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China-Russia plans to strengthen Military Ties That Worry the West! By Kashif Mirza


May 20, 2024

The writer is an

economist, anchor,

analyst and the

President of All

 Pakistan Lawyers’




Russia and China have announced they will deepen their already close military ties, as Vladimir Putin met Xi Jinping in Beijing on his first foreign trip since being inaugurated for a new term as Russia’s president. Xi’s red carpet welcome for Putin – a man he has described as his “best friend” – comes after a whistle-stop tour in Europe where the Chinese president faced tough questions on his country’s economic and political behaviour. The growing security ties between the two nuclear-armed powers were a focal point of Mr. Putin’s visit to Harbin, and the Harbin Institute of Technology. While China and Russia are not formal allies committed to defending each other with military support, their armed forces have worked together more closely in recent years. Their air forces and navies have held joint military exercises, including near Alaska and Taiwan, the de facto independent island claimed by Beijing. The two leaders issued words of support for their separate claims to Taiwan and Ukraine. And while China has vowed not to provide Russia with lethal weapons, it has been the top supplier of components like semiconductors and machine tools that have both civilian and military uses. Whereas, the Biden administration announced tariffs on $18bn of Chinese goods, angering Beijing. For two years, Chinese backing for Russia’s war in Ukraine has been Western governments’ biggest concern about the two countries’ burgeoning relationship. But two weeks ago, US officials raised alarm over their cooperation in another key security theatre: the seas around Taiwan, when China and Russia, for the first time exercising together in relation to Taiwan, and is a place where China definitely wants Russia to be working with them. The US has had to adapt to closer cooperation between the Chinese and Russian militaries, even if Russian and Chinese forces were not capable of seamlessly operating together. While Russia and China do not have a mutual defence treaty, as the US does with its allies, that does not preclude military cooperation with significant global impact. Although they don’t have to physically fight together to be effective in the warfighting sense, the joint training that Russian and Chinese forces have been conducting for almost 20 years has significantly deepened since 2018. They participate in each other’s national strategic drills and conduct regular naval exercises and strategic bomber patrols together. Most joint naval and air activity has been happening close to Japan, where strategists have been watching their two neighbours’ growing military alignment with unease. Russia might take supportive military actions in coordination with China’s Taiwan operations. The clearest evidence for a Taiwan connection can be found in joint drills such as Northern Interaction 2023, air and naval exercises built on Russia’s sobering experience in Ukraine, where its Black Sea fleet was hit by Ukrainian coastal defence missiles. It is exactly the situation Chinese forces would be facing in a Taiwan War, the PLA needs to learn from the Russians’ operational experience that Russia and China were well on the way towards building the communications structures needed for fighting side by side. They have started sharing sensitive data such as maximum speeds of aircraft, something you can only do with a formal ally under normal circumstances. The exchange of operational data, likely to be occurring during patrols in which Russian and Chinese nuclear-capable bombers fly together near Japan, also suggested strategic intimacy. According to China’s defence ministry, the two navies use a dedicated joint command and control system in combined exercises. Last year, Chinese and Russian admirals started commanding naval drills together aboard a PLA Navy destroyer. They have also switched from using Russian as the language of coordination to real-time communication through interpreters on ships on both sides. If the assessment is accurate, Russian support could give the PLA a crucial advantage in a potential conflict with the US. The most critical factor could be Russian technology transfer for a missile defence early warning system, confirmed by Putin himself in 2019. If Moscow and Beijing integrate their missile defence systems, sensors on northern Russian territory could give China earlier warning of US intercontinental ballistic missiles, which have to traverse that territory to hit China. A joint early warning system would also allow China to launch nuclear weapons upon receiving a warning of an impending nuclear strike. That would mark a shift from its strategy of using nuclear weapons only in retaliation against a strike that has already occurred — a change that nuclear. An effective Chinese ballistic missile early warning system would allow China to adopt a launch-on-warning posture for its strategic nuclear forces, further strengthening China’s deterrence posture. However, Chinese technological advances mean advanced Russian weaponry is losing its sheen for Beijing. China still has an interest in some Russian aviation technologies used in the last generation of Russian fighters, as well as importing Soviet-model aircraft engines. Now it’s more that Russia’s military is interested in advanced Chinese weapons systems and military technology, but there’s not been much progress here.

