China-Russia ties on high note

Bobby M. Tuazon
Posted by CenPEG / 31 March 2023

World politics is increasingly polarized as China and Russia deepen their broad and strategic partnership including security relations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, together with a high-level entourage, held a series of meetings and private talks with Russian officials in Moscow, on March 21-23. The two major powers share common interests like economic and energy cooperation – with Beijing as a major importer of Russian gas – trade which rose to $190bn last year as well as security relations. Meetings between Xi and Russia’s Putin affirmed the mutual need to strengthen coordination, boost trade in energy, resources, and electromechanical products, enhance the resilience of industrial and supply chains, expand cooperation in information technology, digital economy, agriculture and trade in services. Russia also agreed to boost China’s pressing need for arms technology now that Asia’s regional power faces challenges pose by the US and its allies in the South China Sea and over Taiwan.

The deals between the two leaders have profound implications. First, they affirm that the two powers have one of the strongest bilateral relations today. They agreed to support each other on issues concerning their core interests, and resist meddling in internal affairs by external forces – the US They also agreed to enhance coordination on global affairs, especially in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) bloc, hegemonism and power politics, and advance the trend toward a multipolar world.

China brings into these agreements a hard-earned international reputation having brokered recently the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia (SA) and has proposed a peace path on the Ukraine war to which Putin has agreed. Over the past 10 years, there has been a surge of Chinese economic presence through trade and investment in Africa, the Middle East, as well as Asia. Soon to join BRICS – where China is a leading founder – are Algeria, Argentina, Iran as well as Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, SA, and Turkiye.

These strides are posing challenges to the US, its European allies, and NATO. For one, the US has been uneasy with the deepening partnership between Beijing and Moscow. China is now the world’s largest economy and Russia sixth in Purchasing Power Parity terms. Both are also major military powers. A mock war conducted by the CSIS in March reveals that neither the US nor China will win in a confrontation over Taiwan.

In the long haul, however, China emerges as a world power with the US decline imminent. In the realm of realism, the power that has the economic advantage looms as the winner while another competing power that relies more on military power without a viable economic base will lose.

Closer at home, this is the reality ignored by the Marcos government. Since Day 1 of his presidency, Marcos, Jr. has restored a pivot to the US foreign policy. The pivot envisions the opening of nine military facilities for US forward deployed forces including a number in northern Luzon closer to Taiwan. Marcos also agreed to increase the number of joint arms drills with some of these held in Palawan overlooking the South China Sea – where territories are disputed by China as well as the Philippines and other claimant countries. But the sea has also seen the increase of US sea maneuvers at times provoking near skirmishes with the Chinese. The Marcos regime’s new alliance with the US has sent alarm bells to China which may lead Beijing to revisit the deals both countries signed during the Marcos visit in early January.

This has also incited a public “sibling rivalry” between the president and Sen. Imee Marcos. Senator Marcos accused the Marcos, Jr. government of needlessly provoking China and, by granting American troops access to northern bases, potentially dragging the Philippines into a major feud in the future.

The senator first unveiled policy skirmishes with her brother last year
in a speech at the CSIS forum in Washington DC. In her talk, Imee rejected alignment with the US against China in favor of a rational track. She warned against cold war “melodrama”, warning her hosts “do not make us pick between the US and China”. She also backed plans to “re-examine,” the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), whilst expressing the need to “open the door to broad engagement with China”. 

Indeed, world politics is complex but domestic politics is even more complicated and amusing.

(Prof.) Bobby Tuazon is Director for Policy Studies on think tank CenPEG and used to teach in UP Manila specializing in East Asia and world politics.


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