Russia and China’s Enduring Alliance


Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a welcoming ceremony in Beijing, China, June 25, 2016. Sputnik/Kremlin/Mikhail Klimentyev/via REUTERS

Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a welcoming ceremony in Beijing, China, June 25, 2016. Sputnik/Kremlin/Mikhail Klimentyev/via REUTERS

A Reverse “Nixon Strategy” Won’t Work for Trump

By Jacob Stokes

Several commentators, among them Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute and Edward Luttwak of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, have suggested that U.S. President Donald Trump should take any efforts to warm relations with Russia one step further and try to enlist Moscow’s help in balancing a rising China. Trump views China and Islamist extremism as the two principal challenges to U.S. security, and he sees Russia as a potential partner in combating both. The thinking goes, then, that Trump should run a version of the diplomatic play that former U.S. President Richard Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger followed in the early 1970s when they thawed relations with Beijing to counter the Soviet Union. This time, however, Trump would partner with Russia to balance China.

The proposal entices with visions of ambitious strategic gambits across Eurasia, in Trumpian vernacular the “big league” of geopolitics. Nixon going to China was one of the most consequential diplomatic deals in U.S. history. What better way for the dealmaker in chief—especially one who regularly consults with Kissinger—to burnish his credentials than carrying out a version of it for himself? In theory, the move would adhere to traditional maxims of geopolitics: namely, the imperative to maintain the balance of power on the Eurasian continent. U.S. strategists have relied on this principle to varying degrees since at least World War II. Further, a strategy that engages with Russia to counter China might lend a degree of coherence to the Trump administration’s otherwise disjointed foreign policy.

ALLIED ENOUGH

The problem for Trump is that Sino-Russian ties have been improving more or less steadily since the waning years of the Cold War. The thaw between the two communist powers began in the early 1980s and was followed by normalized relations in May 1989. Beijing and Moscow established a “strategic partnership” in 1996 and signed a Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation in 2001. Chinese and Russian leaders now refer to the relationship as a “comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination,” a convoluted term for a not-quite alliance. Last September, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi proclaimed that “the depth and scope of coordination between both countries are unprecedented.” Robust cooperation has accelerated since Xi Jinping became China’s top leader in 2012; he reportedly has a warm personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The two countries cooperate closely across a number of fields. On energy, Russia became the top oil supplier to China in 2016. Crucially for China, it transports supplies overland rather than through contested sea lanes. The nations have partnered on military exercises, including in the Mediterranean and South China Sea, as well as on some joint technology development projects. They have revived their languishing arms trade relationship. In 2015, Beijing agreed to purchase both Su-35 fighter jets and the S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system from Moscow. The two countries have also embarked on a number of symbolic people-to-people projects, such as beginning the long-delayed construction of a bridge across the Amur River. And in June 2016, Presidents Xi and Putin agreed to work jointly to increase their control over cyberspace and communications technologies.

A shared political vision for world order provides the foundation for Chinese-Russian cooperation. It is defined primarily by the desire to see an end to U.S. primacy, to be replaced by multipolarity. Once this vision is realized, each nation would command an effective sphere of influence in Asia and eastern Europe, respectively. For now, though, China and Russia have tenser relations with the United States than at any point since the end of the Cold War. This is primarily because of maritime territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas—including over the Diaoyu/Senkaku, the Paracel, and the Spratly island chains—and the war in Ukraine, making the Sino-Russian partnership more important than ever. A recent op-ed in the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily called that relationship “the ballast stone in maintaining world peace and stability.”

A shared political vision for world order provides the foundation for Chinese-Russian cooperation.

In the 1970s, it was deep discord in the Sino-Soviet relationship that helped convince China to align with the United States. This discord culminated in border clashes in 1969. By 1972, relations between the two communist powers had deteriorated from frosty to outright frozen. When Kissinger came calling, Beijing already saw Moscow as a bigger threat than Washington. For Russia today, the opposite is true. Moscow sees Washington as the primary adversary despite hopes that Trump will repair the relationship.

