China and Russia are unlikely to form an alliance against the West despite presenting a united front on several conflicts, the German ambassador to China, Michael Clauss, says.
Clauss told the South China Morning Post that while there was common ground, it would be an exaggeration to claim they were forming a bloc, as they still "have diverging views on many other issues", including the Ukraine crisis.
At a security summit in Shanghai last month, President Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin vowed to oppose interference in the domestic affairs of other countries and opposed unilateral sanctions - a move widely seen as targeting the United States.
Beijing views Washington's security support to Japan and the Philippines, which are involved in bitter territorial disputes with China in the South and East China Seas, as trespassing on its national interest.
Bolstering their ties, Russia and China recently held joint naval exercises around the sensitive East China Sea.
But Clauss pointed out that China had not always sided with Russia. While it refrained from criticising Moscow's handling of the crisis in Ukraine, it had abstained - rather than vetoing - the UN Security Council resolution to denounce Russia over the annexation of Crimea.
"China has not supported Russia's actions in Ukraine. That has become very clear in the UN Security Council," he said.
"China did not seem to be happy about Russia unilaterally breaking international law, casting aside the principle of territorial sovereignty and non-interference by occupying a part of a sovereign country."
As for the South China Sea dispute, Clauss said China was being more assertive. If it became "over-assertive", Clauss said smaller countries would be tempted to form alliances against China.
"China should not allow any doubt to arise regarding its peaceful rise," he said.
Clauss also discounted the significance of a huge Sino-Russian natural gas deal - a move seen by observers as bringing ties, and resources, closer as Moscow faces mounting pressure from international sanctions over its annexation of Crimea.
The US$400 billion deal will see Russia supplying 38 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year to China. Negotiations had been stalled for more than a decade because of pricing differences, but it was finalised last month when Putin visited Shanghai.
"My impression is that many people in Russia had hoped the Chinese would be more forthcoming in the negotiations," Clauss said. "In the end, Russia had to make many concessions in order to reach an agreement on the price.
"I would not see China's signature as a concession to Russia. China was in a very strong negotiating position."