‘Unequal partnership’ as Xi and Putin meet, says prof

China occupies the “dominant position” in its relations with Russia, and the President Xi Jinping is no longer ready for Moscow “to do as it sees fit”, according to a political analyst.

“It’s an unequal partnership, and China is dominant in the relationship,” said Matthew Sussex, associate professor at Griffith University in Australia. He attributed it to the fact that Russia needs China more than China needs Russia.

These comments come the day after the meeting between the Chinese leader and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Uzbekistan, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Samarkand. It was the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since Russia launched an unprovoked war against neighboring Ukraine in February.

At the meeting, Xi said Beijing was ‘ready to work with Russia’ so they can support each other’s ‘core interests’, according to State-sponsored Chinese media Xinhua, which listed the areas of cooperation as trade, agriculture and connectivity.

But Sussex stressed that a China-Russia partnership is not necessarily on an equal footing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (right), Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Mongolian President Ukhnaa Khurelsukh (unseen) hold a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Leaders Summit in Samarkand on September 15, 2022. China and Russia’s relations are not necessarily on equal footing, said Griffith University associate professor Matthew Sussex.

Alexander Demyanchuk | AFP | Getty Images

Whereas China buys cheap oil from RussiaBeijing has consistently denied providing all arms in Moscow.

Sussex explained that this could be an indication that Beijing has “real concerns and real dissatisfaction” with Russia over the conduct of the conflict.

The conflict has so far claimed an estimated 34,000 lives, according to an August report New York Times report who said that Ukraine had lost 9,000 soldiers while Russia had lost around 25,000 battlefield lives. Moscow has repeatedly called the attack on Ukraine a “special operation”.

Still, the strategic partnership between China and Russia will continue to exist, said Xiaoyu Pu, an associate professor at the University of Nevada.

He said the alliance is such that the two powers can counter “Western hegemony”, a term used to describe the dominance of the West – politically, socially or economically – in the global community.

“China needs Russia’s type of strategic partnership to counterbalance… Western hegemony, so China and Russia will continue to trade to maintain some sort of normal economic relationship,” he said.

“Symbolic support”

Russia and China organized a week-long joint military exercise in the Sea of ​​Japan with other troops like India, Laos and Mongolia last month. Both countries held joint exercises in recent yearsincluding in the Russian Far East.

However, Pu pointed out that “the relationship has limits.”

“China will not provide any military support … to Russia, so I think China has its own reservations about Russia’s war,” he said. “This Russia-China partnership is not a form of military alliance. It’s more… [a] symbolic support.”

When they last met face-to-face in February, Xi and Putin concluded a partnership “without limits”. They promised each other diplomatic and political support and agreed not to have “prohibited” areas of cooperation.

The Xi-Putin meeting shows that the Russian president has

Likewise, Sussex pointed to inhibitions Beijing may have, as evidenced by China’s reluctance to supply arms to Russia.

Since the beginning of September, Ukraine took over more than 6,000 square kilometers of territory from Russian control, including the second-largest city of Kharkiv, its president said.

“I think Xi will probably be on the sidelines for the foreseeable future,” Sussex said. “And yet it hurts the Russians considerably in the pursuit of the war.”

“The ‘limitless’ partnership has limits, and increasingly those limits are being set by Beijing rather than Moscow,” Mr Sussex said. “China is no longer ready for Russia to do as it pleases.”

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