China is again participating in the “Vostok 2022” military exercise in eastern Russia, as it did in 2018. And this system participates with air, sea and ground forces. This shows that the military cooperation between China and Russia is intensifying. In view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this is an important signal for Vladimir Putin: despite his brutal war, he is not completely isolated internationally. India is also now participating in maneuvers. They are the forerunners of the New World Order that is slowly crystallizing.
A shared geopolitical interest unites the autocracies of Russia and China: leaving the current world order, still marked by US prominence. After all, the People’s Republic of China wants to emerge as a single superpower in 2049, 100 years after its founding, in line with Xi Jinping’s plans. Putin, for his part, wants to resubmit the territories of the former tsarist empire.
The two autocracies complement each other in their challenge to the United States, without interfering with each other. The Russian military is challenging the US and NATO in the east, especially on the ground. China, on the other hand, is expanding its fleet in the Pacific. Since the turn of the century, China has outperformed Russia in every way. The only exception is Russian nuclear weapons. Russia has one million players and China has two million players.
China already generates the highest GDP globally. Russia, only one-seventh of it, has the same weight as Italy. Technologically, China has long been at the Western level in many industrial sectors, while Russia is mainly dependent on the exploitation of raw materials.
China, unlike India, is increasingly willing to shape the world order according to its security interests. In an increasingly open way, Xi Jinping is making it clear that he wants to annex Taiwan. The West’s determination to contain the Russian invasion of Ukraine will be decisive for Beijing’s future policy, which is watching events with great caution.
Consequences for America, Europe and Ukraine
Given the unequal balance of power, the United States has long focused primarily on countering the Chinese challenge. It is echoed today in the war in Ukraine. Because the US wants to have all the resources in case the conflict with China escalates, it supports Ukraine only enough to counter Russia. But without dressing yourself too militaristically. Of the rest, the US rightly expects Europe to be substantially reorganized in order to defend itself and Washington to be able to provide its nuclear umbrella.
Jörg Himmelreich, Associate Professor at the École Supérieur de Commerce de Paris (ESCP), Campus Berlin.
In this sense, the Sino-Russian military rapprochement directly concerns Europe. For Germany in particular, China is its main market and a major source of raw materials and semi-manufactured products, and German companies must ensure that they do not fall into dependency driven by a myopic desire for profit. That was a dramatic mistake with Russia. Right now, that’s at risk of happening with China’s graphite, an important material for batteries. Trade in strategic raw materials is no longer an economic matter and will not lead to political change, as was mistakenly believed in Germany for many years in relation to Russia.
Therefore, in policy towards China, it will be essential to reduce the dependence of German companies on that market. That, naturally, presupposes that German governments are not succumbing to short-term business interests or the clamor of pressure groups warning of danger to Germany as an economic destination. Precisely that has led to Russia’s dangerous energy dependence.
Dr. Georg Himmelreich is an adjunct professor at the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Paris (ESCP) on the Berlin campus.
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