China is participating in the “Vostok-2022” exercise, with all three types of troops: land, navy and air force. This fact clearly shows that the military cooperation between Moscow and Beijing is expanding and deepening. In the context of a war against Ukraine, for Putin it becomes an important signal that, despite his brutal military actions in the neighboring country, he is not completely isolated on the world political stage.
Russia and China are two autocracies bound together by the geopolitical interest in overthrowing the current US-dominated world order. As is known, Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to implement his plan, according to which in 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, his country should be the sole world power. At the same time, Vladimir Putin wants to re-conquer all the European territories that once belonged to the Russian Empire.
The two autocracies complement each other in their attempts to throw down a military gauntlet to the US without interfering with each other. The Russian army is challenging the US and NATO in the western part of the Eurasian continent, and mostly on land. China, on the other hand, is building a powerful fleet in the Pacific Ocean, in which as many as three aircraft carriers are already sailing, the last one entirely of its own production. Since the beginning of the current millennium, China has outperformed Russia in almost every conceivable way. The only exception is the nuclear weapons of the Russian Federation. Because otherwise, the Russian army has about 1 million soldiers, while as many as 2 million gather under the Chinese battle flags.
Today, China produces the largest GDP in the world, and Russia manages to produce only 1/7 of this volume. Technologically, China has long since reached the Western level in a number of industrial spheres, while Russia continues to rely mostly on its minerals. And today it is even forced to burn the excess gas that it cannot sell to Europe. Russian oil is exported to China and India, but only at cost price, that is, without any profit.
Implications for the US, Europe and Ukraine
Compared to India, however, China is much more aggressive in reshaping the world in accordance with its own security interests. It is shown by Beijing’s increasingly aggressive policy in the South and East China Seas. Xi Jinping has made it increasingly clear that he intends to annex Taiwan. The way in which the West will stop the Russian invasion of Ukraine may have a decisive impact on China’s future policy. China monitors this parameter very carefully – precisely because of its own plans to annex Taiwan.
As you can see, China is clearly much more powerful than Russia, and it is precisely because of this that the US has for a long time focused mostly on the geopolitical challenge coming from Beijing. This policy also affects the war in Ukraine. The US supports Ukraine only to the extent that it can repel Russia, that is, precisely against the backdrop of worsening Sino-American relations, Washington is looking to preserve its own military resource as powerful as possible and not to distribute it to the world. In addition, the US, with full reason, expects Europe to carry out a significant armament in order to be able to defend itself, and the American role will be reduced only to guaranteeing the nuclear shield over the Old Continent.
That is why the military rapprochement between Russia and China directly and sensitively affects Europe. Especially Germany, for whose companies China is not only one of the most important markets, but also a supplier of raw materials and semi-finished products. To put it plainly: Germany must be careful in its pursuit of profits so that its firms do not fall into short-sighted business dependencies on China. Because precisely this dramatic mistake was made with Russia.
German policy should make every effort to free local entrepreneurs from the poisonous dependence on the Chinese market and Chinese supplies. This means that German governments should not give in to pressure from profit-seeking companies and should not give in to the whining of lobbyists that restrictive measures against China would destroy German jobs. Well, it was precisely such pressure and such whining that led to the fatal energy-political dependence on Russia!
Dr. Jörg Himmelreich is a professor at the Berlin Faculty of the renowned French Ecole Supérieure de Commerce in Paris. Back in 2007, in one of his articles, he warned that Putin’s actions would become dangerous.