Russian President Vladimir Putin met Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing. The two sides issued a joint statement, expressing mutual support on key issues. However, experts pointed out that China and Russia have conflicting interests in many aspects, and the alliance is only a practical measure, which is essentially a mutual defense.

On Feb. 4, just before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping held talks in Beijing. As a result, in a joint statement, Beijing expressed opposition to NATO’s eastward expansion and voiced support for Russia on the Ukraine issue.

On the other hand, Russia repeats the old tune that it “abides by the one-China principle” and “opposes any form of ‘Taiwan independence'” and endorses Beijing on the Taiwan issue.

Su Ziyun, Director of Taiwan Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said: “These two major land powers stand back to back, and there are indeed geopolitical considerations. They are facing external encirclement, so they collaborate to face the siege and possible sanctions from democratic countries.”

To prevent Ukraine from joining NATO, Russia has deployed 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border since October last year, as if it were preparing for a major invasion. European and American countries strongly condemned and warned about this. As a result, NATO and the US have also made corresponding military adjustments.

Beijing has been counterattacked and besieged by the US and other Western countries because of its external expansion and disregard of international rules. The US-China trade war and technology war has continued for several years, and foreign investors have been pulling capital out of China.

China’s economic development is in the doldrums, and real estate companies have plunged into a constant thunderstorm. In addition, China has concealed the spread of coronavirus, strangled Hong Kong’s freedom, and severely persecuted human rights. As a result, Beijing has become increasingly isolated in the international arena.

Su Ziyun said that China and Russia are joining forces against international isolation from the US and the West. However, the two sides have conflicting interests in many areas, including Ukraine itself. For example, China’s first aircraft carrier came from Ukraine, and many military technologies such as military phased radar and engines also came from Ukraine.

Su Ziyun said: “‘Back-to-back’ partnership may end up being a stab in the back. The triangular relationship between Russia, China and Ukraine is very complicated, especially because some of China’s major military technologies come from Ukraine. That’s why we say that their strategic partnership is still full of pitfalls.'”

Professor Feng Chongyi, a China expert at the University of Technology Sydney, said: 

“In this area of influence in Central Asia, there is a very sharp conflict between China and Russia. China sees it as the focus of the Belt and Road, but Russia sees this area as Russia’s sphere of influence. So both sides are competing for influence, leadership and control in this area”.

Civil unrest broke out in Kazakhstan, which is known as one of the top five countries in Central Asia, and Russian troops entered Kazakhstan. There were comments that China had huge investments and political interests in Kazakhstan and that a high level of Russian involvement would likely harm Beijing’s interests.

Su Ziyun said: “The Beijing government only wants to use Russia, but Russia is also defending itself against China. In Mongolia, for example, Russia and Mongolia are conducting so-called joint military exercises, which of course, puts a thorn in Beijing’s side, as Mongolia is close to Beijing after all. In addition, China’s original intention to export to the northwest, that is, through Kazakhstan, via the belt and road, may now also fall under the control of Russia.”

The Russian-Chinese joint statement, when released, immediately received criticism and a warning by NATO and the US.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg dismissed Russia’s accusations of NATO’s expansionary ambitions, saying this is about respecting the sovereignty of an independent Ukraine to choose its path.

Su Ziyun said: “I think what Beijing and Moscow are doing now is very unwise. It is just proving the ‘China threat theory’ again, so that countries will be more alert and united.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US government had warned Beijing that a destabilizing conflict in Europe would affect China’s interests worldwide.

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