Should Trump Worry About the Putin-Xi Meeting?

The Chinese-Russian bilateral relationship is better than at many points in the past, but it remains superficial.

The National Interest
Date: April 27, 2019
By: Doug Bandow Follow Doug_Bandow on TwitterL

Russian president Vladimir Putin left his meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to journey to Beijing. The former’s destination: a forum on China’s infamous Belt and Road initiative, where Putin announced the approval of a toll road tying Belarus to Kazakhstan.

The more important objective, though, for the Russian leader was meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping. The former lauded Belt and Road “an extremely important initiative” and said the two countries’ ties had reached “an unprecedentedly high level.”

In fact, neither statement is true. The two governments haggled over Russian support for that single project for six years, and the road isn’t scheduled to be completed until 2024. If and when it actually opens is anyone’s guess. This suggests something other than “an extremely important initiative.”

The bilateral relationship is better than at many points in the past, but it remains superficial. Last fall when the two leaders met, Putin announced: “We have established trust-based relations on the political, security and defense tracks.” That was similarly overstated since trust plays a minimal part of the China-Russia relationship.

In fact, ties remain focused on dislike rather than like. The two nations share a fractious past but few present interests. Russian empire superseded the decrepit Chinese empire. Revolutionary Russia supported revolutionary China. Nationalism trumped communism as the two totalitarian states clashed over their disputed boundary. In recent years Moscow formally defenestrated revolution but kept repression while Beijing quietly abandoned communism in favor of de facto fascism. Both now are formally enthralled with authoritarianism.    [FULL  STORY]