Xi Jinping
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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping say their countries are closer than ever and that they are prepared to step up their cooperation in the international arena. Photo: Reuters

China-Russia ties won’t be broken, declare Xi and Putin in signal to Biden

  • Chinese leader says New Year phone call with Russian leader indicates their relationship will endure any attempt to suppress and divide
  • In the US, the incoming president says he is looking to form ‘stronger coalitions’ against China
Xi Jinping
The relationship between China and Russia cannot be broken by any third nation and will weather all kinds of international crises, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his Russian counterpart, in a signal to the United States that Beijing-Moscow ties are strong.
In a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday evening, Xi said the relationship between China and Russia “has strong independent value”, indicating that the rapport between the two countries would be further elevated, no matter what policies the incoming US administration of Joe Biden adopted.

“Sino-Russian relations are not affected by changes in the international situation or interference by any other factors. Strengthening strategic cooperation between China and Russia can effectively resist any attempt to suppress and divide the two countries,” a Chinese foreign ministry statement quoted Xi as saying.

“China is willing to unswervingly develop the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between China and Russia in the new era.”

Xi’s remarks came as China pushes to consolidate its ties with other nations ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20. An investment deal between China and the European Union is also expected to wrap up soon after seven years of talks.

Senior Chinese officials have talked to and even visited countries in Southeast Asia and Europe in recent weeks after Washington imposed sanctions and vowed to act tough against both Beijing and Moscow.

On Monday, Biden called for stronger coalitions with “like-minded partners and allies” against China on the trade and economic fronts.

“On any issue that matters to the US-China relationship – from pursuing a foreign policy for the middle class, including a trade and economic agenda that protects American workers, our intellectual property and the environment – to ensuring security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, to championing human rights – we are stronger and more effective when we are flanked by nations that share our vision,” Biden said.

Russia admits to world’s third-worst coronavirus death toll

Xi said any crisis would only push Sino-Russian relations to be more “prominent”, saying the two countries had worked together to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The two sides kept helping each other overcome difficulties, and continue to firmly support each other on issues involving each other’s core interests, which reflects the high level of mutual trust and friendship between the two,” Xi said.

On Tuesday, Russian ambassador to China Andrey Denisov said relations between the two countries were strong enough to resist any influence by “external factors”, including a new US government.

“The two countries have entered the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination and no external factors could affect bilateral relations,” Denisov said in Beijing.

While both Xi and Putin have said that their countries are open to working with the new US administration, Denisov said it remained to be seen if US would “take a more rational position” in dealing with its relations with China and Russia, countries that US President Donald Trump named as America‘s biggest rivals.

“We are waiting for the new US administration to take the office and leaders of China and Russia have expressed the willingness to cooperate with the new US government, including exploring new points of cooperation to improve the areas … that are now in difficulty,” Denisov said.


“We do hope that the new US government would take a more rational attitude towards China and Russia, but it is a hope, and whether it will be realised depends on the next move by the US administration.”

Moscow expecting nothing good from ‘Russophobia’ US under Biden

The Russian presidential office said the two leaders “praised bilateral ties, stating that they have reached the highest level in history and are truly beneficial to both sides”.


It said the presidents reaffirmed their shared willingness to step up their cooperation in the international arena.

Li Lifan, senior fellow in Russia studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said both countries could strengthen cooperation in 5G, big data, artificial intelligence, clean energy and aerospace materials. But Russia’s arms sales to India amid the China-India border confrontation had aroused concerns in China.

“The military cooperation needs to be further strengthened,” Li said. “Also, currently China and Russia have a relatively low level of cooperation in energy conservation and emission reduction.”

Zhang Xin, associate professor of international relations at East China Normal University, said despite hints by Putin, Beijing would resist forming a military alliance with Moscow, but both could better align their international institutional governance and policy response.

“The West has been trying to question the rationality and sustainability of Sino-Russian relations. Such criticism has also brought potential adverse effects … China and Russia should cooperate to counter such effects,” Zhang said.

Why China-Russia relations are warming up in the Arctic

Li Yonghui, senior research fellow in European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing-Moscow political trust remained solid and the potential for cooperation persisted even though the coronavirus pandemic had hit bilateral trade and slowed cooperation in the development of the Arctic waterway.

“Although Russia will inevitably be somewhat wary of China‘s Belt and Road Initiative and its ambitions in the Arctic, on the whole, Sino-Russian cooperation in Central Asia is greater than competition,” Li said.

“With regard to the Arctic, the cooperation between China and Russia in the Yamal LNG project is a good example, which provides a good model for future cooperation between the two sides in the Arctic.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Beijing’s ties with Russia ‘cannot be weakened’