Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow has benefited from the Taiwan Strait crisis (Photo: Twitter)
The sudden chill in the US-China relations, brought about by Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, illuminates a new security crisis in the Indo-Pacific region.
The military tensions between Beijing and Washington have indeed serious implications for Russia.
Unsurprisingly, an army of politicians, diplomats and experts in Moscow are asking—Is Russia now China’s sole strategic partner? What is the future of Russia-China relations?
After President Putin launched a special military operation in Ukraine, which the West has pejoratively labelled as a war and an attack on a neighbouring country, the seething hostility in the Moscow-Washington relations, played out in the European theatre, had been grabbing international headlines.
On the contrary, notwithstanding crises and conflict, the Indo-Pacific region, which is not part of NATO’s core mandate, received only peripheral attention.
In fact, while confronting Russia, the West was pampering China in the hope that Beijing would not come to Moscow’s aid and relieve the pressure.
The Chinese however, played a balancing act. Like India, they continued to cooperate with Russia, opening a "window of opportunity" for themselves, and began to reconfigure Beijing’s trade, economic and energy cooperation with Russia.
In order to force Beijing to turn away from Moscow, the West used all possible means over the past months. Chinese President Xi Jinping was cajoled not only by US President Joe Biden, but also by French President Emmanuel Macron as well as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Finally, Comrade Xi was bluntly threatened, warned of a certain "high price", which Beijing would have to pay, if it did not play ball.
The combination of pressure, inducement and personal self-interest, which would not have served if Beijing played a zero-sum game, forced China to work out a diplomatic balancing act. While it did not refuse cooperation with Moscow, it also declared that it neither did, nor intended to provide any assistance, including military support to Russia’s conflict with Ukraine.
China’s position also exposed the emptiness of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s words spoken in January last that there is "no end point, no forbidden zones, no upper limit" in Sino-Russian cooperation. While in general, the two do not form a union, it is still "more than a union".
However, lush rhetoric of the Chinese officialdom notwithstanding, the "upper limit" of Beijing-Moscow relationship was clearly visible. In its attitude to the Ukrainian crisis, Beijing defiantly adhered to the principle of equidistance from the two sides of the conflict – Russia and Ukraine.
Already after the start of the Russian military special operation in Ukraine, which began on February 24 this year, for some time Beijing, by inertia, called for the implementation of Minsk agreements on the settlement in the Donbass, which lasted eight years, but at that time was already stillborn. This happened despite the fact that the death of the Minsk Agreements was openly announced by the Russian leadership itself.
Over the past months, Beijing has patiently listened to the Ukrainian leadership, which in Moscow is often called the "fascist junta", and demonstrated some semblance of understanding and sympathy. It is not surprising that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on China to impose its weight to help Kiev in bringing Moscow “to justice”.
There is also a back story of why Ukraine thought it could rely on China. The two have had a quiet but very special military and technology relationship. Afterall China had bought its first aircraft carrier, now Liaoning but formerly Varyag from Kiev. There have been several reports in past about China’s effort to siphon ballistic missile technology and advanced metallurgy from Ukraine.
But all this might now change after the crisis in Taiwan, which is central of China’s identity and strategic interests.
The visit by the US House of Representative Speaker, Nancy Pelosi to the island, appears to have side-lined the Ukraine crisis. China is now at the centre of a major communication war unleashed by the powerful western media.
Russia, a major supplier of gas and oil in Europe; China is major supplier of lithium for rechargeable batteries and Saudi Arabia is major supplier of oil in the world market… Biden is insanely antagonizing these nations in suicidal mode effecting world economy… pic.twitter.com/twZfbzZS2A
— AlphaOneRene (@up_kyla) August 4, 2022
After Nancy Pelosi crossed the "red line" in US-China relations, which none of her predecessors in Washington dared to cross in the 21st century, the heat is also now on China.
So one of the main enemies of Russia, Nancy Pelosi with her visit to Taiwan ironically played along with Moscow. She helped Moscow to forcefully convey the message that the United States is a sinister destructive force, wherever it operates – in the European theatre or in the Pacific Ocean.
Moreover, now, it would seem, nothing prevents Moscow and Beijing from following more resolutely the principle of standing "back-to-back" proclaimed by them earlier.
This term, which came from Oriental martial arts, means that the sides reliably cover each other's backs: Russia is fighting off its opponents in the western direction, and China is in the Indo-Pacific region with a common main opponent – the United States.
Thank you, Nancy Pelosi, for making Moscow the main beneficiary of the Taiwan crisis.
(Sergei Strokan is a veteran journalist, writer and columnist of the Kommersant publishing house based in Moscow. The views expressed are personal and exclusive to India Narrative)