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Growing Russia-China relations pose increased threat to the West

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As Ukraine is launching a successful counter-offensive against Russia, even if Ukraine is ultimately victorious, Russia will still provide significant challenges to the West. The greatest of these challenges is the growing expansion of Russia’s relationship with China. This relationship is growing in several ways.

Military Cooperation

Russia and China have increased military cooperation. The two countries recently took part in a large-scale military exercise, called Vostok-2022, along with troops from fourteen other countries including several from the former Soviet Union, India, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Syria and Laos. China sent 2,000 people and over 300 vehicles to the exercise, which represented the second largest contribution. The British government believesthat a total of 15,000 military personnel took part in the drill. While this marked the fourth time China has participated in military drills with Russia, this was the first time that China had its air, ground and naval forces represented.

Chinese media was quick to downplay this exercise as harmless. For example, China Daily quoted both a Chinese expert and the Russian Deputy Defense minister as stating that Vostok-2022 was defensive and not targeting any specific state.

But the reality of the drills suggests otherwise. During the drills, China and Russia simulated submarine hunting in the Sea of Japan, which are disputed waters between Russia and Japan, and also participated in naval cooperation in the South China Sea, disputed waters between China, Taiwan and several other countries.

An additional development to watch is to what extent China is supporting Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. Li Zhanshu, the third in command in the Chinese Communist Party, met with members of Russia’s State Duma where he stated that “China understands and supports Russia on issues that represent its vital interests, in particular on the situation in Ukraine.” Li added that China “fully understand[s] the necessity of all the measures taken by Russia aimed at protecting its key interests. We are providing our assistance.” Russia has asked China for armed drones in February, shortly before it invaded Ukraine.

And China currently imports about 70 percent of its arms from Russia, with China being Russia’s second largest client for arms exports. But increased Chinese domestic production, and Russian suspicion of Chinese theft of its technology may hamstring Chinese purchases of Russian arms in the future.

Energy Cooperation

Russia and China are growing closer in energy cooperation as well. Russia’s Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) agreed to pay for Russian gas for China in rubles and yuan, rather than dollars, further throwing the future status of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency in doubt. Gazprom and CNPC also signed an agreement earlier this month regarding the Power of Siberia pipeline, but no details are public. Russia plans to export 38 billion cubic meters (bcms) of liquified natural gas to China in 2025 via the Power of Siberia pipeline, which is up from 1.6 bcms in 2021, and 5 bcms in 2019, the first year that the pipeline was operational. By 2021, China was the biggest importer of both Russia’s crude oil and condensate exports, and coal. And Russia became China’s biggest source of oil in June 2022. Expect greater Russia-China cooperation on energy in the future.

Trade and Infrastructure Cooperation

Trade between Russia and China had increased 36 percent in 2021 alone, and by April 2022 had increased to $146.9 billion. According to the Russian Economic Development Minister, bi-lateral trade should reach $170 billion by the end of 2022, and according to Putin, this trade will “soon” reach $200 billion. And according to Global Times, the biggest investor in Russia’s Far East region is China, with $14.7 billion in total trade investments involving 54 projects in sectors including energy, infrastructure, agriculture, and Artic shipping.  During the recent Eastern Economic Forum held in Vladivostock, Russia and China reportedly signed “over 150 deals worth 1.53 trillion rubles” [$2.38 billion]. While this statistic is from China’s state-run media and could not be independently verified, economic cooperation between Russia and China is poised to grow.

Russia and China are expanding their military, energy and economic ties. These two countries are positioning themselves to be a threat to the West, even beyond the conflicts with Ukraine and Taiwan.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic

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China

China Uses Spy Balloon Incident for Propaganda Against the US

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Chinese state-run media has waged a propaganda blitz to alter the narrative on its spy balloon that recently flew over the United States. Such outlets are alleging that the balloon in fact was not used for spying, and even if it was, it wasn’t China’s balloon. The CCP-run media also claims that the US is lying about the issue, while China is acting in good faith. Additionally, China’s state-run media uses the incident to quickly deflect away from any responsibility for China, and to criticize and gaslight the US.

Claim #1: The balloon was not used for spying, and if it was, it wasn’t China’s balloon

Whatever the balloon was, it certainly wasn’t a spy balloon, according to China’s state-run media. China “confirmed” that the balloon was a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes” that made an “unintended” entry into US airspace due to “Westerlies” and a “limited self-steering capability,” according to China Daily. Other sources like Xinhua obliquely dismiss the incident as a “chance occurrence.”

And if the object was a spy balloon, then it wasn’t used by China, according to Chinese state-run media. For example, according to a China Daily article, the photo taken of the balloon is “unclear…and features no sign linking it to China.” That article also stated that “the technology is outdated one can hardly imagine any nation like China still resorting to it today.”

Claim #2: The US is speculating, and even lying, about the nature of the balloon

China’s state-run media assert that the US media and defense establishment are misrepresenting the nature of the spy balloon. According to a China Daily article, US allegations that the balloon is a spy balloon is a “conspiracy theory” and a “lie.” One Global Timesarticle states that US assertions that China was using the balloon to spy on the US was “not backed by concrete proof.” Another Global Times article claimed the US military and media were accusing China of espionage “[b]efore being clear of the facts.” That same article claimed that calling the object a spy balloon was “groundless speculation” and “hype.”

Claim #3: China is acting in good faith

China, on the other hand, is acting in good faith to resolve the misunderstanding, according to Chinese state-run media. According to Global Times, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has pledged that China “will continue communicating with the US to properly handle the unexpected situation…” China “urges communication to avoid misjudgment” reads a headline in another Global Times article. The article further goes on to cite Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Central Committee, as incredulously stating that “China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international law.” A China Daily editorial on the incident stated flatly that “China cherishes its relationship with the US, and that goodwill should be met in kind.”

Claim #4: The US is using the balloon issue to pressure China

China state-run media craftily deflects all responsibility for the incident from China, and instead claims that the US is using the issue to pressure China. One Global Times article asserted that the US was taking advantage of the incident to allow “some hawkish anti-China lawmakers a chance to attack China…”and to foment “anti-China sentiment fanned by some politicians out of selfish interest.” Another Global Times article stated that the incident was an “old trick of exerting extreme pressure on China…in an attempt to gain more bargaining chips.” The article castigated the US of having used the incident to “bring new tensions to China-US relations as a follow-up to more intensive US moves to contain China in the fields of military, technology, and diplomacy, and also on issues of China’s core concerns, including on the island of Taiwan.”

China’s state-run media also portray the incident as the US attempting to undermine from a more stable relationship with China. For example, a China Daily editorial states that the US drawing attention to the balloon “…makes one doubt its sincerity in putting bilateral relations back on a healthy track,” and that “[b]y sensationalizing the supposed threat of the ‘surveillance balloon’, US media and politicians are damaging Sino-US relations.”

Another tactic of China’s state-run media is to spin the incident as a “teachable moment” for the United States. For example, “analysts” cited by Global Times castigated “the US to be more sincere in fixing relations with China instead of making provocative actions against it” in the wake of the incident. According to another Global Times article, it is the US, not China, that needs to make amends: “The Biden administration should demonstrate true political leadership to handle relations with China for the benefits of the two peoples, instead of letting the balloon incident or other unexpected events impede…bilateral exchanges…”

Through its state-run media, China has been able to deflect responsibility away from the spy balloon incident, and instead use the incident to attack the United States. China’s misrepresentation of the incident will likely foreshadow greater tensions between China and US relations in the future.

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