Moscow sees Washington as the primary adversary despite hopes that Trump will repair the relationship.

To be sure, there is some potential for a rupture between China and Russia. Moscow worries about a lopsided economic relationship based on trading Russian resources for Chinese finished goods. China’s growing influence in Central Asia and the sparsely populated areas of eastern Russia, Moscow’s arms sales to India and Vietnam, and China’s theft of Russian weapons designs all threaten to derail the partnership. But the United States’ ability to fuel those disputes in order to foster divisions remains limited at best. Moreover, Xi and Putin have found a modus vivendi that downplays and contains those frictions while focusing on the cooperative aspects of their relationship. When Chinese leaders talk about a “new type of great power relations” with the United States, they envision something much like the Sino-Russian relationship as a model.

WEAK RETURNS

In exchange for turning against China, Moscow might seek the lifting of sanctions imposed following the annexation of Crimea, an end to U.S. support for a free and independent Ukraine, and acquiescence to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It may also demand a removal of missile defenses from Europe, the cessation of NATO expansion, or, even better from a Russian perspective, the abolition of NATO altogether. Granting Putin’s wishes on these issues would undermine the seven-decade U.S. investment in a Europe whole, free, and at peace—an investment that propelled the United States’ ascension to postwar primacy in the first place. What is more, accepting Russia’s acquisition of territory by force would undermine U.S. arguments about the prohibition of such actions under international law when Beijing asserts its expansive claims in the East and South China Seas using force.

Even if Trump convinced Putin to end Moscow’s partnership with Beijing, Russia would still have little capability to thwart China’s bad behavior in places that matter. Russia’s Pacific Fleet, although relatively sizable in number, suffers from severe shortfalls in maintenance, and many of its assets are aging. Planned additions to the fleet—including extra missile defense systems and submarines—will bolster deterrence capabilities but have limited applicability to the types of sea patrol tasks necessary to counter China’s maritime assertiveness. In theory, Moscow could help arm Asian nations to contribute to the balancing effort, but direct U.S. and other allied assistance could easily substitute for that, building relationships more advantageous to U.S. interests in the process.

Putin would also need to patch up diplomatic relations in Asia if he planned to balance against Beijing. Doing so would require a substantial diplomatic investment and, likely, Russian concessions. Putin’s ballyhooed rapprochement with Tokyo seems to have run aground despite clear eagerness on the part of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a deal to address the dispute over the Northern Territories islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kurils, as well as a peace treaty officially concluding World War II. And Russia’s continued support of North Korea and staunch opposition to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system has made for rocky relations with Seoul. The Russian position on the South China Sea—studied aloofness while agreeing to joint naval exercises with China—means that strategic relations in Southeast Asia would also require substantial diplomatic spadework (Putin’s warm relations with President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines notwithstanding).

FINDING LEVERAGE

A better U.S. strategy for competing effectively in the no-holds-barred contest of great power politics—including in “triangular diplomacy” with Moscow and Beijing—would focus on two lines of effort. First, the Trump administration should work with both Russia and China where possible. Those efforts should seek to forge a trilateral understanding on contentious issues affecting strategic stability, such as nuclear and missile defense issues, twenty-first-century definitions of sovereignty, and rules for armed intervention. Trilateral discussions should also build practical cooperation on areas of mutual interest, such as climate and energy, counterterrorism, and nonproliferation. Addressing frictions head-on and building habits of cooperation could mitigate strategic distrust among the three great powers by lessening the worry that two will cut deals at the expense of the other.

Second, Washington must continue to do the hard work of maintaining and building support among current U.S. allies and partners in both Europe and Asia, along with other increasingly powerful middle-tier states such as Brazil, India, and Vietnam. Such ties give the United States leverage over China and Russia, neither of which has similar worldwide networks of friendly states. The United States must assess the costs and benefits of finding and keeping friends overseas in a manner that looks beyond the narrow transactionalism Trump espoused on the campaign trail. Put simply, when considered in the context of a global competition for power and influence, a vast network of allies and partners starts to look more like an asset than a liability.

