Russia and China may be closer than they’ve been in decades, but the two countries don’t have identical interests, according to the director of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States.
His comments came days after the two leaders announced a “no limits” partnership in Beijing on the day of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony.
That joint declaration may be a milestone in the relationship between Russia and China, Daly told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Monday.
“This came very close to being the announcement of a quasi-alliance,” he said, adding that the two countries are “standing shoulder to shoulder” to counter the United States, but that “China has a long standing non-alliance policy — so they don’t want to use the word ally.”
“They are now closer together than ever, probably than for the past 70 years,” he said.
However, their alignment isn’t complete: Russia sells arms to Vietnam and to India, both countries that have had territorial disputes with China in recent years. Russia hasn’t supported all of China’s moves in the South China Sea, a body of water that is commercially critical for Vietnam, Japan and others but most of which China claims as its own territory.
For its part, China walked a fine line over Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea in 2014, abstaining from votes on U.N. resolutions regarding Crimea’s international status.
Beijing has pledged to stand with Moscow in its demand that Ukraine not be allowed to join the NATO alliance, but Daly said it’s not in Xi’s interest to be dragged into military tensions at the Ukrainian border.
China has good relations with Ukraine and would prefer that Russia does not invade its neighbor, he said.
Around 100,000 Russian troops have been deployed along the country’s border with Ukraine, an evolving democracy that was once part of the Soviet Union along with Russia. The military buildup has provoked fears of a Russian invasion that White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan said could happen “any day now.”
If China supports Russia, it would have a price to pay in the form of backlash from the United States and its allies, said Bonny Lin, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“China, to the extent possible, would like to not bear those costs. So China would prefer the crisis to continue as is, or de-escalate a bit,” she told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”
Still, China’s relationship with Russia won’t fracture if Putin attacks Ukraine, she predicted. China’s foreign ministry issued a statement after the leaders met, saying that “the two countries have never and will never waver in this choice” to work as partners.
The “no limits” partnership between Russia and China opens up the possibility of…
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