The mega gas deal signed by Russia and China last week was just the most prominent piece in a growing relationship between the two countries. An important but underreported example of the deepening relationship between Beijing and Moscow began on May 20: the Joint Sea Drill 2014, the third time they’ve held a joint military exercise in as many years.Several Russian warships, including the Varyag, the flagship of Moscow’s Pacific Fleet, will join at least eight PLAN warships for the exercise. A squadron of Chinese maritime patrol, surveillance, and attack helicopters will also take part. As Popular Science notes: “The presence of anti-submarine, refueling and amphibious assault platforms indicates that the exercise will be focus on long distance, multirole expeditionary operations that includes anti-submarine warfare, area air defense and amphibious landings.” In other words, China is preparing for a possible battle against hostile neighbors over maritime territory. Neither the Chinese nor the Russian navy, says PopSci, has much recent experience in this area.At the end of the exercise the chiefs of both navies praised each other’s performance and promised to expand, in the future, to include other naval and air units from both countries. Accounts of the drill in both countries were glowing: “The pragmatic exchanges and cooperation showed China-Russia mutual trust and strategic coordination has reached a higher level,” reads an article in People’s Daily.The Moscow Times reports approvingly that China and Russia are pursuing a “new stage in relations, comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation.” Without a hint of irony, Putin and Xi said in a joint statement that both countries will “resist interference in the internal affairs of other states…and activities aimed at altering the constitutional order of another state or its involvement in a multilateral association or union.”Reports PopSci:
The geopolitical implications of bilateral military show that Sino-Russian military cooperation is further increasing beyond simple arms exports and more towards strategic military cooperation and joint research projects…. The fact that this year’s naval exercise takes place amidst Russia-NATO tensions and escalated Chinese maritime disputes with Japan and Vietnam shows that both Putin and Xi view Sino-Russian security cooperation as a strategic priority for their nations.
Quite right. Washington’s responses to the Ukraine crisis and to China’s aggression in the South China Sea have, in part, caused Beijing and Russia to find in each other a strong, reliable, and like-minded friend. From natural resources to infrastructure to national security and beyond, China and Russia have begun a new era of cooperation.