Trump seeks “good deals” with Russia. Cozying up to Putin in hopes of receiving Moscow’s help in balancing Beijing would not be one.

Source: Foreign Affairs “Russia and China’s Enduring Alliance”

Note: This is Foreign Affair’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Exclusive: Trump calls Chinese ‘grand champions’ of currency manipulation


U.S. President Donald Trump is interviewed by Reuters in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Donald Trump is interviewed by Reuters in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Steve Holland and David Lawder | WASHINGTON Thu Feb 23, 2017 | 6:55pm EST

President Donald Trump declared China the “grand champions” of currency manipulation on Thursday, just hours after his new Treasury secretary pledged a more methodical approach to analyzing Beijing’s foreign exchange practices.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Trump said he has not “held back” in his assessment that China manipulates its yuan currency, despite not acting on a campaign promise to declare it a currency manipulator on his first day in office.

“Well they, I think they’re grand champions at manipulation of currency. So I haven’t held back,” Trump said. “We’ll see what happens.”

During his presidential campaign Trump frequently accused China of keeping its currency artificially low against the dollar to make Chinese exports cheaper, “stealing” American manufacturing jobs.

But Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin told CNBC on Thursday he was not ready to pass judgment on China’s currency practices.

Asked if the U.S. Treasury was planning to name China a currency manipulator any time soon, Mnuchin said he would follow its normal process of analyzing the currency practices of major U.S. trading partners.

The Treasury is required to publish a report on these practices on April 15 and Oct. 15 each year.

“We have a process within Treasury where we go through and look at currency manipulation across the board. We’ll go through that process. We’ll do that as we have in the past,” Mnuchin said in his first televised interview since formally taking over the department last week. “We’re not making any judgments until we go continue that process.”

A formal declaration that China or any other country manipulates its currency requires the U.S. Treasury to seek negotiations to resolve the situation, a process that could end in punitive tariffs on the offender’s goods.

The U.S. Treasury designated Taiwan and South Korea as currency manipulators in 1988, the year that Congress enacted the currency review law. China was the last country to get the designation, in 1994.

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The current situation is complicated because China’s central bank has spent billions of dollars in foreign exchange reserves in the past year to prop up the yuan to counter capital outflows.

The International Monetary Fund said last year that the yuan’s value was broadly in line with its economic fundamentals. The U.S. Treasury also said in its last currency report in October that its view of China’s external imbalances had improved somewhat.
Trump’s pronouncements about the yuan could also complicate matters for Mnuchin as he prepares for his first meeting next month with his Group of 20 finance minister counterparts in Baden Baden, Germany.

(Reporting by David Lawder and Steve Holland, Writing by David Lawder; Editing by Paul Simao)

Source: Reuters “Exclusive: Trump calls Chinese ‘grand champions’ of currency manipulation”

Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Trump Succeeds in Having China Pressure North Korea Harder


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches a performance given with splendor at the People's Theatre on Wednesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State Merited Chorus in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 23, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches a performance given with splendor at the People’s Theatre on Wednesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State Merited Chorus in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 23, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS

In the above photo, Kim did not smile with a light heart perhaps due to China’s reduction of coal import from his country.

Reuters says in its report “Trump wants to make sure U.S. nuclear arsenal at ‘top of the pack’” yesterday that in an interview with Reuters, US President Donald Trump says that Beijing may rein in Pyongyang “very easily if they want to”.

I said in my post “The Conundrum of China-North Korea Relations 2” on February 21, “China does not want to punish North Korea too hard for fear of the collapse of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un regime” as it “may give rise to flood of hundreds of thousands North Korean refugees into China” or US and South Korea’s annexation of North Korea and thus depriving China of a buffer that separates the two from China.

