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Sino-Russian Relations Embark on a New Journey


This 2020 article by Li Hui, China’s Special Representative for Eurasian Affairs and the former ambassador to Russia, argues for closer Sino-Russian relations under the banner of a “comprehensive strategic partnership.” Li suggests that in the years ahead, the two countries will continue to deepen economic integration, coordinate diplomatic outreach to developing countries, and jointly promote governance reform in multilateral institutions.

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In 2019, at the historic juncture of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Russia and at a critical moment in the process of changes unseen in a century, President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Russia and jointly made a decision with President Putin to develop the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era. This sent a clear signal that China and Russia will lead the construction of a new type of international relations, add positive energy to world stability, and inject new vitality into global development. Sino-Russia relations stand at a new historical starting point and welcome greater opportunities for development.


New Ideas Open a New Era


A distinctive feature of Sino-Russian relations is the top-level design and strategic guidance of the heads of state. This is also an important assurance that Sino-Russian relations will “remain strong despite thousands of blows” (千磨万击还坚劲). Since the 18th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), President Xi Jinping has set his sights on combining China’s development with the common development of the world, unifying the fundamental interests of the Chinese people with the long-term interests of human society, striving to build benign interactions between China and the world, and forming a new type of relationship between China and the world. In 2013, President Xi Jinping made Russia the first country he visited abroad after assuming the office of President of China. He reached an important consensus with President Putin on the “Four Firm Supports” (四个坚定支持) between China and Russia, which are to firmly support each other in safeguarding the core interests of their countries, to firmly support each other’s development and rejuvenation, to firmly support each other in following a development path that suits their own national conditions, and to firmly support each other in carrying out their own affairs well. They also agreed that China and Russia would jointly urge the world’s major powers to “transcend zero-sum games” (超越零和博弈), practice mutual respect in politics, comprehensive mutual benefit in economics, mutual trust and inclusiveness in security, exchanges and learning from one another in culture, and seeking common ground while reserving differences in ideology, and establish a new type of major-country relationship featuring long-term, stable, and healthy development. Practice has proven that the rapid and healthy development of Sino-Russian relations is inseparable from the meticulous care and strategic guidance of the two heads of state. It is a vivid embodiment and successful practice of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy.


China and Russia are advocates of an open route of mutual benefit and win-win results. President Xi Jinping proposed the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, which Russia firmly supported. The two heads of state issued a joint statement on the alignment and cooperation between the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the construction of the Eurasian Economic Union. President Putin came to China as a guest of honor to attend the two sessions of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. China and Russia have mutually supported each other’s major international cooperation initiatives and promoted arrangements for mutual interconnection construction and the institutionalization of trade and investment, achieving important results in alignment and cooperation. China and Russia call on the international community to share development opportunities, support the building of an open world economy, maintain the rules-based multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core, oppose unilateralism and protectionism, and promote strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth of the world economy.


China and Russia are pioneers in building a new type of international relations. Peace and stability, development and progress, and mutually beneficial cooperation are the directions of the times. If you cannot keep up with the pace of the times, sooner or later the times will render you obsolete. Over the past 70 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Russia, through the wind and the rain, the countries have finally discovered a model of state relations that is in line with the fundamental interests of the two countries and that is non-aligned, non-confrontational, and does not target any third party. Thanks to this, Sino-Russian relations have rapidly grown into the group of major-country relations with “the highest degree of mutual trust, the highest level of coordination, and the greatest strategic value” and have made important contributions to promoting the development and revitalization of the two countries and maintaining world peace, stability, and development. The successful experience of Sino-Russian relations is based on the fact that the two countries adhere to the concepts of mutual respect, fairness and justice, and mutually beneficial cooperation and conform to the trend of the times. The model of Sino-Russian relations shows that as long as members of the international community respect each other, communicate on an equal footing, combine their own interests with the interests of other countries, take joint responsibilities, and handle affairs through consultation, mutually beneficial cooperation can be achieved.


