By Yu Sui
The progress of China-Russia relationship features political mutual trust, economic complementarity, cultural exchanges, military interaction and diplomatic consultation since the two countries forged the strategic partnership of coordination. In 2020, the bilateral relationship faced particular challenges from the raging COVID-19 pandemic and the politicization of the pandemic in international relations, and the Trump administration’s maniac disruption of international order. Yet, it withstood the severe test and presented a new outlook with new development.
Political mutual trust is the fundamental element for China-Russia relations. As the leaders of the two countries put it, the mutual support and help between China and Russia in the toughest moment of the COVID-19 pandemic has added new strategic connotations to bilateral ties in the new era. There is no restricted area or upper limit to the bilateral cooperation.
Economic complementarity underpins bilateral ties. The China-Russia trade exhibited strong resilience despite the severe shocks to the global industry and supply chains imposed by the COVID-19 outbreak. In the first nine months of 2020, the bilateral trade volume of agricultural and industrial products increased 9% from the same period of the previous year to reach US$3.8 billion. Chinese export of medical apparatus, textile materials, electronics, and electric appliances to Russia all reported two-digit growth in the first half of the year. At the same time, its import of Russian energy, minerals, and agricultural products kept growing, including the first batch of Russian beef. The Bely Rast Terminal Logistics Center, the first of its kind co-built by China and Russia, was officially put into operation at the end of July last year. Moreover, the two sides are also implementing a batch of large-scale cooperative projects in energy and other economic fields.
Cultural exchanges serve as the bond binding the two countries. There are 48,000 Chinese students studying in Russia and more than 20,000 Russian students studying in China, and another 35,000 citizens of both countries participating in various short-term educational programs. Russia's traditional national event "Art Night" was held online in early November 2020, and China will showcase its cultural charm via online exhibitions in many regions.
Military interaction is one of the factors that guarantee China-Russia relations. Chinese and Russian militaries have held regular joint exercises and exchanged experience in military development. President Putin stressed that Beijing and Moscow had reached a high level of coordination on military technologies.
The two countries signed a protocol on the extension of the agreement between the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of the Russian Federation on notifications of launches of ballistic missiles and space missile carriers for ten years. This demonstrated the high level and special nature of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in the new era and their resolve to preserve global strategic stability jointly.
Diplomatic consultation is the approach. In the face of the rampant pandemic and the complicated international environment, China and Russia are enjoying all-round bilateral cooperation and closer coordination on international affairs. Their coordinated synergy has taken significant effects in such multilateral areas as the UN, SCO, BRICS, and G20.
It is worth special attention that as the two countries worked together to fight the coronavirus in the past year, Russia, with solemn statements and concrete actions, resolutely rejected the Trump administration's attempts to drive a wedge between China and Russia and piece together an anti-China alliance.
Moscow was opposed to Trump's scapegoating of China on the virus. President Putin articulated that there's no evidence to support the claim that the virus originated in China, and Russian media published articles comparing the pandemic situation in China, the US, and Europe and praising and supporting China's anti-epidemic prevention and control.
In response to Trump's attempt to bring China into the negotiation on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), Putin said if the US wanted to include China in the treaty for security's sake, it should not forget the UK and France also possess nuclear weapons.
Regarding the US' intention of withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), the Russian Foreign Ministry responded that Russia would react immediately if the US deployed nuclear or conventional missiles in the Asia Pacific and other regions.
With regard to Pompeo's clamoring for an anti-China alliance, the spokesperson of the Russian side repeatedly stated that such an attempt is aimed at sowing discord between China and Russia, and that China is Russia’s partner and the two countries have developed an extraordinary partnership.
The enhancement of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination under new circumstances is rooted in the consensus on peace, development, and win-win cooperation, and based on the implementation of the "Shanghai Spirit" that advocates mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diversity of civilizations, and pursuit of common development.
There is vast room for China-Russia cooperation, which is a great boon to the two countries and their peoples.