With our January 6, 2022, brief, we assessed, “Cooperation between Russia and China is more about common grievances against the United States. The One China policy insists Taiwan is an inalienable part of China that will eventually reunite with mainland China and its government. Similarly, Russia continues to pursue having Ukraine back under Russian control, as it did before the breakup of Soviet states under the USSR.”
Since then, cooperation between Russia and China has increased internationally, in Ukraine, and in developing new technologies to circumvent U.S.-based systems. Overwatch researched the latest developments in the Russia-China relationship and what it likely indicates for the U.S. and our allies for this updated brief.
Russia-China Timeline from February 4, 2022, to Present
On February 4, 2022, Russia and China issued a joint statement on their international relations entering a new era. The statement, which was published on the first day of the Beijing Winter Olympics, reads, in part, “The sides reaffirm their strong mutual support for the protection of their core interests, state sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and oppose interference by external forces in their internal affairs. 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. Russia and China stand against attempts by external forces to undermine security and stability in their common adjacent regions, intend to counter interference by outside forces in the internal affairs of sovereign countries under any pretext, oppose colour revolutions, and will increase cooperation in the aforementioned areas.”
On February 5, 2022, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on how Russia and China would enhance their partnership with BeiDou and GLONASS, satellite navigation systems. SCMP reporter Liu Zhen wrote, “China and Russia have agreed to coordinate their satellite navigation systems as the two countries solidify their partnership to rival the U.S.-owned GPS.”
On February 25, 2022, one day after Russia invaded Ukraine, China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying said, “China has taken a responsible attitude and persuaded all parties not to escalate tensions or incite war…Those who follow the U.S.’ lead in fanning up flames and then shifting the blame onto others are truly irresponsible.”
On March 7, 2022, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi responded to questions about how China feels toward U.S. sanctions against Russia. Wang said, “The China-Russia relationship is grounded in a clear logic of history and driven by strong internal dynamics, and the friendship between the Chinese and Russian peoples is rock-solid. There is a bright prospect for cooperation between the two sides. No matter how precarious and challenging the international situation may be, China and Russia will maintain strategic focus and steadily advance our comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era.”
In March 2022, Bloomberg, CBS News, The Financial Times, and The New York Times all reported that the Russian state asked China for military aid for the Russia-Ukraine War. According to comments from U.S. intelligence officials, the inquiry included a request for drones from China.
On March 14, 2022, Russian Finance Anton Siluanov said that Russia would use yuan from its foreign exchange reserves to pay some of its debt.
On March 19, 2022, Chinese Vice Minister Le Yucheng referred to NATO as a “Cold War vestige.”
On April 1, 2022, Chinese Foreign Minister Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the U.S. holds the most responsibility for the crisis in Ukraine. Lijian said, “As the culprit and the leading instigator of the Ukraine crisis, the U.S. has led NATO in pursuing five rounds of eastward expansions in the next two decades or so since 1999.”
On April 8, 2022, the Chinese state voted against removing Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
On April 10, 2022, the Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia, Deng Xijun, tweeted a photo of Lijian claiming that AUKUS (A strategic partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) aims to create an “Asia-Pacific NATO.”
On April 11, 2022, China’s Korean Peninsula Affairs Representative and former Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Liu Xiaoming, tweeted, “NATO should immediately stop spreading disinformation and provocative remarks targeting China, and abandon the confrontational approach of drawing ideological lines. NATO has disrupted Europe. It should stop trying to destabilize Asia and the whole world.”
On April 12, 2022, China announced the completion of its satellite navigation system, BeiDou.
Also, on April 12, 2022, Permanent Representative of Russia to International Organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, tweeted, “We held in-depth consultations with our Chinese friends on agendas of Vienna-based int. organisations. The detailed exchange of views proved that our positions are either very close to each other or identical. We agreed on concrete measures aimed at strengthening cooperation.”
We assess that Russia and China will continue to increase cooperation as strategic partners with the intent to undermine the United States and its allies.
Sanctions against China, the world’s manufacturing hub and global leader in rare-earth mining could significantly impact U.S. consumers. With the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, China could potentially provide military aid to Russian forces, likely resulting in sanctions from the United States. In our March 29, 2022, brief, The CCP is the Most Significant Threat to America; we assessed, “The CCP could use its majority control over rare earth production to further impact U.S. supply chains from companies that rely on rare earth materials for their products. Such a move would likely lead to a significant increase in the price of these products on the U.S. market.”
As the Russia-Ukraine War continues, Chinese officials will support disinformation narratives from Russia and continue to push back against NATO expansion. We also assess that Russia will aid China’s objectives in the Pacific, aligning with their rhetoric and policy against AUKUS. Additionally, U.S.-China relations will continue to deteriorate with the conflict in Eastern Europe and U.S. support for Taiwan, increasing the potential for future conflict.