Now by banning import of coal from North Korea, China has really pressured North Korea hard in accordance with Trump’s demand.

Judging by North Korea’s angry response, the ban really hurts. Reuters says in its another report titled “North Korea raps old ally China after China’s ban on coal” yesterday, “The North’s state-run KCNA news agency did not refer directly to China by name but in an unmistakable censure it accused a ‘neighboring country’ of going along with North Korea’s enemies to ‘bring down its social system’.

“‘This country, styling itself a big power, is dancing to the tune of the U.S. while defending its mean behavior with such excuses that it was meant not to have a negative impact on the living of the people in the DPRK but to check its nuclear program,’ KCNA said in a commentary.”

North Korea is shrewd in describing China as a big power losing face in obeying US demand, but Chinese leaders simply do not care because they are wise honest leaders. They do not mind losing face as long as their nation is much benefited in losing face.

They let the US take the lead in the dance as long as China and the US cooperate well in dancing to US tune that greatly benefit China. They know win-win cooperation with the US is too important for China’s economic prosperity and national security.

The reduction in coal import from North Korea does not hurt China as China has much excessive coal production capacity to cover the loss of import. North Korea will suffer losses less than US2 billion in lost coal export, but if China provides it with loan for paying import of food and other daily necessities from China, North Korean people will not suffer and North Korea’s political stability will not be affected. Only, Kim Jong-un will have less money for nuclear and missile development, which is good for not only the US but also China.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ reports, full text of which can respectively be viewed at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-exclusive-idUSKBN1622IF and http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-china-idUSKBN1621G2.


Ivanka’s Popularity in China Bodes Well for China-US Relations


Ivanka Trump’s popularity has grown in China since she and her daughter visited the Chinese embassy in Washington at Lunar New Year. Photo: Xinhua

Ivanka Trump’s popularity has grown in China since she and her daughter visited the Chinese embassy in Washington at Lunar New Year. Photo: Xinhua

While Trump spoke harshly on China, his daughter Invanka Trump brought her daughter to Chinese embassy in Washington at Chinese Lunar New Year, where her daughter gave performance of a Chinese song. The message was quite clear. Trump wants good relations with China. As Chinese people also want good relations with the US, Ivanka has become very popular in China.

SCMP says in its report “Dozens of Chinese firms apply to use ‘Ivanka’ as their trademark, “Dozens of Chinese businesses and individuals have submitted at least 65 applications to Beijing to use “Ivanka” as a trademark for their products, ranging from wallpaper to alcohol, according to the national trademark office.”

Due to Invanka’s popularity, according to SCMP, about 40 Chinese companies have used the Chinese characters of her name in their company registrations.

Such favorable response to Ivanka’s visit bodes well for US-China relations.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2072337/dozens-chinese-firms-apply-use-ivanka-their-trademark.


The Conundrum of China-North Korea Relations 2


 FILE PHOTO: People look through binoculars towards North Korea from the destroyed bridge across Yalu River that once linked North Korea's Sinuiju and Dandong, China's Liaoning province, September 10, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo People look through binoculars towards North Korea from the destroyed bridge across Yalu River that once linked North Korea's Sinuiju and Dandong, China's Liaoning province, September 10, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

People look through binoculars towards North Korea from the destroyed bridge across Yalu River that once linked North Korea’s Sinuiju and Dandong, China’s Liaoning province, September 10, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

In my post “The Conundrum of China-North Korea Relations” the day before yesterday, I said that China satisfied US President Trump in yuan exchange rate, import tariffs and intellectual property as those are what China has already had intention to do, but has difficulties to be hard on North Korea.

I described in my post the kinship between Chinese and North Korean peoples.

