Will Russia and China create an “Anti-West” coalition and what will it change – Analysis by Oleksiy Matsuka

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Russian leadership has counted on the supply of weapons, goods and technologies from China, which could replace what fell under Western sanctions.

However, for more than half a year of the war, neither military intelligence nor the US Treasury recorded a single case of Russian assistance from China. Apparently, Beijing is not ready to openly help the Kremlin by sacrificing the US and European Union markets.

Can Russia count on financial, military or political support from China in the face of the Ukrainian counteroffensive? What unites Moscow and Beijing, and under what conditions can the Anti-West coalition exist? What are the benefits to China of Russia’s defeat in the war against Ukraine? These topics were analyzed by Oleksiy Matsuka, editor-in-chief of the Ukrainian foreign broadcasting channel FREEDOM.

In Samarkand, Uzbekistan, for the first time since the start of the war, Chinese leader Xi Jinping had a face-to-face conversation with Putin. Formally, both came to the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, where there were enough bilateral meetings … But everyone understood: this one was the most important. Behind closed doors, one on one, they will tell each other what they could not say on the phone. Putin looked tired and drooping – it was hard not to notice. What hit him so hard? Defeats at the front? The illiteracy of their own generals? Or friend Xi turned out to be completely and not a friend?

Beijing may not approve of the Russian invasion. This was hinted at by – who would you think – Putin himself. He said that he is sympathetic to the fact that Xi Jinping may have “questions and concerns.” What kind of questions are these? What’s the worry? Maybe the Chinese leader has a belated epiphany, political scientists suggested.

“Questions and concerns about the fact that he somehow awkwardly and belatedly realized that he was on the wrong side of history, and now he also looks like an accomplice in a vile war that senselessly takes lives?“ Colin, an expert at the Singapore School of International Studies Koch, states.

And Jinping himself added fuel to the fire. During the opening of the summit, he urged Putin … – “to take on the role of a great power in order to bring stability and positive energy to a world shaken by social upheaval.” Vaguely, of course, but many read in these words a veiled message that it would be time to end the war.

The meeting in Samarkand showed that in these relations everything is not at all cloudless. So what is really going on between China and Russia? Will they talk? Will they create the very “Anti-West” about which there is so much talk?

To understand this, let’s first understand – what exactly did China do all these six months while the war lasted?

As a friend of mine once put it

The fact that there was some kind of agreement between Jinping and Putin is evidenced by US intelligence data. Shortly before the start of the war, Moscow massively transferred troops and equipment from the Far East to the Ukrainian border, “exposing” its border with China. And this could happen only in the case of a certain “non-aggression pact,” a high-ranking American military officer shared with us “off record”. But what did this “pact” imply? It seems that Beijing never became an ally of Moscow in the sense that the Kremlin expected. They were clearly eager for the supply of weapons, goods and technologies that could replace what fell under Western sanctions. But for all this time – and this fact was confirmed to us by sources in Washington – neither military intelligence nor the US Treasury (and they track everything in great detail) have not recorded a single case! No help in circumventing sanctions, no arms supplies, no money laundering of Russian oligarchs through Chinese banks…

Perhaps there were preliminary agreements, but China was afraid of the consequences for itself, having seen how heavily they imposed sanctions on Moscow, American diplomats are now suggesting.

“China is rightfully concerned that its continued support for a Russian invasion would cause serious damage to both relations with Europe and China’s relations throughout Central Asia, where most countries oppose Putin’s invasion,” said an American diplomat and national security expert. Craig Singleton.

Beijing for Moscow, indeed, turned out to be a “so-so” ally – since Moscow has to look for arms supplies around the world. It is now forced to buy in Iran and even North Korea – countries that themselves are under the pressure of sanctions. And until recently, China was limited only to support in the UN Security Council. And no more. Hence the suspicion that Xi Jinping is playing his own game. And she is for resources.

