Xi Sees Russia as Its 'Most Important Partner' for Challenging the US, Expert Says

'There’s a firm belief [in the CCP] that the onus should be on the U.S. to change its policies,” says Patricia Kim, a fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Xi Sees Russia as Its 'Most Important Partner' for Challenging the US, Expert Says
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Heads of State Council via a video conference at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 4, 2023. (Alexander Kazakov/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
Andrew Thornebrooke

China’s communist leadership believes that Russia is its most important partner and seeks to jointly undermine the international order, according to one expert.

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping is therefore seeking to deepen ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin to better undermine the United States and the international order that it leads, Patricia Kim, a fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank, said.

“[China] hasn’t dialed back on its ties with Moscow, let alone used pressure on Putin to try to rein in his invasion of Ukraine,” Ms. Kim said during a Sept. 26 panel discussion at the Brookings Institution.

“It’s clear that Xi sees Putin as his most important partner in eroding what he sees as a Western-dominated global order.”

China, Russia Pursue Multipolar World Order

Mr. Xi’s dedication to realizing the end of U.S. dominance was reflected in his choice of international travel over the past year, Ms. Kim said.

In the past year, he made only two trips out of China—one to an international summit in South Africa and the other to expand ties with Mr. Putin in Moscow.

When Mr. Xi visited Moscow in March, he described Mr. Putin as a “dear friend” and hailed their work for creating “change which hasn’t happened in 100 years.”
That statement was accompanied by an open pledge by the two leaders to reshape the international order to their interests, with Mr. Putin saying that China and Russia would create a more just “multipolar world order” to replace the “rules” of the current international order.

The CCP, far from distancing itself from Russia for its ongoing attempted conquest of Ukraine, has actively worked to develop the relationship anyway, Ms. Kim said.

Likewise, the regime has worked with Russia to increase ties throughout the developing world, where it hopes to erode confidence in the United States and present China-led alternatives to extant international organizations.

“Beijing’s growing alienation from the West ... its deepening ties with Moscow, and its efforts to cultivate partners in the Global South; these trend lines still very much stand, and in many ways, they’ve deepened,” Ms. Kim said.

To that end, she said, the CCP has shown no signs of pulling back on its expansionist and, at times, aggressive behavior throughout the world. Chinese communist leadership, Ms. Kim said, was simply uninterested in cooperating on key transnational challenges or establishing guardrails to guide its relations with the United States.

“There’s a firm belief [in the CCP] that the onus should be on the U.S. to change its policies,” she said.

Still, Ms. Kim said, a cohesive China-led bloc hasn't yet materialized despite the fact that China is “very much determined” to exploit the “grievances” of the developing world to better undermine the United States’ interests abroad.

One reason for this, she said, is that most nations understand China’s hegemonic ambitions regardless of its rhetoric.

“Many states in the developing world don’t necessarily take China’s claims [that it’s not hegemonic] in its ambitions at face value,” Ms. Kim said.

A Growing Alliance

Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin first declared a “no limits” partnership agreement in February 2022, only weeks before Russian troops invaded Ukraine. Since then, the two have pledged increased economic and strategic cooperation, and have signed a joint declaration deepening the nations’ “comprehensive strategic partnership.”

The agreements further buttress Beijing's and Moscow’s de facto alliance, which has been growing since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. During that time, communist China has become Russia's most important partner in trade and diplomacy, helping Moscow to carry on amid otherwise devastating international sanctions.

In March, Mr. Putin said Russia was willing to support Chinese companies that sought to replace Western businesses that exited the country because of the war, and that the two countries should encourage businesses to use their own currencies.

The CCP also has drawn international condemnation for allegations that it has covertly supplied military aid to Russia for use in Ukraine.

The United States has consistently warned that the CCP could provide weapons or munitions to the Russian military, and in recent months has underscored that the regime hasn't taken such an arrangement off the table.

The White House has also acknowledged that private Chinese companies have directly supported Russia’s war in Ukraine, but it stopped short of saying that such support amounts to lethal aid.

When the White House issued sanctions on numerous international bodies related to Russia’s war on Feb. 24, for example, it also targeted Chinese entities accused of backfilling Russia’s defense industry, effectively helping the regime to skirt sanctions.
According to a February report by German media outlet Der Spiegel, China previously falsified shipping documents to disguise military aviation equipment bound for Russia as civil in nature and used intermediaries in the United Arab Emirates to deliver dual-use drones to Russia.

That same report alleged that the CCP is currently preparing a shipment of suicide drones to Russia for use in Ukraine.

Similarly, a report by Japan's Kyodo News that cites anonymous U.S. government sources claims that Chinese ammunition has been found on battlefields in Ukraine. The report clarified, however, that there was no evidence that the CCP had sold the ammunition to Russia directly.
Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.
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