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Xi aims to institutionalize bilateral ties “between our countries and peoples”
Beijing decides “all-weather friends” [全天候] is too provocative
With Putin’s hold on power seemingly less secure than it was a month ago, Beijing is emphasizing to Russian elites that it seeks ties with Moscow due to an alignment of fundamental national interests. While Beijing is still expressing support for Putin, it’s also underscoring the non-personal aspects of the Sino-Russian bilateral relationship in the wake of the Wagner “mutiny plus” (credit to Michael Kofman for that apt phrase) and the resulting uncertainty this creates in Russian elite politics.
During Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko’s recent visit to Beijing, Xi framed Sino-Russian relations as a “strategic choice made by the two countries based on the fundamental interests of their respective countries and peoples.” [italics mine] This formulation, ”发展中俄关系是两国基于各自国家和人民根本利益作出的战略选择,” is new.
Matviyenko largely echoed Xi’s framing and appeared to understand the message Xi was transmitting. On the other hand, there was one key . Matviyenko said that "China will consistently and steadily continue to cooperate with the Russian Federation, to maintain the friendship that exists between our countries and peoples," [italics mine again]. There’s a wide gulf between “fundamental interests” and “friendship,” although it’s entirely possible that Matviyenko’s spoken comments were clumsy rather than pointed.
Despite its attempt to institutionalize the relationship, it appears that the PRC has abandoned calling Russia an “all-weather friend,” as it did briefly in 2021. As The Report noted in a prior edition, Beijing appears to use the “all-weather friend” [全天候] phrase to signify bilateral relations will continue regardless of changes to domestic politics – or, in their formulation, “under the test of various conditions.” The PRC applies the “all-weather friend” designation to countries, such as Pakistan, that are clearly subordinate to Beijing.
Accordingly, Beijing’s new framing of the Sino-Russian relationship – and avoidance of the “all-weather friend” designation – appears aimed at institutionalizing ties and de-emphasizing the Xi-Putin personal relationship while also assuaging Russian anxieties about a junior partnership.
Bilateral Political Ties
Xi Jinping pointed out that with the joint efforts of both sides, China-Russia relations have always maintained a sound and stable development momentum, cooperation in various fields has been steadily advanced, and the social foundation and public opinion foundation of the friendship between the two countries for generations has become more solid. In March this year, I paid a state visit to Russia and reached new and important consensus with President Putin on deepening comprehensive strategic coordination and practical cooperation in various fields between the two countries. The development of Sino-Russian relations is a strategic choice made by the two countries based on the fundamental interests of their respective countries and peoples. [bolded by The Report] China is willing to continue to work with Russia to develop a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in the new era featuring mutual assistance, in-depth integration, pioneering and innovation, and mutual benefits, so as to help the development and revitalization of the two countries and promote the construction of a prosperous, stable, fair and just world.
Xi Jinping emphasized that cooperation between legislative bodies is an important part of China-Russia relations. I hope that the two sides will work together to implement the important consensus reached between me and President Putin, promote and guarantee the sustainable and healthy development of cooperation in various fields between the two countries at the legislative level, strengthen the exchange of experience in legislation and state governance, and push the cooperation between the two legislative bodies to a new level. . The two sides also need to strengthen communication and collaboration within multilateral mechanisms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS countries, lead global governance reform in the right direction, and safeguard the common interests of emerging market countries and developing countries.
Matviyenko said that the Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination conforms to the interests of the two countries and the wishes of the two peoples, [Comment: Matviyenko/TASS did not include mention this framing] has reached the highest level in history, and continues to develop steadily. President Xi Jinping's successful state visit to Russia in March this year has injected strong impetus into the further development of Russia-China relations. The Russian Parliament broadly supports the deepening of Russia-China cooperation, and is willing to further strengthen exchanges and dialogue with the National People's Congress of China, so as to provide legal guarantees for the implementation of the consensus reached by the two heads of state.
Comment: While Xi mentioned Putin and included Putin’s title, this line represents an attempt to de-personalize/institutionalize the relationship: “The development of Sino-Russian relations is a strategic choice made by the two countries based on the fundamental interests of their respective countries and peoples.” [发展中俄关系是两国基于各自国家和人民根本利益作出的战略选择。]
Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko said after a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday that China will "consistently and steadily" continue cooperation with Russia.
"We discussed many issues of Russian-Chinese interaction. Despite the new conditions that we all live in, I am convinced that China, as a very responsible, serious state, never adapts to anyone; our relations are not subject to any conjuncture, any external political influence," Matviyenko told reporters.
