China tense about Trump’s “complex game” of mending fences with Russia
BEIJING: China is getting increasingly worried about the possibility of a thaw in the relationship between the United States and Russia after president-elect Donald Trump takes office next month. Any improvement in the relationship would seriously hurt Beijing’s foreign policy goals including its ability to deal with neighbors like Japan and India, experts said.
“There is a lot of anxiety in Beijing that Russians who have all along taken an anti-US stance may start to think differently,” Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council told TNN. “If the US and Russia come closer, it implies that China-Russia relationship would be affected,” he said.
Beijing’s concerns were recently reflected in the People’s Daily, the official organ of the Chinese Communist Party, which published a long commentary acclaiming Beijing’s close relationship with Moscow before ending with an ominous paragraph, which said,”Looking into the next year, the international situation may become even more complicated, thus posing greater challenges for the development of both China and Russia”.
Trump has publicly expressed his admiration for Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. He enhanced his charm offensive by recently naming Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson, who has a personal relationship with Putin, as secretary of state last week.
Russian commentators including Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, have said there is a strong possibility of US and Russia mending fences during the Trump presidency. The next US president might lift economic sanctions against Russia, which has been in dire financial condition since the sharp fall in the prices of oil, its major export.
Chinese concerns were reflected by Wang Yi, the country’s foreign minister who said he expected a “shake-up in global governance” while asserting that China will manage the situation well. “We will lead the way amid a shake-up in global governance, we will take hold of the situation amid international chaos, we will protect our interests amid intense and complex games,” he said in an interview to the Peoiple’s Daily. “Only if China and the United States respect each and give consideration to other’s core interests and key concerns can there be long-term, stable cooperation, and effect win-win mutual benefit,” he said.
An important issue is how will these developments play out for India.
Blank pointed out that any changes in this relationship is of great importance to New Delhi because Russia is a major source of military equipment for India. “India is gradually and steadily moving away from Russia, and getting closer to the US. This is a matter of concern for both Russia and China,” he said.
Analysts say Moscow would try to preserve its arms market in India even if means irritating China, which is an important economic partner. On its part, China is trying to find ways to compensate Russia’s future losses by introducing the arms market in Pakistan. Beijing has invited Russia to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Chinese officials are also taking Pakistani leaders with them in meetings with Russian officials in recent weeks.
Chinese analysts are pointing out that Trump has done what is unusual for a US politician, which is publicly confess his admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin. “It is expected that bilateral ties will see signs of relief at the start of Trump’s term of office,” the government controlled Global Times of Beijing said in an analysis.
Not just Trump, even friend Putin caused some serious uneasiness in Beijing when he flew to Japan to meet its Shinzo Abe in a resort. The two leaders inked $300 billion worth of business deals although there was no headway in their border negotations. This is the first time that a Russian president visited Japan for bilateral talks in 11 years. Japan is capable of offering sufficient business to Russia to reduce its reliance on China, experts said.
China is still trying to come to terms with Trump, who is seen in Beijing as a disrupter of the basic ideas and themes on which China-US relationship is based. Trump recently challenged the one-China policy concerning Taiwan although Washington has accepted it over the past decades.
Initially, Beijing saw Trump as a major opponent of China’s global expansion in trade and investment. He was expected to focus on the business side of the relationship and do what he can to stop China from “stealing American jobs”. But the president-elect sent shock waves through the Chinese leadership when he challenged their one-China policy. China regards Taiwan as its own territory, and cannot tolerate anyone questioning this “one-China” policy.
“Trump’s game is a game of nerve which relies on uncertainty and unpredictability,” said People’s Daily in another commentary. “His game of nerve is not only dangerous for China-U.S. relations, but dangerous for world peace and prosperity,” it said adding that, “Trump’s us-versus-them view is simplistic, outdated, and dangerous”.
Chinese experts also point out that differences between Washington and Moscow are far too big and complex to be resolved easily.
“In the first place, Washington and Moscow may thaw their frosty antagonism in the intractable Syrian issue as both Trump and Putin have the same will to strike against the Islamic State. But they can hardly compromise with each other when it comes to the distribution of power within Syria in the post-war period,” the Global Times said.