Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping
On the sidelines of a summit in former Soviet Uzbekistan, the two leaders hailed their strategic ties in defiance of the West, with Putin praising China’s “balanced” stance on the war while saying he understood its “questions and concerns.”
So, what does the relationship between China and Russia mean for Australia?
Opposition defense spokesman Andrew Hastie described the growing alliance between the two leaders as a “weird new beast” in a speech in Washington, where he called on the United States to show leadership in the Indo-Pacific region.
He said that “the authoritarian forces are on the move, driven by revisionist and expansionist ambitions.”
Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles, who is also defense secretary, said that while he would not use such language, “we are seeing greater engagement between China and Russia.”
“This is a growing relationship and it’s clearly something that affects the strategic conditions that we have to deal with and the complexity of those conditions,” he told ABC on Friday.
The world we live in now [is] A world in which the rules-based global order, which was the basis of peace and prosperity, is under great pressure and we see this in Eastern Europe with the horrific Russian invasion of Ukraine. But we see it in the Indo-Pacific region as well.”
Defense Secretary Richard Marles. source: AAP / Francois Morey/AFP
Mr Marles said the rules regarding freedom of navigation in places such as the South China Sea were “essentially important to Australia’s national interest”.
“All of this is what we have to deal with,” he said.
Paul Dibb, professor emeritus of strategic studies at the Australian National University, said Australia should pay attention to what the two countries’ alliance means – especially for potential military situations in other parts of the world.
The meeting between the Russian and Chinese leaders took place a day before Putin met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Uzbekistan.
But unlike the exchange between Putin and Mr. Xi, the meeting between the Indian and Russian leaders was tinged with tension.
“I know that today’s era is not an era of war, and I spoke to you on the phone about this,” Modi told Putin in a televised meeting in the ancient Uzbek Silk Road city of Samarkand.
Putin told Mr Modi that he understood the Indian leader had concerns about Ukraine, but that Moscow was doing everything it could to end the conflict.
What happened in the meeting of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping?
The meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi took place on the sidelines of the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an intergovernmental organization established in 2001. It currently has eight member states: China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The last time the leaders met in person, just weeks before Russia invaded its neighbor on February 24, they announced a “borderless” partnership and signed a promise to cooperate more against the West.
This meeting was an opportunity for Mr. Putin to show that Russia has not been completely isolated despite Western efforts, as he directed comments toward the United States, which is leading efforts to support Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia.
“Attempts to create a unipolar world have recently taken on a completely ugly shape and are completely unacceptable,” Putin said.
He said he understood Mr. Xi had questions and concerns about Russia’s war in Ukraine, but praised the Chinese leader for what he said was a “balanced” stance on the conflict.
The Chinese statement of the meeting did not mention Ukraine. State broadcaster CCTV said it said China is ready to provide strong support to Russia on matters related to its core interests.
China has refrained from condemning the Russian operation against Ukraine or describing it as an “invasion”, in line with the Kremlin’s position describing the war as a “special military operation”.
Professor Deeb described Mr. Shi’s response as “calculated and accurate”.
“He did it without any qualifications to support what Putin is doing in Ukraine, and it is all the fault of the West and the expansionist NATO. [NATO],” He said.
“On the other hand, we know that Xi Jinping appears to be equally careful, as far as I can stress, not to breach the harsh economic sanctions imposed by the West on Russia.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on September 16, 2022. source: AAP / Sergey Boblev / AFP
How has the relationship between Russia and China changed?
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Soviet Union and China concluded an international treaty.
“Both were communist countries, and both were opposed to the United States. But that was short-lived due to the deep-rooted differences between these two countries – different ethnicities, cultures, and attitudes toward their land ownership,” the professor said. Deb said.
That relationship collapsed, and led to a military conflict between the Soviet Union and China in 1969.
Professor Deeb said that while some of those differences are “lurking” today, the two leaders’ “common view” has brought them together.
He stressed that the relationship between China and Russia is not a formal alliance like NATO, but rather a “de facto alliance.”
“It is very important to both of them. Why? Because they are both tyrannical. They both despise the West. They both think the West is aggressive, but at the same time, they think the West is weak, and this time they are on the side of authoritarian regimes.”
“Xi Jingping particularly makes it clear that time on China’s side – it is now time for China to assert itself from the nineteenth century – a century of humiliation by the West.”
but with The same cannot be said for Putin, according to Professor Depp.
“Putin, we all know, time is not on his side. So I think the challenge for Putin, especially now, where it looks like Russia is undefeated but has real problems… is what that means for this duality of connection?”
What does this mean for Australia?
Professor Depp said his main concern for Australia was to increase bilateral military cooperation between the two countries.
He cited examples, such as the two powers increasingly engaging in joint military exercises, with one called “Vostok” taking place in eastern Russia in recent weeks.
At the time, the Chinese ministry said participation in the joint exercises “has nothing to do with the current international and regional situation.”
Under Putin, Professor Gibb said Russia is also exporting some of its high-tech weapons to China.
“The significance of all of this is how close that military relationship is,” he said.
“The issue for us now is, are China and Russia increasingly coordinating — not just militarily, but with trade and investment — to try and displace the superior presence of the United States in our region of primary strategic interest, the Asia-Pacific region?”
The global strategic environment is worse than the Cold War
Professor Deeb argues that the global strategic environment is “worse now than at any time since the Cold War” due to the risk of nuclear conflict.
“There is a greater danger now, in my opinion, of nuclear weapons being used if things get worse, or worse, for Putin in Ukraine than they are at present,” he said.
“Russia is not going away, so this is a big issue and it could spill over into a general war in Europe.
“What will Xi Jinping do about it?”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine sparked comments on its implications for relations between China and Taiwan.
China has launched ballistic missiles and deployed combat aircraft, warships and drones as part of it Having hosted a visit from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month – the highest-ranking US official-elect to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
China claims that democratic Taiwan is its own territory, but the Taiwan government firmly opposes China’s territorial claims, saying it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy.