On March 21, talks between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin ended in Moscow. Accordingly, the parties exchanged courtesies, assurances of friendship between the two countries and plans to expand cooperation in cultural and economic fields. There were no loud statements regarding the military conflict in Ukraine, except for the Russian side’s declared support for “many provisions” of the Chinese peace plan, announced earlier. Sinologist Mikhail Karpov told RTVI why Xi Jinping came to Moscow and what Russian and Chinese leaders managed to agree on.
Mikhail Karpov is a candidate of historical sciences, a Russian sinologist, a specialist in the socio-economic and political development of the People’s Republic of China. Chief Researcher, Center for Global Sinology and Regional Projects, MGIMO, Associate Professor, School of Oriental Studies, Graduate School of Economics, Associate Professor, Department of Chinese History, ISAA State University from Moscow.
What does China want to achieve?
The Chinese realized that the situation was beyond their control, both from an external and internal political point of view. Russia clearly has no significant success on the battlefield, the situation drags on and the bloodshed spreads. The West is already officially declaring the need to inflict a military defeat on Russia, and Ukraine is eager to do so. At the same time, Moscow has nowhere to retreat. The result is a dead end.
I don’t take Beijing’s position, but paradoxically, it turns out that the only actor here who really has an interest in stopping all this is China.
It is clear that China does not want the defeat of Russia, the crisis and the collapse of the Russian system. However, he is not at all interested in continuing this conflict. China’s peace plan, consisting of 12 points discussed in Moscow, attempts to somehow assert its position in this situation. It’s a good plan in the human sense.
But this can benefit Russia only in one nuance – it does not say about the need to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine, although it does say about the need to respect the sovereignty of countries. The problem is that it is not feasible. It coincides neither with the Russian position nor with the position of our “Western partners”.
What was the reason for Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow
From my point of view, curiously, Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia is perhaps more important for the Chinese than for Putin. Yes, there were quite a few insiders that Xi set a condition for our leadership on the need to start peace talks with Ukraine for his visit to Moscow. But there are no negotiations, the conflict escalates. However, Xi came anyway.
I believe he did this to see with his own eyes what is happening in Russia. He needed to see Putin for himself and try to understand his motivation and thinking.
The Chinese side is very limited in terms of sources of information regarding the motives of the Russian leadership. They are good at economic espionage, cyber espionage. But with the receipt and analysis of political information that is useful to them, the situation is a little more complicated.
I felt like the plots of the peace treaty and some military initiatives ended up going the other way and hanging a bit. It seems that the parties have not reached an agreement in this regard. From my point of view, it is extremely important that Xi Jinping did not make any statements to support or even justify the NWO. And this is happening against the background of the fact that Beijing has officially declared and continues to declare that it is on the side of the world, adopting an impartial position.
Ultimately, we have ambitious plans for economic cooperation and interaction. Over the past year, the Chinese have always and clearly separated bilateral economic cooperation with Russia from all domestic and foreign political circumstances associated with Russia’s implementation of the NWO.
What do the official statements of the parties say after the meeting
The statements of the parties give the impression of a certain “water”. Take the thesis of a multiple increase in trade – they have been talking about it for many years in a row. So, according to the first impression, the parties remained where they were, but with new grandiose plans for economic cooperation.
One might have expected some sort of breakthrough on the issues of peace and war, but it did not happen. One would expect high-profile political statements, different from what Russia and China have been talking about for 15 years. None of this happened.
Most of the experts, who are, shall we say, very knowledgeable on the subject, told me of complete uncertainty about how the negotiations might end. Maybe nothing, they admitted, and, most likely, they turned out to be right about something.
Well, if we consider the conspiracy theories on secret subjects of negotiations, then the level of trust between the two countries at present is such that it does not allow the formation of secret agreements. They can take place in two cases. First, when there is a very high level of trust between the partners, which is not really there. And secondly, when the geopolitical situation forces us to enter into such agreements.
This was the case with Stalin and Hitler, who did not like each other, did not fundamentally trust each other, but concluded a non-aggression pact between them in 1939. Now we have neither the first nor the second option.
Does China understand Russia’s motives?
The fact is that China has a very particular and not always accurate understanding of Russia. From my point of view, they – contrary to a number of statements that sound, by the way, as a rule, on the Russian side – did not expect what happened on February 24, 2022, and more didn’t expect what would happen next. As a result, the Chinese realized that they had gotten some important things wrong.
This was followed by the realization that they could lose positions both in Russia and in Europe, as well as in negotiations with the United States. As a result, they have to get out of this situation and get their heads out of the sand they’ve been hiding there with varying success since 2014.
Since around 2017, there have been very serious discussions in China about what to do with Russia and how to deal with the Russian president. Yes, Putin, for many reasons, was probably the most acceptable Russian leader to China in the entire 450 years of the history of the development of bilateral relations.
However, since about last summer, the Chinese have started to fully realize that the situation has become a bit more nuanced. Judging by a number of indications, they now assume that the foundations of the Russian system will remain after Putin, and thus it will be possible to continue the overall format of Russian-Chinese relations and even increase their economic presence in the market. By the way, I think Xi also came to see how realistic those expectations are.
Why was Putin offered to come to Beijing
I admit that it is perhaps a form of politeness. It is support for Vladimir Vladimirovich in a situation where there are rumors that he may have personal problems.
At the same time, an offer is made to Prime Minister Mishustin to come to China. And it’s quite interesting.
There is a story that is usually passed down as apocryphal. In April 1996, Jiang Zemin fired Yeltsin after signing the Shanghai Declaration. In June, the then President of Russia was to hold elections in which he was to compete with Gennady Zyuganov. It would seem that the Chinese should have supported the Communists, especially since in the first half of the 1990s they really made a serious bet on the Communist Party.
Then Jiang Zemin told Boris Nikolaevich the phrase “see you next time.” In other words, it was, so to speak, a clue that China put on him, and not on Zyuganov. And now, in a somewhat similar situation, Mishustin’s invitation can be read as a certain striking political gesture.
What was agreed at the end
There will be no lethal weapons deliveries. The supply of dual-use technologies will certainly continue. There will be joint military maneuvers, but they have been taking place since 2005.
Some of our analysts say that, they say, China wants to move Russia from a sphere of interest to a sphere of influence. It’s all pretty dark here. Even though the Chinese have such plans, they have not expressed them in any way.
China is looking to the future and is clearly obliged to separate economic and cultural cooperation with Russia from military matters. But it is very difficult to do, because the prospects and opportunities for China here depend on the military-political dynamics of the NVO and the political dynamics of Russia as a whole. So, in fact, in the current situation, and especially in the future, it is impossible to completely separate the military theme and the issues of bilateral cooperation.
The opinion of the author may not coincide with the opinion of the editors
Copyright © 2023 The Eastern Herald.
For the latest updates and news follow The Eastern Herald on Google News, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Help us continue our mission to deliver the latest news and stories by becoming a supporter of our newspaper. Your support will help us to continue to provide high-quality journalism and to ensure that our content remains free and accessible to all. Click here to show your support. Thank you!