China and Russia are leaders in developing global partnerships. Both China and Russia regard building a comprehensive, multi-level, and three-dimensional global partnership network as a diplomatic policy. The two countries jointly lead the construction of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, actively participate in “BRICS+” cooperation with BRICS nations, and expand platforms for cooperation between emerging markets and developing countries. The two countries support each other in the construction of the “Belt and Road” and the “Greater Eurasian Partnership,” building a bridge of cooperation between global and regional integration mechanisms. China and Russia exert an important influence in the G20 and the United Nations and are deeply involved in global governance. The ever-expanding “circle of friends” of China and Russia plays an irreplaceable role in promoting global multi-polarization and economic globalization, coping with global challenges, and maintaining regional and world peace and stability.


China and Russia are fellow travelers in building a community with a shared future for mankind. President Xi Jinping deeply contemplated the future and destiny of mankind and formed an important thought on building a community with a shared future for mankind. In 2013, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, explaining for the first time the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind. His speech received high praise from the international community. President Putin maintains a similar philosophy. In his speech at the Valdai Discussion Club in 2017, he pointed out that it is unrealistic to seek to stand alone in the contemporary world and that it is the responsibility of the entire international community to achieve world stability and prosperity. In 2018, President Putin paid a state visit to China, and “promoting the building of a community with a shared future for mankind” was written into the joint statement of the two heads of state for the first time. This phrase continued to be used in subsequent bilateral political documents and became an important component of Sino-Russian international cooperation. China and Russia are determined to share the same fate with regard to the international community, and the “Sino-Russian combination” has become the most active factor in the transformation of the international system and the most energetic driving force for global governance reform.


A New Era Draws a New Vision


China and Russia and their two peoples share a common aspiration to push forward Sino-Russian relations to achieve greater development at a high level. In June 2019, President Xi Jinping and President Putin issued a joint statement that endowed Sino-Russian relations with a new position as a “comprehensive strategic partnership for the new era” and made comprehensive plans and deployments for the overall goals, basic principles, and directions of cooperation for the next stage in the development of bilateral relations, drawing a blueprint for the new era.


China and Russia will look out for and assist each other. Mutual support is the core value of Sino-Russian relations. In the new era, the two countries will give each other more powerful strategic support and implement the “Four Firm Supports” from start to finish. The two countries will further strengthen cooperation in safeguarding their respective sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity and in responding to various traditional and new security threats and challenges. Neither country will ever allow any force to use its territory to engage in activities against the other, nor allow any force to interfere in the internal politics of the other.


China and Russia will be deeply integrated. The two countries will build connections in the five dimensions of policy, infrastructure, trade, capital, and the people’s hearts, closely coordinate and strategically collaborate on national development strategies, and jointly plan cooperation principles, directions, and specific measures in various fields, and achieve common development in an all-round way.


China and Russia will explore and innovate. The two countries will focus on the requirements of the times and development needs, further tap into the potential and development momentum of bilateral relations, and enhance the “gold content” [Translator’s note;含金量, metaphorically meaning value] of cooperation in various fields. In addition to traditional fields such as economy, trade, energy, and investment, the two countries will carry out long-term strategic consideration and planning, develop new ideas for cooperation, innovate cooperative models, work hard for a long time, continue to promote cooperation, and strive to achieve both economic and social benefits.


China and Russia will work together to achieve inclusive and mutually beneficial outcomes. The two countries will uphold the principle of multilateralism and jointly promote the construction of a new type of international relations and the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. In international affairs, the two countries will contribute their wisdom as major powers, play their role as major powers, and assume their responsibilities as major powers. Relying on extensive international cooperation, they will firmly uphold the international system with the United Nations at its core and the international order based on international law, promote the reform of the global governance system, promote world peace and stability and sustainable economic development, and safeguard the common interests of mankind.


A New Vision Generates New Momentum


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In 2020, China and Russia will work hard to open a new era of bilateral relations. When President Xi Jinping and President Putin exchanged New Year’s messages of well wishes, they proposed the development goals for bilateral relations this year, namely, to guide the all-round cooperation between the two countries to a new level and to help boost the development and revitalization of China and Russia. This year, China and Russia will launch the Year of Scientific and Technological Innovation and jointly celebrate the 75th anniversary of victory in the World Anti-Fascist War and the founding of the United Nations. The two sides will go all out to transform the leaders’ consensus into fruitful cooperation results and benefit the two peoples.


Sino-Russian relations have four key points of interest this year.


