Russian Media: China Is a False Friend

Mounting editorial criticism points to tenuous Moscow–Beijing relationship
November 19, 2018 Updated: November 19, 2018

In the past few decades, China and Russia have been working together to counter the United States, protect North Korea, and develop mutual economic ties. But Russian media outlets are expressing increasing scrutiny of Sino–Russian relations, according to a commentary by Japan’s Sankei Shimbun.

The Sankei article, published Nov. 15, notes that Russian dissatisfaction with China is on the rise due to perceptions that Chinese engagement with its northern neighbor has contributed little to the local economy and does not benefit Russia much.

Vedomosti, a Russian-language business daily published in Moscow, reported on Oct. 24 that Chinese banks have recently suspended their Russia operations. Russian companies and individuals have proven averse to opening accounts in Chinese banks, such as the Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of Communications, Ping An Bank, Bank of Dalian, or the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank.

Russian companies and individuals affected by international sanctions cannot open accounts, either. “China has blocked the transactions of all Russian enterprises without identifying whether the enterprise is the object of sanctions,” Vedomosti noted.

Vedomosti cited Kommersant, a nationally distributed daily newspaper published in Russia that reports primarily on politics and businesses. According to Kommersant, representatives of three Russian and two Chinese banks with branches in both countries say the main problems appeared in 2014.

Despite the issues being “more or less solved” by the end of 2015, the situation worsened starting this January and February and have not improved since, according to people and companies contacted by Kommersant.

Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper known for its critical investigative coverage of Russian political and social affairs, reported on Oct. 26 that “China acts like a friend of Russia, but in fact, it only considers its own interests.” It cautioned that “as China’s economic growth slows, it may embark on an aggressive foreign policy to deflect public dissatisfaction and to secure their legitimacy such as by occupying Siberia and the Far East region.”

Enterprises and workers in Northeast China, which borders the Russian Far East, are migrating there for development, the paper said, while the Russian population of the Far East is expected to decline. The newspaper expressed concerns that “the Far East region will one day be under Chinese control.”

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a Russian daily paper, named China as a threat in an Oct. 29 report concerning the Chinese regime’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative.

OBOR, first announced by Beijing in 2013, seeks to build China-centered land and maritime trade networks by financing infrastructure projects throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

The Nezavisimaya Gazeta noted that “none of the OBOR proposals concerning Russia had been implemented.” Meanwhile, China and Russia are in an intense competition for influence in Central Asia, where OBOR projects are well underway. The report says that while Russia and China appear to be friends, cooperation between them is largely nonexistent.

China has been increasingly called out for its predatory actions against Russia, such as theft of technology.

According to Russian online newspaper Vzglyad, the CR929 passenger jet, a Sino-Russian joint venture unveiled on Nov. 7 at the Zhuhai Airshow in southern China, became the object of plagiarism complaints by Russian design company OKB Atom.

Russia’s United Aircraft Corp. and the Chinese state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp. had established a Chinese venture for the CR929 project, but OKB Atom claimed that the venture’s design were blueprints stolen from its own plans, which in 2016 had been submitted for another Chinese passenger aircraft project.

Maxim Kuzin, the general manager and chief engineer of OKB, said that while he was shocked by the brazen behavior, his company would not take legal measures because it would be futile.