May 9 Vladimir Putin had to take the parade of troops and military equipment on red square, and next to him was supposed to be XI Jinping and Emmanuel macron. But quarantine measures imposed in connection with the spread of the coronavirus that forced Putin to cancel the luxurious celebrations dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the end of world war II in Europe — as well as to postpone the date of national referendum, the results of which Putin could stay on as President of Russia until 2036. But although Putin and XI lost the opportunity to publicly demonstrate solidarity against the sea of the Soviet flag, which annually decorate Moscow for the Victory Day, coronavirus crisis promises to make ties between Russia and China is as strong as ever before.
China needs friends, and Russia needs the money. China and Russia for a long time United by the desire to deprive the United States of the status of the sole superpower of the unipolar world order that emerged after the cold war. These base relations of Moscow and Beijing persist for most part of the 20-year Putin’s rule.
Meanwhile, the pandemic covid-19 promises to expose the Putin regime more serious economic and political challenges than those he faced before — because of falling oil prices and other raw materials. This crisis also threatens the status of China as a global provider, since many Western countries are now gripped a poisonous mixture of political anger at the attempts of China to conceal the extent of the epidemic at an early stage of the growth of nationalism and nervousness about the possible consequences of globalization for the security of individual countries. To have a chance to survive this crisis, Putin needs C, which needs to continue buying Russian oil and invest in Russian infrastructure and technology. For its part, the si needs Putin, from whom he expects diplomatic support. Putin is also able to assist him in the matter of international propaganda.
However, these two large Asian land empires that Russia is experiencing a much more serious crisis. In early may, Russia announced that it has the highest incidence of covid-19 in Europe — by that time in Russia was recorded 198 676 confirmed cases of infection, although the mortality rate remained suspiciously low. As the demand for energy has reached a historic low, and the price of oil fell below the level of 1990-ies, Putin takes in the coming crisis of the world economy at precisely the moment when a fountain of oil money, Russia secured two decades of prosperity, gradually runs out. Economic sanctions imposed by Western countries following the annexation of Crimea�� in 2014, deprived of most Russian companies access to international capital markets.
Unlike the yuan, the ruble is too weak even to serve as a regional currency, Putin has no possibility simply to issue sovereign bonds or print more paper money because of the risk of hyperinflation. Since 2014, Russia has managed to accumulate considerable reserves of money received from the sale of oil, however, is nothing compared with the 7% of GDP, which, according to Putin’s financial guru Alexei Kudrin, will need Russia to rescue its economy from the effects of the crisis covid-19.
Add to that a political system based on the personal authority of Putin and small group of oligarchs and old friends of the President who for two decades managed to sakonnet and are increasingly resorting to repression. In short, Putin’s regime is experiencing a deep existential crisis, and Putin needs the si to a much greater extent than the si needs Putin.
China is in a much more appropriate form in order to weather the storm. Not only is that draconian quarantine measures in China underpinned by a ruthlessly efficient technologies face detection and contact tracing — allows you to quickly cope with the coronavirus, but in the fact that the Chinese economy is in most parts of the country continued to operate during the epidemic. Of course, a serious decline in the global economy — primarily the drop in demand in the West will be a heavy blow for China.
However, the pandemic covid-19 will demonstrate how much China has overtaken Russia in terms of economic power and international influence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1991, China’s economy was less than the Soviet economy. Since then it has been 30 years and now China’s GDP is over 15 trillion dollars and continues to grow (at least until the pandemic covid-19) at a rate of about 6% per year. Meanwhile, Russia’s GDP is $ 1.7 trillion, and in 2019 the growth of its economy has made 1,3%. Last year the volume of bilateral trade reached a record $ 110 billion, which made China the largest trading partner of Russia. Meanwhile, Russia ranks only 13 th place in the list of the largest trading partners of China, and it accounts for only 2% of China’s exports. Even the United Kingdom, which occupies the 9th place and which accounts for 2.5% of China’s exports, in an economic sense is more important for Beijing than Russia.
Beijing has always been careful and tried not to focus on the real inequality of China and Russia in terms of economic power. He made a lot of effort not to accidentally offend touchy Putin, and treated Moscow as an equal strategic partner. When ��rosla year, XI arrived in Moscow, he described Putin as his “best friend”, with whom he has developed “deep personal relationships”. Lit with joy, Putin replied that he was “pleased to say that Russian-Chinese relations have reached an unprecedented high level. They are in the nature of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction.” Meanwhile, quite notably, si not included in the list of world leaders that Putin is forced to wait (this list is headed by Angela Merkel, which Putin waited four and a half hours, and even Pope Francis had to wait for the Russian President as much as 50 minutes in 2015). The reason is that relations between Russia and China was for a long time — despite the carefully created illusion of equality, the big powers, the relations of client and patron.
