Russia and China are a challenge to western powersby Anatole Kaletsky / June 18, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
When the history of the early 21st century is written, the defining event of the period may not be recalled as the global financial crisis or the rise of militant Islam. It may be the convergence of interests between China and Russia, which led them to create a united front against the US and the European Union, and to challenge the global dominance of western economic and political values. A few years ago, nobody would have imagined a Eurasian partnership to be either possible or desirable. But the idea of creating structures that might balance the power of Nato, the EU and US-led alliances in Asia seems attractive, even indispensable, in both Moscow and Beijing.
The Sino-Russian rapprochement began a year ago, when Vladimir Putin travelled to Shanghai to seal the world’s biggest energy supply deal. At the time, western leaders ridiculed the agreement to export $400bn worth of gas from Russia to China through a jointly-constructed new pipeline. The low price conceded by Putin in this deal was seen as evidence of Russia’s financial desperation. But subsequent events—Russia’s resistance to sanctions over Ukraine, the Sino-Russian cooperation on Iran and Syria, China’s defiance of US pressure in Asian maritime disputes, the US failure to block huge new Eurasian investment institutions financed by China, the “New Silk Road” infrastructure plans that will link China to Europe via Russia and Kazakhstan, even China’s suppression of the Hong Kong democracy movement—all these suggest that Putin’s Shanghai trip may have marked a shift in superpower relations, possibly comparable to Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972.