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Deepening China-Russia Ties Challenge US-Led Order Amid Global Concerns

China and Russia strengthen ties, challenging US-led order amid global democratic concerns.

By Mackenzie Crow

5/16, 10:34 EDT
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Key Takeaway

  • China and Russia's partnership strengthens, challenging US-led order, despite concerns over Ukraine invasion and historical tensions.
  • Xi and Putin's personal rapport bolsters military collaboration and economic ties, with China buying Russian commodities and weapons.
  • Growing alliance raises global democratic fears, potentially impacting multiple fronts including Taiwan, while showing signs of Chinese dominance.

Deepening Ties Amid Global Concerns

China and Russia, two of the world's most powerful authoritarian states, have seen their relationship grow stronger in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. This development has raised alarms among democratic nations globally, from the United States to Japan. The partnership, which falls short of a formal alliance, has been bolstered by economic, military, and political collaborations aimed at challenging parts of the US-led post-Cold War order. Despite China's reservations about the invasion's failures and excesses, the bond between the two countries has deepened, driven by mutual alienation from the West and shared ambitions to restore their nations to perceived former glories.

Historical Roots and Modern Dynamics

The relationship between China and Russia has evolved significantly from the mid-19th century, when Russia was among the European powers imposing unequal treaties on China. After a brief alliance following the Communist Party's rise to power in China in 1949, the countries experienced a fallout but began to mend ties in the mid-1980s under Mikhail Gorbachev. In recent years, especially after Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and subsequent Western sanctions, Russia has turned to China as a key economic partner. China has become a major buyer of Russian commodities and weapons, while Russia has provided China with advanced military technology and energy resources at favorable prices.

Strategic Partnership and Military Collaboration

The personal rapport between Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin has played a significant role in strengthening the China-Russia partnership. Both leaders have met at least 40 times, showcasing their close relationship through various public displays of friendship. Their meetings have underscored a mutual disdain for Western democratic ideals and a commitment to defining democracy on their own terms. Militarily, the two nations have deepened cooperation, with China purchasing advanced Russian weaponry and both countries conducting joint military exercises, signaling a united front against perceived provocations by US alliances in their respective spheres of influence.

Global Implications and Democratic Concerns

The burgeoning cooperation between China and Russia has sparked fears among democratic powers of a potential need to contend with threats on multiple fronts. Concerns have been particularly acute regarding the possibility of China attacking Taiwan amidst the US's focus on supporting Ukraine. Additionally, the partnership is viewed as emboldening autocratic leaders worldwide, challenging the democratic political system, and threatening the rules-based international order. Despite these concerns, the relationship has shown signs of imbalance, with China's economic leverage growing as Russia faces sanctions and military setbacks in Ukraine.