Term Brothers: Firm Russo-Chinese Friendship Cannot Be Built Today on Raw Material and Ideology

Text of report by Russian Gazeta.ru news website, often critical of the government, on 5 June

[Editorial: "Term Brothers: Firm Russo-Chinese Friendship Cannot Be Built Today on Raw Material and Ideology"]

Despite the fact that the positions of Russia and China on many issues of international life coincide, strategic partnership between them is hardly possible. The PRC will not be palling up with Russia against the West in earnest: the Western market is more important than ideological propinquity.

Vladimir Putin said at the negotiations with Chinese Chairman Hu Jintao that "the level of Russo-Chinese interaction" has been raised "to an unprecedented height and quality." An article in the main Chinese newspaper, Renmin Ribao that he had published to coincide with his visit ended by quoting a Chinese saying: "Common hopes require common efforts". Clearly, productive interaction with China is one of the few guarantees of the success of Russian foreign policy. It is clear also that it is essential at top-level meeting to converse with the public in an elevated style, evaluating the state of affairs in transcendent tones. But the reality is not as glowing.

The actions of China and Russia in the foreign policy arena do, indeed, on the most serious topics appear all but coordinated.

BOTh states are quite consistent opponents of the propensities of the Western community for the "exportation of democracy" and the isolation of regimes that have counterposed themselves to the United States and, all the more, for the use of force against them. As far as China is concerned, there is quite a simple explanation here. The domestic legitimacy of the Chinese state is openly built on principles entirely different from those in the West, its latent problems are arrested by methods unacceptable for democracies, and the West’s actions against, for example, Syria or Iran are viewed as an encroachment on Chinese foundations. China senses no threat to its own identity here, feeling itself with every justification to be a separate civilization culturally and politically. Consequently, despite all the contradictions and problems, it does not at all counterpose itself to the West.

With present-day Russia the situation is far more complicated. There are not that many grounds here – nuclear forces, territory, energy resources – for considering itself a power centre in the world situation. The propagandized peculiarity of the Russian way is something highly ephemeral.

Confrontation with the West, consequently, acquires an additional dimension: it is necessary with the aid of the enemy image to emphasize one’s separateness and right to domination on the post-Soviet territory.

And even loyal allies on it are incessantly playing quite dubious games with the Kremlin.

The economic potentials, on the other hand, hopes for the mutually beneficial use of which were the main theme in Putin’s article, are simply not comparable. Either in scale or structure.

The entire commodity turnover of China and Russia was last year one-fourth only of the value of Chinese exports to the United States. Exclusively raw material is delivered to China from Russia here, and in the reverse direction, products of manufacturing, and even high-tech, industry (it is sufficient to recall the absurd story involving the pomp with which our iPhone counterpart was shown to the leadership, which upon verification proved to have been a Chinese development).

It does no harm to understand here that China may oppose the United States’ foreign policy ambitions with perfect assurance here, but that any attempts to push it into direct confrontation would quite likely suddenly turn against those doing the pushing. The development of the Chinese economy is as yet somewhat less than wholly dependent on sales markets in the West, primarily in the United States. The country’s government is developing the domestic market, of course, in order to lessen this dependence, but the greater the purchasing power of the Chinese, the less will be the main competitive advantage of the Chinese economy on a world scale, the cheapness of manpower and the inadequate social safety net, that is. So this is a long, winding road.

So it is t hat the transient geopolitical hopes of China and Russia, so to speak, are not so much common as in some places intersecting. And Beijing has not less but, rather, more business both in Southeast Asia and Africa, moreover. And it should not be forgotten that historically China by no means considers Russia’s rights to its Far East incontestable.

As far, though, as fundamental Chinese interests are concerned, they are in the West, despite all the disagreements with it over human rights and the fate of some odious regimes. Russia should not be looking for truly common hopes here.

Or, rather, it should, if Russia can, if not stand on an equal footing with the Celestial Kingdom, at least organize its own affairs such as not to be merely a supplier of raw material to Chinese plants. When it is able to be for China as abundant a market and source of advanced technology as are the United States and Europe. It may be assumed that reforms of no less a scale than those thanks to which Deng Xiaoping converted China into the world’s second economy and first factory are required for this.

Source: Gazeta.ru website, Moscow, in Russian 5 Jun 12

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