Xi visits Moscow, issues joint statement
Notable omissions: the Arctic, India
March 19, 2023 was significant for two reasons: it saw Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow and marked the 20th anniversary of the disastrous Iraq war. The timing of Xi’s visit is almost certainly not a coincidence. With Western media, especially European media, fixated on the legacy of the Iraq war, Xi’s visit attracted less attention and ire that it otherwise would have - and should have. It is a grim irony that the PRC is instrumentally using the Iraq war anniversary to aid another catastrophic and deeply foolish war of choice.
I’ve included some comments on the PRC-Russia Joint Statement. More updates later this week. - Joe Webster
Table of contents:
India, the Arctic, and Central Asia: sore spots in the bilateral relationship
Joint Statements in English and Chinese
1) India, the Arctic, and Central Asia: sore spots in the bilateral relationship
PRC-Russia statements are often more notable for what’s omitted than what’s included. The Arctic and, especially, India are contentious issues in the relationship but were barely mentioned in the joint statement.
Central Asia was only directly mentioned once, and included a reference to Central Asian sovereignty. There were several mentions of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union. Central Asia is a sensitive subject in bilateral relations, and the two often compete in the region, particularly in energy. Yet Beijing and Moscow also share many common interests in Central Asia.
Other areas, including the Arctic and India, may be more awkward for Beijing and Moscow.
The Arctic According to the March 21, 2023, joint statement, “the two sides maintain that the Arctic should continue to be a place of peace, stability and constructive cooperation.”
Conversely, the February 2022 joint statement had much more to say: “The sides agreed to continue consistently intensifying practical cooperation for the sustainable development of the Arctic.
The sides call upon all countries to strengthen cooperation in sustainable transport, actively build contacts and share knowledge in the construction of transport facilities, including smart transport and sustainable transport, development and use of Arctic routes, as well as to develop other areas to support global post-epidemic recovery.”
India and China have literally come to blows in the past three years, yet the document has little to say about the subcontinent. In both the February 2022 and March 2023 joint statements, India is mentioned only once, in the context of the Russia-India-China format.
2) Joint Statements in English and Chinese
President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin Sign Joint Statement of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation on Deepening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for the New Era and Stress Settling the Ukraine Crisis Through Dialogue – PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs [English language]
On the afternoon of 21 March local time, President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin jointly signed and released the Joint Statement of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation on Deepening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for the New Era at the Kremlin in Moscow.
On the Ukraine issue, the two sides believe that the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter must be observed and international law must be respected. The Russian side speaks positively of China’s objective and impartial position on the Ukraine issue. The two sides oppose the practice by any country or group of countries to seek advantages in the military, political and other areas to the detriment of the legitimate security interests of other countries. [Comment: An obvious reference to NATO. No word on if Beijing and Moscow will apply this principle to themselves] The Russian side reaffirms its commitment to the resumption of peace talks as soon as possible, which China appreciates. The Russian side welcomes China’s willingness to play a positive role for the political and diplomatic settlement of the Ukraine crisis and welcomes the constructive proposals set forth in China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis. The two sides point out that to settle the Ukraine crisis, the legitimate security concerns of all countries must be respected, bloc confrontation should be prevented and fanning the flames avoided. The two sides stress that responsible dialogue is the best way for appropriate solutions. To this end, the international community should provide support to the relevant constructive efforts. The two sides call for stopping all moves that lead to tensions and the protraction of fighting to prevent the crisis from getting worse or even out of control. The two sides oppose any unilateral sanctions unauthorized by the UN Security Council.
Comment: That is the entirety of the English-language version. Long-time readers of The Report will recognize that the PRC MFA often releases different Chinese and English-language versions of the same document. For instance, PRC MFA didn’t release an English-language version of the two sides’ Feb 2022 joint statement. It appears they’ve learned from past practice and are issuing this sanitized version instead, which is designed to appeal to persuadable audiences, especially in the developing world.
Joint Statement between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation on Deepening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination in the New Era – PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, [Chinese-language, mostly machine-translated]
With the unremitting efforts of both sides, the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era has reached the highest level in history and continues to move forward. The two sides reaffirmed their compliance with the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation signed on July 16, 2001, and the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation signed on 20 June 2021. To develop bilateral relations in accordance with the principles and spirit established in the Joint Statement on International Relations and Global Sustainable Development in the New Era issued by the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation on February 4, 2022.
