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Russia-China Relations: A Forced Partnership?

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While the Russia-Ukraine War continues with uncertainties, it is expected that European Union (EU) will announce a ceiling price towards Russian oil, before the embargo, which will start on 5 December 2022.[1] Europe aims to make the war not sustainable for Russia and punish the Moscow administration by making sanctions more powerful and ceiling prices. As a remedy for this situation, the Kremlin, on the one hand, improves its relations with the states it sees as allies; On the other hand, it is trying to diversify the countries to which it will export oil.

During this period China and North Korea deepened their relations with Russia. Thus, parties have become allies that support each other directly or indirectly. In this environment, the Western states led by the United States of America (US) started voting to condemn North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile test on November 19, 2022, in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC); However, due to the opposition of Russia and China, the two permanent members of the UNSC, no condemnation decision was made.[2] Both of these countries emphasize that the actions of the Pyongyang administration were caused by provocations of the US.

Also, high-level officials of Russia and China emphasize their deepening relations in their meetings, against the US and they state that the rise of China and Russia cannot be prevented.[3] Because both China and Russia are adjacent to many geopolitical fault lines, the actors have started to need each other more in many discussions. For example, while the US continues to work on the Taiwan Policy Law; China states that the Taiwan Issue is the main red line.[4]

On the other hand, Europe raised its determination about support to Ukraine as the Ukrainian War started to change course. In this context, while Russia starting to regress against Ukraine, on the other hand, Europe is continuously helping Ukraine as mentioned before, preparing to announce the ceiling price for Russian gas. It is obvious that the announcement, which is expected to be made before December 5, 2022, will have a devastating effect on Moscow in many ways.

Also, when the situation of Russia and China is examined in terms of their borders to political fault lines and being in some political discussions, it can be said that both states have justified reasons for their commitment to each other. Considering that both states, which trying to isolate other countries in the international system, are looking for friendly and allied states at many points, it can be said that both China and Russia will constantly support each other in the current conditions of the international system. However, both countries have an implicit struggle for influence and occasionally conflicting economic and political interests.

In addition to all of this, while solidarity on the China-Russia-North Korea line increased; At the G-20 Leaders’ Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping held meetings with many Western heads of state. The meeting with US President Joe Biden on November 14, 2022, differs from other meetings. Following the Biden-Jinping meeting, on November 23, 2022, US Defense Minister Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fanghe held a meeting at the request of the US side on the break of the ASEAN+ Defense Ministers Summit.[5] Although the subject of the two meetings is almost the same, the efforts of the US to approach the Chinese side in a positive way in these meetings attracted attention. The situation in question can be interpreted as an effort by the Washington administration to attract Moscow’s ally to its side. In this sense, the claim that the parties are heading towards a search that can be concluded in the form of controlled bipolarity has come to the fore.[6]

In this context the US wants to create cracks between the Russia-China-North Korean alliance to counter the global threats of Russia and North Korea and, if it succeeds, to use Beijing to limit the areas of action of these two states.

On the other hand, China is calculating how these rapprochement efforts can be used for China. As a matter of fact, in a news published in China Daily after the Biden-Jinping meeting held on November 14, 2022, it was stated that China was waiting for concrete steps in terms of the US’s rapprochement efforts.[7] Therefore, Beijing refrains from closing the door to these rapprochement efforts to strengthen its hand against Moscow, with which it has an implicit rivalry, and to gain some concessions from Washington.

As can be understood, while Russia is dealing with the actions of the EU and the US; China wants to turn Russia’s difficult situation into an opportunity, especially in the energy field. China and Qatar signed a twenty-seven-year energy agreement on 21 November 2022.[8] Beijing’s signing of such an agreement with Doha despite the presence of a pipeline such as the “Power of Siberia” in the region indicates that it will consider all opportunities in its silent competition against Russia.

As a result, Russia-China relations, which have developed since February 2022, have been called a “boundless alliance” by China and Russia at one point, but both countries have interests in the other’s sphere of influence. For example, Central Asia, which Russia sees as its immediate environment, is on the route of China’s Belt-Road Project. Moreover, the Beijing administration is developing its relations with Central Asian states by making many investments in the region. This bothers Russia. In this context, it can be said that while Washington wants to use China to limit Russia and North Korea, Beijing is trying to gain an advantage in its relations with Russia by using the US and other countries. For this reason, it can be stated that the reason why China signed an energy agreement with Qatar despite the difficult situation Russia is in is that it tries to strengthen its hand.


[1] Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Alan Rappeport, “Ukraine’s Allies Near Imposing Cap on the Price of Russian Oil”, The New York Times, www.nytimes.com/2022/11/22/business/russia-oil-price-cap.html, (Date of Accession: 22.11.2022).

[2]“UN Security Council members condemn North Korean Missile Launch”, Aljazeera, www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/11/21/un-security-council-members-condemn-north-korea-missile-launch, (Date of Accession: 21.11.2022).

[3] “Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu meets with new Russian Ambassador to China Igor Morgulov, Vowing to Push Bilateral Relations to a New Level for a New Era”, Global Times, www.globaltimes.cn/page/202211/1278441.shtml, (Date of Accession: 01.11.2022).

[4] Jiang Chenglong, “US Called on to Respect China’s Core Interests”, China Daily, www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202211/23/WS637d5806a31049175432b510.html, (Date of Accession: 23.11.2022).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, “ABD-Çin Arasında Yeni Soğuk Savaş’tan Yeni Bir Paylaşıma mı?”, ANKASAM, https://www.ankasam.org/abd-cin-arasinda-yeni-soguk-savastan-yeni-bir-paylasima-mi/, (Date of Accession: 21.11.2022).

[7] Shen Dingli, “US’ Sincerity to Its Commitments Vital to Sino-US Ties”, Asia News Network, asianews.network/us-sincerity-to-its-commitments-vital-to-sino-us-ties/, (Date of Accession: 15.11.2022).

[8] Maha El Dahan-Andrew Mills, “Qatar Seals 27-year LNG Deal with China as Competition Heats up”, Reuters, www.reuters.com/business/energy/qatarenergy-signs-27-year-lng-deal-with-chinas-sinopec-2022-11-21/, (Date of Accession: 21.11.2022).

Elcan TOKMAK
Elcan Tokmak, 2022 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Halihazırda ANKASAM bünyesindeki stajına devam eden Tokmak; Çin, Kore ve Japonya üzerine çalışmalar yapmaktadır. Tokmak, ileri düzeyde İngilizce, orta seviyede Çince ve başlangıç düzeyinde Korece bilmektedir.