"The main thing that I got out of all the meetings and conversations is that China will consistently and steadily continue to cooperate with the Russian Federation, to maintain the friendship that exists between our countries and peoples," [bolded by The Report] the speaker of the upper house added.
She called the Chinese president a very wise, confident, educated and independent leader, "whose main goal in life is to defend China's national interests." According to Matviyenko, neither Russia nor China will allow anyone to talk to them "in the language of force and threats."
"We stand together for equal cooperation. We come out together against interference in internal affairs, for the right of each country to determine its own path and choice in its development," the speaker emphasized.
The delegation of the Russian parliament is currently on a visit to China. The visit is taking place at the invitation of the chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Zhao Leji.
Comment: This TASS report doesn’t mention Putin and largely echoes Xi’s language. The Russian political elite appears to have received Xi and the CCP’s message about de-personalizing ties.
Interestingly, however, Matviyenko refers to “the friendship that exists between our countries and peoples” – NOT “fundamental interests.” This difference could be explained by a translation errata (and I’ll include a reminder that I don’t speak Russian). Still, there is a pretty vast gulf between “friendship” and “fundamental interests” and so this is language from Matviyenko/TASS is likely very conscious and deliberate.
Finally, best of luck to Matviyenko on achieving “equal cooperation.”
Beijing is ready to join efforts with Moscow to contribute to building a prosperous, stable and just world order, Chinese leader Xi Jinping said on Monday.
"China is ready to continue working with Russia <…> in order to contribute to developing and reviving both countries as well as to build a prosperous, stable and just world order," China’s CCTV quoted Xi as saying at a meeting with Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko in Beijing.
Xi said that, in the new era, his country was ready to continue developing the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation with Russia which imply "mutual assistance, deep integration, innovation and pioneering, as well as mutual benefit."
Comment: “Prosperous, stable and just world order," [繁荣稳定、公平公正的世界] is a callback to the two sides’ February 4, 2022 joint declaration. Again, no mention of Putin in this TASS article.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said that Beijing was getting ready to welcome Russian President Vladimir Putin in October 2023, during a meeting with Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of Russia’s Federation Council, or upper house of parliament.
As Andrey Denisov, deputy chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs and Russia’s former Ambassador to China (2013-2022), told a TASS correspondent, "During the meeting with Valentina Ivanovna Matviyenko, Chairman Xi Jinping said that the Chinese side was getting ready for a visit by the Russian president in October in order to participate in the Third Belt and Road Forum."
Russian-Chinese comprehensive cooperation relations are at an all-time high, Deputy Speaker of Russia’s Federation Council (the upper house of parliament) Konstantin Kosachev said on Tuesday.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning announces:
At the invitation of Liu Guozhong, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, Vice Premier of the State Council and Chinese Co-Chair of the China-Belarus Intergovernmental Cooperation Committee, First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus and Belarusian Co-Chair of the committee Nikolai Snopkov will travel to China on July 11 to co-host the fifth meeting of the committee.
Comment: It’s notable that Beijing was hosting Belarusian and Russian officials on the same day.
Liu Guozhong emphasized that the committee should, in accordance with the blueprint drawn by the two heads of state, give full play to the role of overall planning, guidance and coordination, deepen political mutual trust, increase mutual support, and enhance cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, science and technology, security, education, cultural tourism, customs inspection and quarantine, etc. We will actively expand agricultural cooperation, deepen local cooperation, jointly build the "Belt and Road" with high quality, promote the healthy and stable development of China-Belarus relations at a high level, and better benefit the two peoples.
The President of Poland and Ukraine said that they will jointly strive for the "best result" for Ukraine. Russia criticizes the United States for getting more and more involved in the Russia-Ukraine conflict – People’s Daily [Russia section, Chinese-language]
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zakharova criticized the US government's decision to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine on the 8th, believing that the continuous expansion of US military assistance to Ukraine means that the United States and its allies are getting more and more involved in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Russian Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev was quoted by the TASS news agency on the 7th as saying that in the 2023-2024 agricultural year (July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024), Russia’s grain exports are expected to reach 55 million tons. In the 2022-2023 agricultural year, Russia's grain exports will hit a record high, reaching 60 million tons.
Comment: Yes, that’s Dmitry Patrushev, son of Nikolai.
Bilateral economic ties
Indian refiners have begun paying for some oil imports from Russia in Chinese yuan, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said, as Western sanctions force Moscow and its customers to find alternatives to the dollar for settling payments.
Comment: I would like to see a more rigorous analysis, but I suspect this action, and the renminbi’s increasing internationalization, will accelerate Sino-Russian bilateral trade.
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.