Some believe that China benefits from the trouble created by North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests to the US, Japan and South Korea as the three form an iron triangle against China. However, China will be in great trouble if Trump has Japan and South Korea develop nuclear weapons to deal with North Korea and put China under direct threat of Japan and South Korea’s nuclear weapons; therefore, China has to stop North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, especially when Trump has shown his desire in his phone call with Xi for win-win cooperation with China.

To please the US and put pressure on North Korea, China has recently announced that it would suspend import of North Korean coal, that accounts for $1.89 billion of the $2.5 billion in total Chinese imports from North Korea.

However, China does not want to punish North Korea too hard for fear of the collapse of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un regime.

Reuters says in its report “China wields stick with North Korea, but is still pushing for talks” yesterday that China fears that the collapse may give rise to flood of hundreds of thousands North Korean refugees into China.

In addition, “Beijing would also be concerned that U.S. and South Korean armed forces would move into North Korea and soon be on the Chinese border.”

That is why Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Munich over the weekend that China had not given up hope for a new round of diplomacy with North Korea, even as he pledged support for UN sanctions.

Anyway, Trump must be satisfied. I hope that the win-win cooperation between the US and China will make both of them strong and prosperous perhaps at the expense of Japan. North Korea will also be happy about that as Kim Jong-un in fact wants good relations with the US. His nuclear and missile tests are but bargaining chips for improvement of relations with the US. However, North Korea hates Japan bitterly.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which can be viewed at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-northkorea-analysis-idUSKBN15Z11M.


The Conundrum of China-North Korea Relations


Steven Mnuchin pictured during this Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be US Treasury secretary. Photo: Reuters

Steven Mnuchin pictured during this Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be US Treasury secretary. Photo: Reuters

In history, Korea used to be very close to China and was often protected by China. China fought Japan to protect Korea in the first Sino-Japanese War and suffered great losses in 1895.

Later, it defeated the US to prevent North Korea from being annexed by South Korea. However, North Korea’s Kim Dynasty has not been grateful. It has kept on developing nuclear weapons that threaten not only South Korea and Japan but also China.

At the beginning of Kim Jong-un’s reign, China tried to make him learn from China’s success of reform and opening up but Kim would not listen. On the contrary, Kim has imposed even more stringent control both politically and economically while keeping on development of nuclear weapons in spite of China’s opposition.

China is upset and has begun to cooperate with the US in imposing sanctions on North Korea, but it cannot go too far as it has to take care of North Korean people that Chinese people regard as their kin.

Lots of North Koreans joined Chinese Communist Party’s troops in resisting Japan and fighting Chinese Civil War. During Mao’s famine lots of Chinese fled to North Korea for survival as at that time North Korea was quite prosperous with substantial Soviet aids.

Now, Kim Dynasty’s famine has forced lots of North Koreans to flee to China for survival. There is arrangement between China and North Korea for repatriating those North Korean refugees, but Chinese people do not want to send their North Korean kin back to be killed or persecuted cruelly by the Kim Dynasty.

As a result, China cannot impose UN sanctions stringently. It has to provide North Korea with food and daily necessities. In order to get paid for Chinese goods, China has to buy coal and other minerals from North Korea in spite of the sanctions.

Now, US new president Trump has said that he has made a long satisfactory friendly phone call to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Obviously, Trump has got what he wants from Beijing.

First, Trump complains that China manipulates its currency yuan to keep its exchange rate low, but now China is in fact manipulating yuan to prevent it from falling; therefore, as a matter of fact, that is not a problem.

Second, Xi must have promised to reduce the high import tariffs and the restriction of US investment in banking, insurance and other sectors. China promised to open those sectors when it joined WTO, but its state-owned enterprises in those sectors needed government protection with high tariffs and restriction of entry. Now, Xi Jinping has been carrying out a reform to open those state-monopolized sectors in order to introduce competition to improve the efficiency in those sectors. In addition, Chinese state-owned enterprises in those sectors have grown strong enough so that there is no need for state protection with high tariffs and entry restriction.