“China does not care about Russia. He views it as a certain colony. Now that the war is on, they are not helping Russia, they are more concerned about American consumers than about Putin. It is beneficial for China if Russia becomes weak – this will make it easier to control it. This is a trap that Russia and China have fallen into. The Chinese have no reason to help Russia, it will hurt them. But in the long run, they want to exploit Russia’s natural resources, and war will make it easier to do so,” says historian Timothy Snyder.

By and large, it has already made it easier. Moscow boasts that it has redirected its energy exports. But in Beijing, after all, they negotiated a discount and are buying up cheap energy resources. Growth – almost 20% compared to last year! US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman figuratively said – they say, this is a “marriage of convenience”, “a relationship of convenience, not trust.”

“This is an inferior marriage in every way, shape and form, but they will certainly work together and also work for each other. I am sure that Xi Jinping is looking for profit as Russia continues its unprovoked, deliberate and horrific invasion of Ukraine,” says Wendy Sherman.

One of the versions that are now appearing is that perhaps China wanted to see what would happen to Russia? Such a projection on one’s own situation with Taiwan. Trying to learn from other people’s mistakes. After all, if Beijing unleashed a war, all the sanctions would be “based on the tracing paper” of those imposed against Russia. And if Moscow was not ready for them, then China now has time to “work out immunity”.

But since there is and will not go anywhere, the Taiwanese factor, perhaps, will push Moscow and Putin into each other’s arms?

Taiwan knot

Putin demonstrates in every way that Russia supports China in the situation with Taiwan. A new war – if Beijing decided on aggression – is certainly in the interests of the Kremlin. And attention will switch, and the weapons that are now going to Ukraine will be “halved”, sent to Taiwan.

The only thing is that Jinping is not yet ready to attack. Ben Hodges, a retired American general and one of the best-informed military experts (because he constantly communicates with former colleagues at work), told us in a commentary that, according to him, aggression against Taiwan could happen no earlier than in two years. And all this time, Beijing will escalate the situation and organize a blockade, but not military operations. Western media, citing the CIA, are now writing about 2027 as a milestone when China wants to be ready for an attack.

So it turns out that Beijing needs an ally in the person of Moscow. But the ally is not exhausted and weakened, and in Russia everything is moving towards this! Hence, perhaps, Xi Jinping’s dissatisfaction that Putin and Ukraine did not go as planned.

“China, unlike the US, has no other big partners they can rely on. Of course, Russia is a powerful state that is connected with China. Therefore, Beijing is worried that Russia is overexerting itself and that this could undermine their collective efforts to shape the world order,” Brian Hart, China PowerProject researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

So – one way or another – Moscow as a partner (or “accomplice” – call it what you want) is still necessary for Beijing. And as a means of putting pressure on the United States – they say, “let’s unite”, create such an “Anti-West” for ourselves, what will you do then … And how is it possible to really create such a “front” if the confrontation between “comrade Xi” and America goes too far long away.

“On the one hand, China will provide diplomatic support to Russia and make broad commitments to an alliance between Beijing and Moscow, the main goal and main task of which is to create a counterbalance to Washington. On the other hand, China will continue to de facto comply with Western sanctions so as not to expose itself to a blow, and will use sugary language about “peace” and “stability,” said Vice President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former Deputy Secretary of State USA Evan Feigenbaum.

So a lot of things will really be done in a revealing way, what is called “to the public”. That is why China unexpectedly took part in the Russian military exercises “Vostok-2022”, sending more than 2,000 troops, more than 300 pieces of military equipment, two dozen military aircraft and helicopters … Moreover, he wrote in the government newspaper “Global Times” – openly, on purpose so that “everyone understands everything”…

“All this demonstrates the depth of Russian-Chinese military cooperation and can serve as a deterrent to the malign actions of some external forces.”

So in the near future we will clearly see many more hints, teachings, proofs of friendship between Moscow and Beijing… But as far as Ukraine is concerned, here, most likely, “friendship is friendship, but tobacco is apart.” China is not ready to lose the US and EU market. This means that when putting together the “Anti-West”, it will act as carefully as possible so as not to run into sanctions itself. How exactly – we’ll talk in the next issue.