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Superweapon Brothers

Photo by Vitolda Klein on Unsplash

The new countdown in Sino-Russian relations, which began after the Chinese parliament in March of this year approved the country’s development strategy for the next decade and reshuffled the highest echelons of power in Beijing, dictates the need for a new reading of the old immutable truths of the strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing.

It would seem that what new trends, nuances and accents could we be talking about! The relationship between the two poles of the multipolar world – Russia and China – has long been well known to both their partners in the Eurasian space, and their opponents in the West.

In this partnership, which is characterized by a rare for relations between modern states sensibility, consistency and predictability, as well as a willingness not to emphasize their national egoism, everything is clear as a bell.

Therefore, no surprises are to be expected.

Nevertheless, few believed that China’s new Defense Minister Li Shanfu would be the second senior Chinese leader to visit Moscow soon after the March session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) had turned yet another page in the history of the People’s Republic of China.

Just three weeks before Li Shanfu’s trip, the Chinese head of state – President Xi Jinping – paid a state visit to Russia following a similar scenario.

For Comrade Xi, it was also the first foreign trip after the parliamentary session that launched a new political cycle in China and extended the era of his rule.

Both trips, which became a kind of communicating vessels, acquired a special symbolism and aroused great interest in the world due to several factors at once.

The first is the anticipation of critical events on the Ukrainian battlefield. The new Chinese defense minister, who is under U.S. sanctions, traveled to Moscow just as the world is expecting a Ukrainian counteroffensive any day now. While Kiev gathers its forces (or rather, it gathers them from the Western world by the thread), all the geopolitical wizards and witches are whispering their conspiracies, hoping to cast a spell on Russia and wishing it defeat. There could well be a situation where the beginning of the decisive battle in Ukraine would coincide with Li Shanfu’s stay in Moscow.

But knowing very well that the most dramatic events of the Ukrainian conflict could begin at any moment, Li Shanfu nevertheless did not wait and came to Moscow just now.

During his visit, which opened with a meeting with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, he not only held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, but also visited Russian military educational institutions, where he learned about the experience of training military personnel. It was inconceivable that the Chinese defense minister would have walked the corridors of power in Kiev like this these days and chatted with Zelensky, Reznikov, or Zaluzhny, as dear friends.

The second factor that inflamed passions in the world in connection with Li Shanfu’s visit to Moscow was the continuing leaks of information about the possibility of supplying Chinese arms to Moscow.

In spite of Beijing’s numerous official denials, this topic has been endlessly discussed and is still acute. On the eve of Li Shanfu’s visit to Moscow, the Washington Post reported that declassified Pentagon documents included a memo from the Director of National Intelligence based on wiretaps of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. According to The Washington Post, the document showed that China had allegedly approved lethal assistance to Russia earlier this year and was planning to disguise military equipment as civilian items.

Earlier, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield recalled in an interview with CNN that the United States warned China of the consequences of possibly providing Russia with lethal weapons for use in the conflict in Ukraine. According to her, this would be a red line.

While in Moscow, Li Shanfu himself did not comment on this roasted, overcooked topic in rancid information oil. Why make excuses for something you did not do? But during his visit the Chinese position was once again voiced in an interview with TASS by Liu Xiaoming, special representative of the Chinese government for the Korean Peninsula.

“China, I will stress once again, -is not the instigator or participant in the Ukrainian crisis and has never provided military weapons to any party to the Ukrainian conflict, – said the Chinese diplomat, adding that the US has no right to tell Beijing who it may or may not supply weapons to.

And the third factor, which made Li Shanfu’s visit to Moscow an extraordinary event, – was the need to bring military and technical cooperation between Moscow and Beijing to a new level (not to be confused with the non-existent Chinese arms deliveries during the Ukrainian conflict).

“We work actively on the military side, regularly exchange information useful to us, cooperate in the sphere of military-technical cooperation, hold joint exercises, and in different theaters: in the Far East region, in Europe, at sea, on land, and in the air,” Vladimir Putin said when receiving the Chinese minister in the Kremlin. “We have very strong relations. They are superior to the military-political alliances of the Cold War era, are based on the principles of non-alignment and are not directed against third parties,” Li Shanfu gave his assessment of the phenomenon of Russia-China ties.

Vladimir Putin mentioned joint military exercises with China not incidentally.

For example, in August 2021, half a year before the military operation in Ukraine, Russia and China held the exercise “West / Interaction 2021”. The peculiarity of the maneuvers, which involved about 13,000 servicemen and almost 500 pieces of equipment, was not only their scale.

For the first time in history, Russian participants were able to use Chinese weapons in the exercise.

Immediately after the maneuvers “West / Interaction 2021” the SCO exercise “Peace Mission – 2021” was held on the territory of Russia. In the same year, Moscow invited SCO countries to participate in its strategic command post exercise “West 2021.

The peak of Russian-Chinese maneuvers on the eve of the special military operation in Ukraine came in the fall of 2021, when the Chinese Navy held joint exercises with the Russian Navy in the Western Pacific in October.

Five Chinese and five Russian warships passed through the Tsugaru Strait separating the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido for the first time. After that, in November of the same year, Russian and Chinese strategic aviation aircraft conducted joint patrols over the waters of the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea.

In today’s harsh geopolitical realities of today, calling Russia an “imminent threat” and China a “strategic challenge” resorted to by the US and its NATO allies in the Asian region pushes Moscow and Beijing to seek new forms of cooperation. This rapprochement is fully facilitated by the West’s continued military support for Ukraine and an increasingly active consideration of forceful scenarios of confrontation with China over Taiwan.

Following Li Shanfu’s visit to Moscow, Russian and Chinese military delegations signed a memorandum of understanding between the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia and the National Defense Academy of the People’s Liberation Army of China, which describes the relationship between them as “twinned. However, Russia and China, which have become superweapon brothers in the 21st century, not only conduct joint exercises and develop military-technical ties in all directions.

Their main superweapon is the superweapon of common global responsibility and common sense, which their increasingly likely adversary does not have.

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