Third, as for Trump’s demand for better protection of intellectual property, China has grown past the stage of stealing foreign intellectual property and is now making great efforts to develop its own intellectual property. As a result, it has switched to stressing protection of China’s own fast-growing intellectual property. It now has to protect foreign intellectual property if it wants other countries to protect its own; therefore, that is not a problem for China either.

Relations between China and the US have indeed wormed up since the Trump-Xi phone call. There were first media reports that on February 17, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of G20 foreign minister meeting in Bonn. In its report “Rex Tillerson, Wang Yi in highest-level US-China meet under Donald Trump”, Firstpost quotes Mark Toner, acting US State Department spokesman, as saying, “Secretary Tillerson and Minister Wang noted the recent call between leaders and discussed efforts to advance bilateral cooperation while addressing differences in a constructive manner.” (Firstpost’s report can be viewed at http://www.firstpost.com/world/rex-tillerson-wang-yi-in-highest-level-us-china-meet-under-donald-trump-3288854.html.)

Then there is SCMP’s report today titled “New US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin makes phone calls to Chinese economic officials” on Mnuchin making separate calls to Liu He, the head of the office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs; Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, and Finance Minister Xiao Jie.

SCMP quotes US Treasury Department’s statement as saying, “In each of these calls, Secretary Mnuchin underscored that he looked forward to fostering strong US-China engagement during his tenure. The secretary emphasised the importance of achieving a more balanced bilateral economic relationship going forward.” (SCMP’s report can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2072060/new-us-treasury-secretary-mnuchin-makes-phone-calls.)

Now, it seems North Korea remains the most tricky problem that Trump asks Xi to deal with.

Firstpost quotes Toner as saying, “Secretary Tillerson also highlighted the increasing threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and urged China to use all available tools to moderate North Korea’s destabilising behaviour.”

Obviously, in his phone call, Trump also asked Xi to help control North Korea. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un must be paying great attention to Trump’s China policies. He guesses that China has promised Trump something regarding North Korea. He knows well that China is not satisfied with his reign, especially his nuclear and missile tests and suspects China has a plan to bring about a regime change in his country that will benefit both the US and China.

For regime change, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam is a precious asset for China. When China has conducted a coup or military attack to bring down Kim Jong-un, his half-brother will be his best replacement for a new regime in his country. After all, Kim Jong-nam is his father’s eldest son with the best qualification to succeed his father. That might be the reason why soon after the telephone call, Kim Jong-nam was assassinated.

That is a conundrum in China-North Korea relations. If China has indeed a regime-change plan, Kim Jong-nam must be China’s very valuable asset. Why China has not sent agents to protect him in secret or at least employed some bodyguards for him. Moreover, China must not attempt to conduct regime change in another country as it regards non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs as its key diplomatic principle.

I would rather believe Kim Jong-un assassinated his half-brother due to his paranoia, which at least shows that he lives in constant fear of his powerful neighbor China.

Knowing that, China began to pressure him. Reuters says in its report “China to suspend all imports of coal from North Korea” that according to Chinese Ministry of Commerce China will ban imports of coal from North Korea from Feb. 19 to Dec. 31.

Perhaps, China has threatened to impose other sanctions to force Kim Jong-un to yield to its pressure. That is why according to Reuters’ report “China sees chance of six-party talks with North Korea”, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Feb. 17 China has not given up hope for a new round of diplomacy with North Korea to prevent Pyongyang making further advances in its weapons program in violation of U.N. resolutions. (Reuters’ two reports can respectively be viewed at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-coal-northkorea-idUSKBN15X09M and http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-missiles-china-idUSKBN15W272.

Article by Chan Kai Yee.


Can Trump Leverage Russia against China


Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a welcoming ceremony in Beijing, China, June 25, 2016. Sputnik/Kremlin/Mikhail Klimentyev/via REUTERS

Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a welcoming ceremony in Beijing, China, June 25, 2016. Sputnik/Kremlin/Mikhail Klimentyev/via REUTERS

In my post “Russia-China Alliance May Not Break when There Is No US Threat” on October 2, 2016, I said though the Russia-China alliance is an alliance of necessity to resist US containment of both Russia and China, even if US threat has been removed the alliance will not break as friends in need may become friends in deed.