The first is the strengthening of political mutual trust. China and Russia will uphold the guidance provided by head of state diplomacy, use institutional exchanges as the starting point, and use multilateral mechanisms as the platform to carry out “back-to-back” and “shoulder-to-shoulder” multi-dimensional strategic cooperation in an all-round manner. Both China and Russia insist on making the development of Sino-Russian relations a priority direction in their diplomacy and steadfastly support each other in their respective revitalization and strengthening. In the face of various tricks of hegemonic countries aimed at the containment, suppression, sanctions, bullying, interference, alienation, and smearing of China and Russia, the two countries will unswervingly reinforce bilateral relations, strengthen communication and coordination, support each other, and jointly respond to threats and challenges.


Since the beginning of the year, in the face of the sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, China and Russia have joined hands to deal with the situation and political mutual trust has become stronger. President Putin expressed his firm support for China’s fight against the epidemic by sending messages of condolences to President Xi Jinping, making phone calls, and making public statements. The governments of the two countries provided urgently needed medical supplies to each other in a timely manner according to the development of the epidemic situation. The two sides also dispatched expert groups to each other to exchange anti-epidemic experience. Anti-epidemic cooperation has become a vivid manifestation of the high level and special nature of Sino-Russian relations.


The second is the continuous deepening of the integration of interests. The two sides will expand the alignment and cooperation of the “Belt and Road” with the Eurasian Economic Union and the “Greater Eurasian Partnership” construction, especially in the building of a new pattern of interconnection. China and Russia will use the Year of Scientific and Technological Innovation as an opportunity to strengthen joint research in scientific and technological (S&T) innovation, strive to achieve new breakthroughs in cutting-edge fields such as big science, big data, artificial intelligence, and 5G, promote the implementation of projects in fields such as aviation, aerospace, smart manufacturing, and energy integration, actively carry out technical exchanges and industrial cooperation, and jointly enhance Chinese and Russian competitive advantages.


The third is cooperation to defend fairness and justice. As key forces in defeating fascism and maintaining the post-war international order, China and Russia will jointly call on the international community to remember history, cherish peace, and safeguard the hard-won fruits of victory. The two countries will actively participate in commemorating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, unswervingly safeguard the authority of the United Nations, support the strengthening of the role of the United Nations, safeguard multilateralism, defend international fairness and justice, and contribute advice and efforts to the improvement of global governance.


The fourth is the continuation of the friendship between the peoples into a new chapter. The Chinese and Russian people once forged an unbreakable friendship by giving their blood and lives in the joint struggle against fascist aggression. In the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, the friendship between the two countries has once again risen to such heights. Russian mainstream media continue to publish reports and articles supporting China’s fight against the epidemic, give high ratings to China’s positive efforts and important achievements in fighting the epidemic, and express firm confidence and support for Wuhan and the entire Chinese people to overcome the epidemic. Russian friends from all walks of life have spontaneously recorded videos to support the anti-epidemic actions of the Chinese people through online platforms. The message from the Russian people is “China, keep it up!” “Wuhan, keep it up!” These voices never cease, and they are deeply moving. The Moscow Zoo and Russian children actively participated in the online and offline publicity campaign “Quarantine the virus, but don’t quarantine love,” and the Russian artist Gelman presented the oil painting Line of Destiny to the Chinese Embassy in Russia, which symbolizes the strong mutual assistance between the two countries… The Chinese people reciprocated and expressed their firm support for Russia’s fight against the epidemic in various ways. Heilongjiang and other neighboring Chinese provinces and cities have provided assistance to various places in Russia through sister city channels, and Chinese companies such as Alibaba have provided urgently needed protective supplies to Russia. Face-to-face interaction fosters closer relations, and neighbors look out for each other’s safety and well-being. These two great neighboring countries, these two great nations, have been on friendly terms for generations. They watch out for and assist each other. There is no higher virtue!


Sino-Russian relations in the new era have accumulated rich experience, been guided by advanced ideas, have a solid foundation of public opinion, possess strong endogenous power, and conform to the development trend of the times. They will surely continue to climb new historical heights, set a benchmark for contemporary international relations, and contribute to the cause of human progress.


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Cite This Page

李辉 (Li Hui). "Sino-Russian Relations Embark on a New Journey [中俄关系迈上新征程]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in Foreign Affairs Journal [外交], January 31, 2020

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