Barack Obama meets with Xi Jinping, who has since become China's new president, in 2012. (White House photo courtesy of Flickr.)
The United States and China are going a-courtin’. And the court’s in Moscow. Though none of the three countries are exactly natural allies, both Washington and Beijing are competing for Moscow’s favors.
Let’s start with China. China’s new president, Xi Jinping, made his first official foreign trip abroad last week to Moscow, where he and Vladimir Putin had a lot of nice things to say about each other, and about their relationship. “The fact that I will visit Russia, our friendly neighbor, shortly after assuming presidency is a testimony to the great importance China places on its relations with Russia,” said Xi.
In a speech to the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Xi noted that both Russia and China “oppose interference in the internal affairs of other countries”—meaning, mostly, that they don’t like it when the United States and its public-private democracy industry tries to tell Moscow and Beijing how to behave. And Xi went on to say:
“China and Russia, as the biggest neighbors of each other, share many commonalities in their blueprints of national development. Currently, China and Russia are both in important periods of national revival, and bilateral relations have entered a new stage in which each provides the other with important development opportunities and treats the other as a major partner.”
A lot of that has to do with energy, naturally. “Oil and gas pipelines have become the veins connecting the two countries in a new century,” said Xi, who reportedly inked a $30 billion deal with Russia’s Rosneft. Reports The New York Times: “The deal said to be in the works with Rosneft would potentially entail a loan of $30 billion from China, to be repaid in oil.” China is also seeking a pipeline via Russia’s Gazprom that would deliver huge quantities of natural gas to China, as well. According to The Wall Street Journal, the gas deal was inked, too:
After more than a decade of talks, Russia has agreed to supply China with natural gas, a deal that could see China surpass Germany as the largest importer of Russian gas.
Officials Friday signed a raft of other energy agreements, including one to double Russian oil supplies and hand China’s state oil company a stake in Russian oil fields, tightening the nexus between Russia, the world’s largest energy producer, and China, the hungriest consumer.
Lots of differences remain between Russia and China, of course, and there are plenty of obstacles in the way of anything like a Russia-China alliance emerging. Still, because the United States needs Russia as a partner on a wide range of issues—from arms control to Afghanistan to Iran’s nuclear program and the civil war in Syria—the Obama administration had better get on the stick in seeking a strong working relationship with Moscow.