Chinese President Xi Jinping has hailed “firm” ties between China and Russia just days after his trip to San Francisco where he met with President Biden and executives of major US tech companies.
Xi said Monday that positive Russia ties will “inject more stability into the world,” according to China Central Television. He affirmed that Beijing stands ready to work with Moscow “resolutely” on bilateral relations and building a permanent friendship. His last Wednesday meeting with President Biden ended on a deeply negative note given that at a wrap-up press conference Biden called Xi a “dictator” in response to a reporter’s question.
President Putin at the same time sent Xi a congratulatory letter marking the 10th meeting of the dialogue mechanism between the ruling parties of China and Russia, per Bloomberg.
Xinhua summarized Putin’s letter as follows:
Putin said in his congratulatory letter that the Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination is at the highest level in history, and the two countries are working together to advance a number of large-scale cooperation projects in the fields of economy, transportation, energy and culture, among others.
The two countries are coordinating positions through bilateral channels and multilateral mechanisms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS to resolve major international issues and promote the building of a more just and democratic international order.
While relations with Putin continue to deepen rapidly, it remains unclear the degree to which Biden’s dictator remark will overshadow any positive momentum gained during last week’s meetings in San Francisco. China’s foreign ministry had responded by saying it “strongly opposes” Biden’s words.
“This statement is extremely wrong and irresponsible political manipulation,” MFA spokesperson Mao Ning had said the day after.
👀In the middle of an APEC leaders meeting, President Biden suddenly got up and ran towards President Xi👀
It was so unexpected, the Chinese translator wasn’t there to translate.
So Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister had to get up and translate for President Xi😄 pic.twitter.com/Ap2clMMdMT
— Zhao DaShuai 无条件爱国🇨🇳 (@zhao_dashuai) November 19, 2023
Some of Xi’s words given before US CEOs on foreign investment in China certainly suggested that Beijing is ready for a reset. Below is a section of Xi’s speech along with the analysis of entrepreneur and China observer Arnaud Bertrand [emphasis ZH]…
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This part of Xi’s speech to US CEOs (full speech here) is interesting and worth reflecting on: “The number one question for us is: are we adversaries, or partners? This is the fundamental and overarching issue. The logic is quite simple. If one sees the other side as a primary competitor, the most consequential geopolitical challenge and a pacing threat, it will only lead to misinformed policy making, misguided actions, and unwanted results. China is ready to be a partner and friend of the United States,” President Xi began, and continued…
“The fundamental principles that we follow in handling China-U.S. relations are mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation. Just as mutual respect is a basic code of behavior for individuals, it is fundamental for China-U.S. relations. The United States is unique in its history, culture and geographical position, which have shaped its distinct development path and social system. We fully respect all this.”
“The path of socialism with Chinese characteristics has been found under the guidance of the theory of scientific socialism, and is rooted in the tradition of the Chinese civilization with an uninterrupted history of more than 5,000 years. We are proud of our choice, just as you are proud of yours. Our paths are different, but both are the choice by our peoples, and both lead to the realization of the common values of humanity. They should be both respected.”
“Peaceful coexistence is a basic norm for international relations, and is even more of a baseline that China and the United States should hold on to as two major countries. It is wrong to view China, which is committed to peaceful development, as a threat and thus play a zero-sum game against it. China never bets against the United States, and never interferes in its internal affairs. China has no intention to challenge the United States or to unseat it. Instead, we will be glad to see a confident, open, ever-growing and prosperous United States.
“Likewise, the United States should not bet against China, or interfere in China’s internal affairs. It should instead welcome a peaceful, stable and prosperous China.”
In short he essentially argues against self-fulfilling prophecies, making the point that one’s view on the other defines your actions towards them, which in turn often validates your view even though it might have been wrong. As such the question “are we adversaries, or partners?” has no correct answer: if the US views China as an adversary it will lead them to “misinformed policy making [and] misguided actions”, which in turn will produce “unwanted results”, i.e. turning China INTO an adversary when it needn’t be.
People need to understand this. “Decoupling” or “de-risking” is basically all about adding “political correctness middlemen” between the West and China.
The middlemen are happy, China is happy (keeps exporting just as much) and the West pays more.
It’s not very smart 😏 https://t.co/uEmHCqInZe
— Arnaud Bertrand (@RnaudBertrand) November 20, 2023
He also explains why there is no empirical basis for considering China a “threat” or an “adversary”, and why it is therefore a question of perception:
1) Both countries’ “paths” are different (due to their respective “history, culture, geographical position” and political systems) but “both lead to the realization of the common values of humanity” (including peace, development, equity, justice, etc.) and as such both should be respected. In other words it isn’t because the road China is taking for its own development is different that it constitutes a threat. Each country’s development path is determined by its own context and this diversity should be respected, all the more because both countries fundamentally want the same thing (be at peace with each other, having a prosperous population, etc.).
2) He also says China “never bets against the United States, and never interferes in its internal affairs”. Which is also undeniably true, if there’s one cardinal principle of Chinese foreign policy it is the non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. One cannot say for instance that there is a strong PRC lobby within, say, the U.S. congress, which is obvious from the overwhelming bipartisan consensus against China. In fact if anything there is a strong lobby against China… And it’s also undeniably true that over the past few decades China has bet ON the U.S. rather than against it, developing an extremely deep economic relationship.
More broadly Xi communicates an (unsurprisingly) very Chinese understanding of international relations, viewing them as a dynamic instead of a series of discreet events (which often tends to be the Western mindset). What needs to be treated is the underlying cause that sets the dynamic on a wrong path, which he identifies as the mindset one views the other with (“adversary” or “partner”).
What derails from this, often identified by the West as the problems in the relationship, are in facts symptoms of this deeper cause: working on solving these symptoms will not fundamentally solve the problem. This is profoundly true when you think about it. The “spy balloon” episode was a perfect example of this. The balloon wasn’t the problem per se, this whole episode was symptomatic of a mindset that tends to view the other through an almost insanely distorted adversarial lens.
Even if both countries agreed to somehow never have balloons drift in each others’ skies, it’d fundamentally solve nothing. The mindset was the issue and as such this is what needs working on. It also all agrees with a very important concept in international relations theory: the security dilemma, that says that one state’s increase in security measures (such as increasing its military strength) can lead other states to fear for their own security and therefore make them increase their own measures, leading to a non-ending spiral of escalation. The solution to this is mindset-changing measures, to increase mutual trust and de-escalate the situation.
For a very good definition of the security dilemma, see Stephen Walt’s article on it.
I thought this part of the speech was worth highlighting and I really hope that the U.S. will see the wisdom there. The first step to making a country a threat is to view them as one. And the first step to making them a friend is also to view them as one. It might all sound naïve and utopic to the cynics out there but at least China has the merit of extending its hand. Would it be so bad if the U.S. took it?
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Xi’s full speech from last week starts a the 19-minute mark below: