,” meaning they have both civilian and military applications. China’s share of Russian machine tool imports grew from less than 30 percent before the Ukraine war to about 60 percent in 2022, and 88 percent in 2023. “Russia would struggle to sustain its assault on Ukraine without China’s support,” Blinken has said. In fact, Russia now seems to have the upper hand in the war and has recently made territorial gains in Ukraine’s eastern region.

The talks in Beijing last week culminated in a joint statement that took aim at the United States, pledging that Russia and China would work more closely in critical sectors, including the military, energy, and space. A New York Times report of the meeting quoted Richard McGregor, a senior fellow for East Asia at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, as saying, “Xi’s very deliberate embrace of Putin for the cameras wasn’t just to emphasise the closeness of the political relationship … [but] a touch of disdain directed at Washington, which has been pressuring Beijing to withdraw support from Moscow. That clearly isn’t going to happen in any substantive fashion.”

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