The two sides pointed out that the Sino-Russian relationship is not similar to the military and political alliance during the Cold War, but transcends this model of state relations, and has the nature of non-alignment, non-confrontation, and non-targeting of third countries. The China-Russia relationship is mature, stable, independent, and tenacious. It has withstood the test of the new crown epidemic and the vicissitudes of the international situation. It is not affected by external influences and has shown vitality. The friendship from generation to generation between the two peoples has a solid foundation, and the all-round cooperation between the two countries has broad prospects. Russia needs a prosperous and stable China, and China needs a strong and successful Russia.
China and Russia regard each other as priority cooperative partners, always respect each other and treat each other as equals, which has become a model of major power relations today. Under the guidance of the heads of state [Comment: Important expression of support for Putin], the two sides have maintained close exchanges at all levels, conducted in-depth communication on major issues of mutual concern, enhanced mutual trust, and ensured that bilateral relations are always running at a high level. Both sides are willing to further deepen bilateral relations and develop dialogue mechanisms in various fields.
The two sides pointed out that the current world changes are accelerating and the international pattern is undergoing profound adjustments, as
Peace, development, cooperation, and win-win results are an irresistible historical trend. The formation of a multi-polar international pattern is accelerating. There are more and more regional powers that are strong and determined to defend their legitimate rights and interests.
[双方指出，当前世界变局加速演进，国际格局深刻调整，和平、发展、合作、共赢是不可阻挡的历史潮流，多极化国际格局加速形成，新兴市场和发展中国家地位普遍增强，具有全球影响力、决心捍卫本国正当权益的地区大国不断增多。Comment: Interestingly, 时代潮流, or “trend of the times” seems to falling out of favor in PRC state messaging.]
At the same time, hegemonism, unilateralism, and protectionism are still rampant, and it is unacceptable to replace recognized principles and norms of international law with a "rule-based order".
The two sides emphasized that consolidating and deepening the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era is a strategic choice made by both sides based on their respective national conditions, which is in line with the fundamental interests of the two countries and their peoples, in line with the development trend of the times, and is not subject to external influence. The parties will:
——Guided by the consensus reached by the two heads of state, ensure that bilateral relations always move in the right direction. Comment: Notable that this is framed in very personalistic terms.
——We should give each other firm support in safeguarding our respective core interests, first of all on issues of sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and development. Comment: How is a core interest defined? Moscow presumably defines its invasion of Ukraine as a “core interest.” Russia has already previously acknowledged that Taiwan is a PRC core interest [Kremlin link to their Feb 4, 2022 joint statement here.] Notably, this formulation isn’t different from the Feb 2022 joint statement.
——Uphold the principle of mutual benefit, continue to deepen and expand practical cooperation in the process of modernization, achieve common development and prosperity, and better benefit the Chinese and Russian peoples.
—— Promote mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples, and continuously consolidate the social and public opinion foundation of the friendship between the two countries for generations. Comment: This could be interesting, in practice. Will Moscow continue to publicize, for domestic audiences, the arrest of PRC spies, as it did in July 2022?
——Advance the multi-polarization of the world, economic globalization, and the democratization of international relations, and promote the development of global governance in a more just and reasonable direction.
The two sides pointed out that countries have different histories, cultures and national conditions, and each has the right to independently choose its development path. There is no "democracy" that is superior to others. Both sides oppose the imposition of national values on others, oppose the use of ideology to draw lines, oppose the hypocritical narrative of the so-called "democracy against authoritarianism", and oppose the use of democracy and freedom as a pretext and a political tool to put pressure on other countries and politics. Russia attaches great importance to China's global civilization initiative. Comment: More on the global civilization initiative in the years to come, most likely.
The two sides pointed out that realizing the enjoyment of human rights by all is the common pursuit of human society. All countries have the right to independently choose the path of human rights development. Different civilizations and countries should respect, tolerate, communicate with and learn from each other. The two sides will unswervingly advance the cause of human rights in their own countries and the cause of human rights in the world.
