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.
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.
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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Reportedly President Joe Biden is making deals with Chinese President Xi Jinping to help improve anti-drug trafficking measures. China is one of the top fentanyl producers and distributors, culminating in a pandemic of fentanyl overdoses and deaths in the United States.
The Biden administration will be lifting sanctions on a Chinese government ministry, in exchange for bolstering anti-drug trafficking measures, Bloomberg reported. “We’re hoping to see some progress on that issue this coming week,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Monday, according to the New York Post. “That could then open the door to further cooperation on other issues where we aren’t just managing things, but we’re actually delivering tangible results.”
The Daily Caller News Foundation noted that should a deal materialize, it will be at least the third time that China has promised to get tough on fentanyl. In 2016, China agreed to increase counter-narcotics operations, and Xi again agreed to launch a crackdown in 2018. Nonetheless, China and Mexico are “the primary source countries for fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked directly into the United States,” according to a 2020 DEA intelligence report.
“China remains the primary source of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked through international mail and express consignment operations environment, as well as the main source for all fentanyl-related substances trafficked into the United States.”
President Joe Biden and Xi are meeting for the first time in over a year during this week’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco. Sources familiar with the situation told Bloomberg that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will crack down on Chinese companies manufacturing chemical precursors for fentanyl in exchange for the U.S. lifting sanctions on the Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science, which the Commerce Department added to the Entity List in 2020 for “engaging in human rights violations and abuses” in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
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