With great fanfare, China and Russia announced on Feb. 4 a new strategic partnership, as explained in their Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China on the International Relations Entering a New Era and the Global Sustainable Development—an English version of which was posted on the Kremlin’s official website.
While this new agreement may not have shocked the world as much as the Molotov–Ribbentrop (Hitler-Stalin) pact of 1939 did, this budding partnership should be sending danger signals to capitals around the world, particularly in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Both China and Russia are not afraid to use military threats and coercion to achieve their political ends.
A couple of key passages, in particular, from that joint declaration clearly identify for all the world to see the two crises through which the world must navigate safely to obtain the multilateral “peace, development and cooperation” that China and Russia claim to jointly seek.
The first passage indirectly addresses the current Ukraine crisis while explaining the geopolitical and security goals of both countries:
“The sides [Russia and China] oppose further enlargement of NATO and call on the North Atlantic Alliance to abandon its ideologized cold war approaches, to respect the sovereignty, security and interests of other countries, the diversity of their civilizational, cultural and historical backgrounds, and to exercise a fair and objective attitude towards the peaceful development of other States.”
It is easy to discern this statement as the rationale for ongoing Russian actions in support of “Russian separatists” in eastern Ukraine, including the Russian government’s recognition of the two new “nations” carved out of the Donbas region—the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics.” This is a repeat of Russia’s actions in 2014 during which Crimea was peeled off from Ukraine and “annexed” when Russian troops occupied the area.
The joint statement goes further in condemning any attempts by “external forces” to undermine security and stability “in adjacent regions” while opposing “colour revolutions.” That passage has Ukraine written all over it, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted that Ukraine not be admitted to NATO and has condemned color revolutions in the region.
As first noted in 2017 by 112 International in an interview for Mir TV, “Putin said he will not allow a ‘color revolution’ in his country and other Collective Security Treaty Organization’s (CSTO) countries.”
CSTO member nations include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan, while Afghanistan and Serbia hold observer status.
Putin was alarmed at the apparent color revolution carried out by pro-Western elements in Ukraine in 2014 and feared that color revolutions were direct threats to Russia’s security.
At the time, Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies described those perceived fears: “Russian military officers now tied the term ‘Color Revolution’ to the crisis in Ukraine and to what they saw as a new US and European approach to warfare that focuses on creating destabilizing revolutions in other states as a means of serving their security interests at low cost and with minimal casualties.”
Those Russian fears are apparently still valid eight years later, as language condemning color revolutions was featured prominently in the Russia-China joint statement. And China’s voice has now reinforced Russia’s concerns.
The second red flag in the joint statement involves a direct reference to Taiwan: “The Russian side reaffirms its support for the One-China principle, confirms that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and opposes any forms of independence of Taiwan.”
This, despite Taiwan fully functioning as a separate state since 1949, and despite endless diplomatic pressures by the Chinese communist state to punish smaller nations (such as Lithuania) for recognizing the Taiwanese republic and rewarding those (such as Costa Rica) who publicly throw Taiwan overboard.
The Russians are apparently willing to sell Taiwan down the river to China for Chinese economic largesse that will accrue under the provisions of that joint statement: “[China and Russia] are seeking to advance their work to link the development plans for the Eurasian Economic Union and the Belt and Road Initiative with a view to intensifying practical cooperation between the EAEU and China in various areas and promoting greater interconnectedness between the Asia Pacific and Eurasian regions.”
Putin’s alleged concerns for the self-determination of Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine would not seem to apply to the “separatists” in Taiwan. Such hypocrisy!
Good Cop, Bad Cop
The Harvard Law School Daily Blog describes the “good cop, bad cop” strategy as “two individuals or parties, working as a team, extend a series of rewards and punishments with the goal of gaining a [mutual] advantage over their [adversaries]. … [The strategy] involves one ‘cop’ acting in a ‘threatening, hostile, and abusive manner,’ while the other adopts a ‘non-threatening, friendly and sympathetic manner.’”
Perhaps that joint Sino-Russian statement has a “secret protocol” just as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact contained—in this case, one in which each country commits to the aid of the other in helping to favorably resolve top priority security issues. Perhaps they agreed to take turns with “good cop, bad cop” actions to further each other’s geopolitical and security interests.
Is that secret protocol being tested by the Chinese in Ukraine as a dry run for Taiwan?
In the Ukraine crisis, Russia is the “bad cop,” as Putin’s actions in recognizing the two secessionist “republics” and ratifying “friendship agreements” with them, as well as in augmenting Russian military forces already operating there, have been roundly condemned by European nations, the United States, and others.
According to The Associated Press, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Feb. 22 that Germany “has taken steps to halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia.” And the European Union unanimously approved on Tuesday, per the AP, “a first set of sanctions taking aim at the 351 Duma legislators who voted in favor of recognizing separatist regions in Ukraine, as well as 27 other Russian officials and institutions from the defense and banking world.”
More actions are certain to follow as the crisis in Ukraine continues.
China is playing the “good cop” by refusing to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Beijing is attempting to maintain diplomatic credibility with the rest of the world while positioning itself to “lead the world” in “helping” to resolve the crisis.
According to state-run China Daily on Tuesday, which represents the position of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership, “not only do the confrontational parties and their proxies need to exercise restraint and show sincerity in seeking to defuse the current tension. Wisdom is also required to draw up an overall security environment for Europe that resolves the grievances and concerns of different parties.”
We should expect the roles to be reversed in the event that Chinese leader Xi Jinping launches a long-promised cross-strait invasion to “absorb” the Taiwan republic into communist China. The People’s Liberation Army Navy and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force have spearheaded China’s militarization in the South China Sea since 2009 to now include saber-rattling operations and threats to any and all nations that support Taiwan. For example, Beijing said that Japan is “digging its own grave” if it helps defend Taiwan.
China will definitely be the “bad cop” if/when it chooses to invade Taiwan. Look for Russia to remain above the fray, asking for a “peaceful resolution” that maintains the “one-China policy,” which was foolishly agreed to by the United States and other nations after communist China (the People’s Republic of China) was formed in 1949.
Both countries are using overseas nationalists to foment instability and promote favorable geopolitical actions and results. According to the History Learning Site, the Russian czars initiated—and the Soviets continued in—the policy of “Russification” to use demographics to politically control the Soviet Socialist Republics on its periphery. Large Russian minorities in Crimea and eastern Ukraine resulting from this policy are exactly whom Putin is exploiting to achieve his dream of consolidating “greater Russia.”
Although not an overt Chinese policy per se, over the centuries large Chinese minorities have developed outside China in the Asia-Pacific region. Xi and the CCP seek to consolidate all Chinese regardless of their present citizenship into a “greater China.” Hong Kong was the test case.
Will Taiwan be next? And what about the continuing CCP manipulation for geopolitical purposes of overseas Chinese around the world by Beijing’s United Front Work Department?
The emerging Sino-Russian alliance is multidimensional and seeks to further the economic and geopolitical interests of both parties. Economic deals—such as the recently agreed 10-year deal during which China will be supplied with 100 million metric tons of Russian oil—are just the beginning.
As is happening during the ongoing Ukraine crisis, watch for the Russo-Chinese “good cop, bad cop” routine in the future because we have not seen the last of that two-step dance!
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.