Russia supports China in realizing Chinese-style modernization. China supports Russia in realizing its national development goals before 2030.
Both sides oppose external forces interfering in internal affairs.
The Russian side reaffirms its adherence to the one-China principle, recognizes Taiwan as an inalienable part of China's territory, opposes any form of "Taiwan independence", and firmly supports China's measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The two sides agreed to strengthen exchanges of foreign-related rule of law and legislative experience, and provide legal guarantees for the development of Sino-Russian relations and foreign cooperation between the two countries.
The two sides will continue to carry out mutual trust dialogue between the central government and its subordinate agencies, as well as high-level representatives under the framework of the strategic security consultation and law enforcement security cooperation mechanism. The two sides will promote exchanges between the political parties of the two countries.
The two sides agreed to negotiate and hold an annual meeting of ministers of public security and interior affairs to strengthen law enforcement cooperation in preventing "color revolutions", combating the "three forces" including the "East Turkmenistan Movement", transnational organized crimes, economic crimes, and drug crimes.
3. The two sides will strengthen coordination, implement precise policies, and proceed from a strategic perspective to effectively improve the level of practical cooperation between the two countries in various fields, so as to consolidate the material foundation of bilateral relations and benefit the two peoples. Comment: This is in the third section of the joint statement
The two sides will forge a closer energy partnership, support enterprises of the two sides in promoting energy cooperation projects in oil and gas, coal, electricity, and nuclear energy, and promote the implementation of initiatives that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including the use of low-emission energy and renewable energy. The two parties will jointly maintain international energy security including key cross-border infrastructure, maintain the stability of the supply chain of the energy product industry chain, promote fair energy transition and low-carbon development based on the principle of technology neutrality, and jointly contribute to the long-term healthy and stable development of the global energy market make a contribution.
The two sides will continue to carry out practical cooperation in civil aviation manufacturing, automobile manufacturing, shipbuilding, metallurgy and other fields of common interest
[双方将继续在民用航空制造、汽车制造、船舶制造、冶金和其他共同感兴趣领域开展务实合作。] Comment: No mention of the PRC providing spare parts to Russian civilian planes. Aeroflot reportedly started cannibalizing planes for parts last year.
Russia highly appreciates China's successful hosting of the 14th BRICS Summit. The two sides are willing to work together with other BRICS members to implement the consensus reached at previous BRICS leaders' meetings, deepen practical cooperation in various fields, actively promote discussions on the expansion of BRICS countries and the New Development Bank, and actively carry out "BRICS+" cooperation and cooperation. BRICS peripheral dialogues safeguard the common interests of emerging markets and developing countries.
The two sides emphasized the significance of the "Joint Statement of the Leaders of the Five Nuclear-Weapon States on the Prevention of Nuclear War and Avoidance of an Arms Race" and reaffirmed that "nuclear war cannot be won or won". The two sides call on all signatories of the joint statement to abide by the concept of the statement, effectively reduce the risk of nuclear war, and avoid any armed conflict among nuclear-weapon states. Against the backdrop of deteriorating relations among nuclear-weapon states, measures to reduce strategic risks should be organically integrated into overall efforts to ease tensions, build more constructive relations, and minimize conflicts in the security field. All nuclear-weapon states should refrain from deploying nuclear weapons abroad and withdraw nuclear weapons deployed abroad. Comment: This is aimed at the United States and other Western powers, which extend a nuclear umbrella across NATO and to Asian allies. Would either Moscow or Beijing conceivably deploy nuclear weapons abroad? In this statement Beijing appears to be foreswearing ever extending its nuclear umbrella to the Middle East.
The two sides reaffirmed that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is the cornerstone of the international nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation system. The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to the Treaty and will continue to work together to maintain and strengthen the Treaty and maintain world peace and security.
The two sides expressed serious concern about the consequences and risks of the establishment of the "Trilateral Security Partnership" (AUKUS) by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia and related nuclear-powered submarine cooperation plans on regional strategic stability. The two sides strongly urge AUKUS member states to strictly fulfill their obligations of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, and maintain regional peace, stability and development.