At the 75th anniversary of formal China-Russia relations, Putin praised the warm and comradely talks with Xi. In return, Xi said the friendship between China and Russia was everlasting and had become a model for a new type of international relations. President Putin attended a trade fair in a northeastern Chinese city and toured a state-backed university famous for its cutting-edge defence research, highlighting how economic and military ties between the countries have grown despite, or perhaps because of, Western pressure. Mr Putin’s visit to Harbin, a Chinese city with a Russian past, is part of a trip aimed at demonstrating that he has powerful friends even as his war against Ukraine has isolated him from the West. The visit followed a day of talks between him and President Xi Jinping of China that seemed orchestrated to convey not only the strategic alignment of the two powerful, autocratic leaders against the West but a personal connection. As Mr. Xi saw Mr. Putin off in the evening, he even initiated a hug — a rare expression of affection for the Chinese leader. Xi’s very deliberate embrace of Putin for the cameras wasn’t just to emphasize the closeness of the political relationship between the two countries and their leaders. There was also a touch of disdain directed at Washington, which has been pressuring Beijing to withdraw support from Moscow. Despite pressure from the West to lean on Putin to end the war in Ukraine, China’s economic and moral support for Russia has intensified since the start of the conflict. Xi and Putin see each other as allies in a parallel international and multipolar world order that can challenge a Washington-led global consensus. The show of camaraderie was the final touch in talks that culminated in a joint statement that took aim at the United States, which Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi have accused of seeking to suppress their countries. The statement pledged that Russia and China would work more closely in critical sectors like energy, space and the military. The large size of Russia’s delegation, which included Mr. Putin’s top security and energy officials, as well as the length of the bilateral meetings, implied the seriousness with which both sides have approached the negotiations. It’s like an iceberg. the public documents are symbolic and largely meaningless. Mr Putin’s visit also showed the limits of the countries’ alliance. In China, Mr. Xi rolled out the red carpet for Mr. Putin, but the visit did not produce any public commitments to concrete new projects or investments between the two countries. Specifically, Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi have not publicly reported any progress on a planned new gas pipeline from China into Russia, known as Power of Siberia 2. Russia urgently needs the pipeline to redirect the flow of its gas exports from the rapidly declining market in Europe. Last year, bilateral trade hit a record $240.1bn, and there are signs that even more goods – including dual-use technology that could be used in the war effort – are reaching Russia from China via third countries. China has given Russia an economic lifeline by buying huge amounts of Russian oil to circumvent the effects of its financial isolation from the West. Not only that, with many foreign consumer brands also leaving Russia, Chinese companies have stepped in to fill a vacuum for the likes of automobiles, smartphones and televisions. That contributed to a record $240 billion in two-way trade between China and Russia in 2023, up from $190 billion in 2022, according to Chinese customs data. Maintaining that growth in trade is a major focus in both countries. One solution would be to increase the amount of transactions settled in local currencies rather than dollars to avoid the risk of sanctions. Mr Putin said that more than 90 per cent of commercial transactions conducted between Russia and China were now being cleared in rubles or renminbi. Protecting the financial assets of big banks in China is the top crucial interest of China, which was trying to reduce its exposure to the dollar beyond just Russia, but the room to do so was limited. Putin said he was grateful to China for its efforts to try to resolve the Ukraine crisis. Mr. Putin still seeks access to more sophisticated tools. The Harbin Institute is best known for its research on rockets, missiles and space technology — expertise that Russia would greatly benefit from as the war in Ukraine has revived its need for a more robust military-industrial complex. The institute also trained North Korean scientists who worked on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, according to The Wall Street Journal and South Korean media. Mr. Putin’s tour of the institute was steeped in symbolism. And in something of a snub to Washington, the school belongs on the United States entity list, barring it from accessing American technology and taking part in educational exchanges because of its links to the People’s Liberation Army.

Russia has become an ever more important partner in China’s push against American might. Economic ties have been growing stronger and there are signs of deepening military links. The rich connotation of China-Russia cooperation will continue to be enriched and elevated.

The strengthening of military ties between China and Russia has sparked concern in the West, as Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping met in Beijing to deepen their already close relationship. China and Russia are not just cooperating on military matters, but also on economic and technological fronts. However, there are limits to their cooperation, with Russia holding out on sharing its silent submarine technology. Despite this, the two leaders are committed to promoting their partnership, with Xi Jinping urging the West to stop smearing and containing China. The growing ties between China and Russia are a significant shift in the global balance of power, and the West is taking notice. As the two leaders continue to strengthen their partnership, the world watches with bated breath, wondering what this new era of cooperation will bring. Never since the fall of the Soviet Union has Russia been so distant from Europe, and never in its entire history has it been so entwined with China. In recent months, there have been signs that US sanctions have started to bite, with Chinese traders having difficulties processing payments from Russia. Chinese exports to Russia have dipped slightly. China did not need to host Putin at Harbin in order to transfer technologies from there to Russia, and that this visit took place so openly is a visible and symbolic sign of Beijing being willing to provide directly military-applicable technology to support Russia’s war against Ukraine. The tour of the institute had echoes of when Mr Putin hosted Kim Jong-un, the North Korean President, at a Russian spaceport last year before Pyongyang began supplying Moscow with ballistic missiles and other munitions to use in Ukraine. Not long ago, it was China that drew greater benefits from access to Russian military technology. It wasn’t until about a decade ago that cooperation between the two sides returned, leading to China’s acquisition of more Russian jet engine technology and surface-to-air missile systems. Still, in a sign that there are limits to its cooperation with China, Russia is holding out sharing its silent submarine technology, a feature that makes the vessels especially hard to detect. last year China’s leader, Xi Jinping, paused at the door of the Kremlin. Before bidding farewell to Vladimir Putin, he offered him a final thought. Using the phrase banian banjo, shorthand for what China views as a historic change in the world order, Mr Xi said: “Let us promote it together.” On May 16th the two leaders met for the 43rd time. That’s why, so far this month America has twice tightened sanctions on Sino-Russian trade. Mr Xi’s government has responded furiously, urging the West to stop smearing and containing China. The rich connotation of China-Russia cooperation will continue to be enriched and elevated, and this is highly certain. Clearly, the development of relations between the two countries is not a temporary expedient but has strong internal impetus and intrinsic value. Russia has become an ever more important partner in China’s push against American might. Economic ties have been growing stronger and there are signs of deepening military links.

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