Russia-China ‘Coming Together’ And The Emerging ‘Geopolitical Reset’
Brigadier (Retd.) Dr. Ahsan ur Rahman Khan
# Tags: Russia, China, Russia-China ‘Coming Together’, ‘Geopolitical Reset’, Eurasia, Pakistan-Russia Relations, US’ Bullying Foreign Policy
An article titled “America now solves problems with troops, not diplomats” was published on the 3rd of last month (November 2019) by Australia-based THE CONVERSATION. It was written by Dr. Monica Duffy Toft, Professor international politics and Director of the Center for Strategic Studies at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. That scholarly article contains many charts and inferences to explain her assertion which she expressed right in the beginning, that “As a scholar, under the auspices of the Military Intervention Project, I have been studying every episode of U.S. military intervention from 1776 to 2017. Historically, the U.S. advanced from a position of isolationism to one of reluctant intervenor, to global policeman. Based on my research since 2001, I believe that the U.S. has transformed itself into what many others view as a global bully. I do not use the word lightly. But if, by definition, a bully is someone who seeks to intimidate or harm those it perceives as vulnerable, then that is an apt descriptor of contemporary U.S. foreign policy” (1).
Of course, Dr. Monica’s assertion is correct. In fact, after Mr. Donald Trump’s assumption to power, not many others (as mentioned by Dr. Monica) almost the whole world including even US’ allies view US as the global bully; and that too an unpredictable one.
It was that ‘accentuation’ of US’ bullying policies which caused the emergence of clear signs of many Eurasian/Asian countries’ efforts for ‘coming together’ to develop a mutual ‘geopolitical reset’, so as to deter US’ bullying attitude. Efforts already in progress for developing that reset include many fields – enhancement of mutual trade and investment, trying to increase the use of mutually agreed local currencies in trade and investment to get rid of the dominance of US dollar, cooperation in technological and defence fields, etc. Many countries are in the process of developing that reset. Out of those countries, Pakistan is already a committed ally of China. However for obvious reason inclusion of China and Russia – being the global powers – is critical for such a reset.
Factually Russia and China, the rivals/adversaries of the Cold War Era, had already started to work upon that mutual ‘coming together’, discarding their policy differences/some border disputes since the last some years. However, the news about it was not much covered by world media. Their actions in that regard entail many details; some of those are very briefly mentioned in the succeeding paragraphs.
From the obtainable reports it is evident that the ‘geopolitical reset’ between Russia and China started with mutual arrangements to boost trade and investments between the two countries, as also assisting each other to gain foreign avenues for that purpose.
According to a report dated 15 May 2017 of Russia Briefing “Li Haitao, the Vice Governor of China’s Heilongjiang Province, which shares a border along the Amur River with Russia, has said the two countries will sign an agreement on the long awaited Primorye-1 international transport Corridor.” ——– “Two corridors have in fact been developed, Primorye-1 and Primorye-2. These are expected to encourage trade and investment in the Russian Far East, as the improved transportation infrastructure will significantly increase cargo transit from China to the Russian port city of Vladivostok.” —— “Primorye-1 will handle cargo via Vladivostok bound for the West coast of the United States and Europe, while Primorye-2 will handle regional traffic between China and Russia and through to Korea and Japan”.
(Courtesy Russia Briefings) (2)
A subsequent report, titled “Russia to Create Tax Free zone Near Shanghai” (China), dated 1 June 2018 by Russia Briefings highlighted that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev confirmed plans to create a special administrative tax free zone in Primorsky Krai in Far Eastern Russia; and, that status would be available soon on the Russky Island, which lies just south of the main city of Vladivostok and is connected to the city by the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge. The potential tax free zone status for Russky Island was likely to differ from the Vladivostok Free Trade Zone.
(Courtesy Russia Briefings) (3)
Since then subsequent reports have shown further developments of such arrangements between Russia and China. And the important news now, although somehow not much publicised, is that very recently Russia and China have started taking further concrete steps in their geographical-economic inter-connectivity.
On 14 March 2018 Russia Briefings reported that according to senior officials of northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, construction of the Nizhneleninskoye-Tongjiang railway bridge was expected to be completed that year, together with other cross border infrastructure programs aimed at enhancing Russia’s connectivity with China, Central Europe, and Central Asia. The Nizhneleninskoye-Tongjiang bridge, which crosses the Amur River in the far northeast corner of Russia and China, aims to enhance Russia’s connectivity with China, and the Belt and Road routes; and would also help connectivity for Russian goods to be processed in China then shipped onto markets in Japan, South Korea, and North America via the Primorye-1 Corridor.
(Courtesy Russia Briefings) (4)
Then on 21 March this year (2019) The Moscow Times reported completion of that first ever rail bridge connecting Russia and China. According to that report, “The bridge is expected to serve as an international goods transportation channel with an annual shipment volume of 21 million tons when it opens later in 2019” (5).
Another feat of the two countries’ inter-connectivity was reported on 29th of last month (November 2019) by The Moscow Times. In that, it reported “Russia and China have completed the first vehicle bridge to cross the two neighbors’ border, the RBC news website reported Friday. Footage from the bridge’s opening ceremony showed trucks crossing the bridge between the cities of Blagoveshchensk and Heihe as ice drifted underneath. Russia and China connected their sides of the bridge across the Amur River in May 2019, three years after signing the construction deal”. — “Russia’s minister for Far East and Arctic development expects the bridge to open for passenger traffic in mid-2021”.