However, we have not studied another possibility: Can US new president Trump leverage Russia against China?

In fact, before Obama began his pivot to Asia to contain China, the US has been quite successful in containing Russia with China’s assistance. China supported the UN decisions initiated by the West to contain Russia in the Middle East. It even suffered serious losses in supporting the US in conducting regime change in Libya. However, when the US began to contain China, China has to unite with Russia in resisting US containment. It greatly pleased Russia by joining Russia’s veto of UN resolution initiated by the US aimed at bringing regime change in pro-Russia Syria.

Since then, China has made great efforts to build mutual trust with Russia. As a result, the two countries have developed very close ties, difficult for Trump to break.

Perhaps, Trump knows the importance of leveraging Russia against rising China. In his election campaign, Trump often praised Russian President Putin while attacking China. It gave people the impression that Trump will improve US relations with Russia when he has won the election and become US president. That idea is quite unpopular among lots of American people. For example Trump’s Defense Secretary James Mattis regards Russia as the biggest threat.

However, some people believe that Trump is not so stupid as to regard Russia as a friend instead of an enemy. Perhaps Trump regards China as the biggest threat and wants to use Russia in countering China.

That will be the reverse of Henry Kissinger’s move in improving US relations with China to counter the Soviet Union.

It is perhaps a wise move to contain China, but is it possible for Trump to do so, given US domestic disgust of Putin? Can Trump overcome fierce opposition from US politicians and media, especially the opposition from his own Republican Party?

Given the traditional enmity between the two giant neighbors, it would have been possible for the US to leverage Russia against China if Obama had not committed the mistake of containing them both simultaneously and thus turned them into allies instead of enemies.

The Russia-China alliance is indeed a “marriage of convenience”, but we shall not forget that a marriage of convenience, though not sound as a marriage based on mutual affection, may have some firm basis for the marriage, which usually are mutual interests.

When the two countries become closer, they find that they economies supplement each other very favorably. Russia is a major exporter of energy and other natural resources that China has a thirst for while China is Russia’s major source of cheap consumer goods. The United States cannot replace China as Russia’s resources importer and consumer goods provider. On the contrary, the US is Russia’s competitor in world energy market as it is becoming a major energy exporter too due to progress of technology in energy exploitation.

In addition, the US is Russia’s major competitor in world weapon market. China may become Russia’s major competitor too as it is vigorously developing advanced weapons. However, China and Russia may cooperate in developing advanced weapons due to the mutual trust they have built for a long time. For example, they now have joint ventures in developing wide-body airliners (the technology of which may be used in large military transport aircraft) and heavy helicopters to combine their technology expertise to compete with the West.

The US and Russia however have developed their deep hostility for decades since the beginning of the Cold War. They are simply unable to overcome the hostility within a short period of time. Therefore, it is impossible for the US and Russia to conduct such cooperation in weapon development. Russia and China may together become America’s fearful competitor in world market.

There is, moreover, the mutually beneficial cooperation due to their close geographical locations that the US cannot replace China. China is now using Russia’s railway for its trade with Europe and Middle East. As the Arctic is melting, China may have a shipping route through the Arctic that is much shorter than that through the Indian Ocean. Russia will provide port facilities for supplies and maintenance to facilitate the shipping and air protection to prevent China’s that trade lifeline from being cut by US navy while China may provide funds and labor for the construction of such facilities.

China is certainly willing to pay for the use of the railway and port facilities to benefit Russia. In addition, the route will also be very useful for Russia’s export of oil and LPG extracted in Siberia. Japan and South Korea will be major importer of Russian oil and LPG.

Article by Chan Kai Yee