The two sides believe that the purposes and principles of the UN Charter must be observed and international law must be respected. The Russian side spoke positively of China's objective and fair stance on the Ukraine issue. The two sides oppose any country or group of countries harming the legitimate security interests of other countries in pursuit of military, political and other advantages.
Comment: This is a rather stunning comment in the context of the Ukrainian invasion.
The two sides urge NATO to abide by its commitment as a regional and defensive organization, and call on NATO to respect the sovereignty, security, interests, and diversity of civilizations, history and culture of other countries, and view the peaceful development of other countries objectively and fairly.
[双方敦促北约恪守作为区域性、防御性组织的承诺，呼吁北约尊重他国主权、安全、利益及文明多样性、历史文化多样性，客观公正看待他国和平发展。] Comment: diversity of civilizations will be a talking point in the years ahead
The two sides expressed serious concern over NATO's continued strengthening of military security ties with Asia-Pacific countries, which undermines regional peace and stability. The two sides oppose patching together a closed and exclusive group structure in the Asia-Pacific region, creating group politics and camp confrontation. The two sides pointed out that the United States adheres to the Cold War mentality and pursues the "Indo-Pacific Strategy", which has a negative impact on peace and stability in the region. China and Russia are committed to building an equal, open, and inclusive Asia-Pacific security system that does not target third countries, so as to maintain regional peace, stability, and prosperity.
The two sides believe that maintaining peace and stability in Northeast Asia conforms to the interests of all parties concerned. The two sides oppose the destruction of regional peace and stability by military forces outside the region, and call on relevant countries to abandon the Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice, exercise restraint, and refrain from taking actions that endanger regional security.
The two sides expressed concern about the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and urged relevant parties to maintain calm and restraint, and strive to ease the situation. The US should take concrete actions to respond to the legitimate and reasonable concerns of the DPRK and create conditions for the resumption of dialogue. The two sides have always insisted on maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula, including the realization of denuclearization on the peninsula, and jointly advocated the establishment of a peace and security mechanism on the peninsula. They believe that sanctions and pressure are neither desirable nor feasible, and that dialogue and consultation are the only way to resolve the peninsula issue. The two sides will continue to communicate and cooperate closely, and continue to promote the political settlement process of the peninsula issue in accordance with the "dual-track" approach and the principle of phased and simultaneous progress. The two sides call on relevant parties to actively respond to China and Russia's joint efforts to promote peace talks and play a constructive role in this process.
The two sides advocate maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East, support countries in the region in strengthening their strategic autonomy, resolve hotspot issues through dialogue and consultation, and oppose interference in the internal affairs of countries in the region. The two sides welcome the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran through dialogue, and support a comprehensive and just solution to the Palestinian issue on the basis of the "two-state solution". Support Syria's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and promote a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned package of political settlement processes. Advocates maintaining Libya's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and promoting a package of political settlement process led by and owned by Libyans. The two sides will strengthen communication and docking on their respective security initiatives for the Gulf region, and work together to build a collective security framework for the Gulf region.
The two sides believe that the Collective Security Treaty Organization has made positive contributions to regional security, and China and the Collective Security Treaty Organization have the potential to cooperate in maintaining regional peace and stability.
The two sides are willing to strengthen cooperation, support Central Asian countries in safeguarding their national sovereignty, guarantee national development, and oppose external forces' promotion of "color revolutions" and interference in regional affairs.
The two sides will strengthen communication and coordination on African affairs, maintain a sound and healthy atmosphere for international cooperation in Africa, support African countries' efforts to independently resolve African issues, and contribute to the cause of peaceful development on the African continent. China and Russia will continue to conduct consultations on Latin American affairs, strengthen communication and dialogue, attach importance to developing bilateral relations with Latin American and Caribbean countries, and continue to promote stability and prosperity in the region.
The two sides maintain that the Arctic should continue to be a place of peace, stability and constructive cooperation.
Comment: Interesting that the two sides didn’t have much to say on the Arctic issue.
Joe Webster is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and editor of the China-Russia Report. This article represents his own personal opinion.
The China-Russia Report is an independent, nonpartisan newsletter covering political, economic, and security affairs within and between China and Russia. All articles, comments, op-eds, etc represent only the personal opinion of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the position(s) of The China-Russia Report.