Chinese President Xi Jinping seems to have been rattled by US President-elect’s unexpected war cry against Beijing. Xi was expecting Biden to go soft on China, but on Monday, the Democrat slammed Beijing for “abuses” on trade, technology and human rights. He also spoke about “security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region” by cornering it from all sides with “like-minded partners and allies.”
Shocked by Biden’s remarks, Xi tried to play the Russia card and called up the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. However, the 67 years-old Chinese President was in for another shock as Putin doesn’t seem convinced with the idea of a Beijing-Moscow axis in face of Biden’s threats against China.
Xi’s paranoia has been triggered by Biden’s sudden show of animosity towards China. The US President-elect seemed to reiterate Trump’s policy of forming a strong anti-China alliance in the Indo-Pacific.
Biden said, “On any issue that matters to the US-China relationship — from pursuing a foreign policy for the middle class, including a trade and economic agenda that protects American workers, our intellectual property, and the environment — to ensuring security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, to championing human rights — we are stronger and more effective when we are flanked by nations that share our vision for the future of our world.”
Xi’s phone call to Putin was, therefore, more in the nature of a response to Biden’s threats of strengthening the Indo-Pacific alliance that is taking an increasingly anti-China form. During his phone call with Putin, Xi said that the Sino-Russian “has strong independent value”, in a bid to show solidarity in face of the incoming Biden administration.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry statement also quoted the Chinese President as saying, “Sino-Russian relations are not affected by changes in the international situation or interference by any other factors. Strengthening strategic cooperation between China and Russia can effectively resist any attempt to suppress and divide the two countries.”
However, Putin’s reply was at least lukewarm, if not disappointing. He said that the two countries can continue to support each other on issues of major concern and enhance strategic coordination and cooperation. Notably, the Russian President chose to restrict his remarks to the bilateral relationship between Beijing and Moscow. Any promise on withstanding any “attempt to suppress and divide the two countries,” was remarkably missing.
However, an even bigger setback came China’s way on Monday when Russia revised its COVID-19 death toll. Till now, the Putin administration was playing down the Pandemic’s severity in Russia, seemingly in an attempt to restrict anti-China sentiment in the world’s largest country.
But now Moscow has said that Russia’s death toll is over three times higher than what it had previously reported. Now, it has emerged that more than 186,000 Russian citizens have succumbed to the China-made virus.
The Sino-Russian relationship was always more of a circumstantial relationship than well-meaning friendship. Anyhow, the latest revelation about the high Chinese virus death toll in Russia is only going to fuel further Sinophobia in the Russian Federation. The signs are clear- Putin isn’t ready to let his country get represented as a Chinese ally.
Putin’s hesitance against getting clubbed as a strategic Chinese partner is getting instigated by escalating tensions between Russia and China over the Arctic region.
In the recent past, China announced its plans to dominate Arctic trading routes by launching satellite. And Russia responded by test-firing a Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile in the snow-covered region, testing an anti-satellite missile soon after and also reopening a Soviet-era facility for testing small weapons in extreme Arctic conditions.
So, Putin cannot trust China. And therefore he has developed cold feet in face of Xi’s bid to play the Russia card in face of Biden’s threats.