(Courtesy The Moscow Times) (6)
Then, as another significant measure of Russia and China ‘coming together’ in the emerging regional ‘geopolitical reset’, Russia has launched a major natural gas pipeline to the ‘energy-hungry’ China. According to a report of 2nd of this month (December 2019) by Al Jazeera, “A massive pipeline linking one of the most remote parts of Russia with a far-flung region of China has begun delivering gas. The so-called “Power of Siberia” pipeline was officially launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping via a joint video conference on Monday”. In that report Al Jazeera’s Andrew Thomas, reporting from Heihe in northern China, said that besides economics the project is also about politics. “Russia was keen [to set up the pipeline] because it is facing resistance to its plans to export more gas to Europe,” he said. For China, the deal also means less reliance on Liquified Natural Gas shipments from the US and Middle Eastern countries potentially influenced by US policy.
(Courtesy Aljazeera) (7)
And that is not all about the mutual collaboration between Russia and China. Factually it is far enhanced by now. Its magnitude can be grasped from an extract of the news published by US News dated 29th of last month (November 2019), “As US increases it’s geopolitical and economic pressure on China and Russia, the two countries are expanding not just their military cooperation but increasing their economic ties, highlighted by a stronger high-tech partnership spanning telecommunications, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and digital economy, new research shows”. —- “Such partnerships show that Beijing and Moscow recognize the potential synergies of joining forces in the development of these dual-use technologies, which possess clear military and commercial significance,” the authors say” (8).
Yet another point to register about this emerging ‘geopolitical reset’ is that now it is not limited to Russia and China, or their initial mutual and rather eastward focus. For quite some years now it has also started spanning towards west Asia and certain other parts of Eurasia. As for its westward span, its already existing linchpin is China-Pakistan’s time-tested alliance, especially reflected through China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). However, Russia too commenced ‘coming closer’ to Pakistan since last some years. The gravity and expanse of the ‘newly developing’ Russia-Pakistan geopolitical and economic relations can be gauged from two of the interviews of Russian officials:-
(a) According to a report dated 17 December 2016 published by Gulf news in an interview Russian Ambassador to Pakistan Alexey Y Dedov stated that Russia “strongly supports the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project as it is crucial for Pakistan’s economy and regional connectivity”. —- “CPEC is a component of China’s Silk Road and that Russia was also working on a similar Eurasian Economic Union. He added that China and Russia were holding discussions to merge the two projects”. — “Asked about Pakistan’s North-South gas pipeline project, the Russian Ambassador said they were eager to finalise the project at the soonest”. — “Russia were also closely cooperating in efforts for restoration of peace in Afghanistan” (9); and,
(b) A one-day seminar was held in Islamabad on 2 May 2019 on “Evolving Regional Dynamics and Future of Pakistan-Russia Relations”. Its report was published on 3 May 2019 by SDPI. In that seminar Dr. Sergey A. Baranov Counsellor from the Embassy of the Russian Federation, in his Keynote Address, “reiterated that Pakistan is first and foremost an important partner for Russia. He shared that the significance of Pakistan is determined by its role in regional politics, its influence in the Muslim world and its geostrategic position”. “Interaction with Pakistan in the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), as a full-fledged member, is very important for Russia to carry out cross-regional economic, energy and infrastructure projects”. —–“Dr Baranov highlighted how recent years have witnessed steadfast progress in bilateral relations with leaders from both countries meeting regularly to exchange views on key issues of regional and bilateral importance. “Such meetings give an added impetus to our mutually beneficial partnership”, he remarked”. Regarding the economic dimension of Pak-Russian cooperation The Counselor pointed out that “great expectations are pinned on the Russian-Pakistani Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation which has identified priority avenues of our business and investment cooperation” (10).
And, by now Russia-Pakistan relations have gone far beyond these statements. To mention very briefly: “In recent years ties between Russia and Pakistan have warmed as a countermeasure to warming ties between India and the United States, the two countries carried out their first-ever joint military drills in 2016 despite Indian requests to postpone due to the Uri attack. Pakistan and Russia signed an agreement for the North-South gas pipeline from Lahore to Karachi, and reached a price accord by December 2016. Pakistan has also granted Russia access to a warm water port in the Arabian sea Gawadar Port” (11).
These are just some of the facts which clearly show the irrefutable signs of the emerging ‘geopolitical reset’; the main driving force of whose initiation is the much accentuated US’ global bullying. This phenomenon is not limited to Russia, China, and Pakistan. There are many other countries which are also ‘leaning’ towards this emerging geopolitical reset for similar reasons. In any case this is a very important phenomenon for study and pondering upon, especially by those who are involved in policy making of national level in their respective ‘affected’ countries.
About The Author.
Retired Brigadier of Pakistan Army; graduate of Command & Staff College and post-graduate of National Defence College; war veteran; retired due to heart ailment; research-analyst; post-retirement PhD; then decided to be a teacher; taught in school for about three-and-half years; then on, taught as visiting faculty various social science subjects at graduate and masters levels in the universities of the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi for about eleven years; house-bound since 2013 due to ailment, retaining the passion for research, analysis, and sharing with those who may be interested. Can be reached at [email protected]