However, it is noteworthy that Putin and XI held more than 30 personal meetings since XI’s arrival to power in 2013. Obviously, Economics is not everything. Russia got two geopolitical ACE — a legacy of the cold war era, which continues to benefit from China’s massive nuclear Arsenal and a veto in the UN security Council. Putin has managed — largely due to a desperate willingness to ignore international order to overcome the relative economic weakness of Russia and keep her place at the table of the strongest international players.
Putin’s intervention in the Syrian conflict, for example, required him to send to this country a total of 36 military aircraft, but it allowed to change the course of the civil war in favor of the regime and restore Russia’s status as an influential player in the middle East with a minimum of losses and costs. In many ways, active and often aggressive international diplomacy of Russia is the complete opposite of the diplomacy of China, which is quietly investing billions of dollars in Africa, in Europe and in the United States, trying not to attract too much attention to the hidden capture huge pieces of the global economy.
Friendship with Russia really has strategic value for si. China has been the target of attacks, U.S. President Donald trump’s first was a trade war, which gained momentum during the year, and then charges of failing to contain the spread covid-19, but Russia was loyally defended Beijing. The Minister of foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov has strongly condemned the appeals to force China to pay compensation for the damage caused by the pandemic, calling them “unacceptable — it just makes my hair stand when I hear things like that.” Russian state and state propaganda channels also regularly publish articles in support of China: many people compare hard and��Ravenna authoritarian measures taken by Russia and China to combat the spread of coronavirus, with inconsistent measures in the United States.
But despite a strong male friendship between Putin and XI, they confirm their regular meetings in their views on the post-American world there are fundamental contradictions. Putin often spoke of a “multipolar world”, something similar to the system of the European concert of the 19th century, in which many centers of power were in relationship balanced rivalry. Meanwhile, China seeks ultimately to the formation together with the United States sort of the Big two. Putin can afford to openly anti-American rhetoric for one simple reason: the volume of trade between Russia and the United States and the foreign direct investment is negligible. While China sends to the United States for 16.8% of all its exports in 2019, the volume of its exports to the US amounted to 418,6 billion dollars. Because trump unleashed a trade war that the numbers have decreased over the past year by 12.7%. Economic codependency of China and the United States means that si keen to maintain friendly relations with them.
Of course, China realizes that in the long term an effective way to end the economic domination of the United States is to deprive the dollar of its status as the sole reserve currency in the world. Beijing already is transforming its non-dollar payment system UnionPay to regional power, and Russia is taking advantage of her. However, it will be many years before the Renminbi can mount a serious challenge to the global dominance of the dollar.
Meanwhile, the immediate consequence of the pandemic covid-19 is likely to become much more significant economic dependence of Russia on China. Beijing has already helped Moscow after the Crimean crisis, signing with “Gazprom” 400-billion contract for the construction of pipelines and gas supplies. Putin must be sincerely hoped that the expected $ 400 billion of Chinese investment in its six-year programme of National projects designed to revitalize the Russian infrastructure and the technology sector — not to mention the ambitious plans of building a new railway that will link ports in the Arctic and the Indian ocean, is still in force. In the first week of may, the Kremlin — apparently in an attempt to Woo Beijing — announced that it will allow the Russian national welfare Fund to invest in Chinese yuan and government bonds. Beijing has already helped Russian oil companies to survive the fall of global demand, by increasing the volume of purchases of Russian oil to 31% in March.
The price that will be asked of the si a political resignation, and si will pull it slowly and gently. One of the issues in which Putin will have to sacrifice the independence of its foreign policy is North Korea. Kim Jong-UN tried for several years to set Moscow against Beijing, and this game was annoying si. Most likely, Russia will also be asked to provide substantial political support — and not just to pay lip service to the initiative “One belt, one road”.
From the point of view of China, the gradual involvement of Russia in its sphere of influence may constitute in some sense a skilled historical revenge. In Chinese introduction to the first trade agreement between the two empires, signed at Nerchinsk in 1689, said that trade with Russia “does not bring benefits to China, but since the Great Emperor loves all people, he felt compassion for your common people, poor and wretched, and, as your Senate turned to His Heavenly Majesty, he agreed to approve your request.” But that smugness quickly came to an end. Over the next 300 years of the Russian Empire captured large sections of the Chinese territories North of the Amur river, paved-controlled Moscow railway through the Northern territory and for most of the cold war, it did not support and even hostile to his neighbor, despite the shared Communist faith. Now, after a series of military adventures, Putin did not have other friends except China, which is able to save him in terms of the very serious political and economic crisis during his reign. China will help, but the greatest benefit of this transaction will retrieve exactly si.