Curious Takeaways From the Multifaceted Sino-Russian Lovefest
Here’s one: Russia will transfer to Communist China the Western weapons it captures from Ukraine.
It goes without saying that Presidents Putin and Xi would have Ukraine on the menu or, lest that sound impolitic, on the agenda of their two-day Kremlin powwow as well as mirthless toasts, firm post-Covid handshakes, and photo opportunities aplenty.
Yet the chances of Beijing bringing to the meeting anything like a real peace deal that could pass muster at both Moscow and Kyiv are about as great as President Xi erecting a pavilion for student democracy at Tiananmen Square. While the hoped for main course — a viable peace plan — was never really in the cards, consider some of the side dishes.
First, did you know that there is a luxury Chinese-owned hotel in the heart of chilly Moscow? The new five-star Soluxe hotel features a lobby “full of air and light and its inspirational design is a creative blend of Feng-Shui traditions and Western opulence,” according to its website. That occidental decadence extends to the outdoors: the hotel boasts the biggest “formal Chinese park” outside of Red China itself.
The pet-friendly hotel allows small cats and dogs as well as unscrupulous dictators: it is reportedly where President Xi stayed during his brief sojourn in the Russian capital.
In other tourism news, Russia is said to be working with China on a new wide-body commercial aircraft.
If anybody is looking for a Russian holiday these days, though, they must actually be stuck in the year 2006. If, however, they are looking for clues as to what fresh chaos Mr. Putin plans to unload on the world stage in the weeks and months to come as the war in Ukraine drags on, they are available.
That’s especially true if one looks beyond the camera-ready smiles from inside the Kremlin’s historic Palace of Facets and examines the document signed there. It is rather clumsily called the “Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China on the Deepening Comprehensive Partnership and Strategic Cooperation, Entering a New Era.”
Strategic in those hallowed halls does not apply to marketing initiatives but to matters of a more martial nature. According to the document, Moscow and Beijing will henceforth “regularly conduct joint patrols at sea and in the air and joint exercises.” While that is no secret in Washington, it is something that should keep President Biden on his toes.
Curiouser is a provision about military-technical cooperation between the two vast states. While not explicitly mentioned in the joint statement, Russian media reported that Russia will transfer all American, British, French, and German weapons “captured from the puppet Ukrainian army” to Communist China. According to the pro-Kremlin Komsomolskaya Pravda, “it is very useful for the Chinese military-industrial complex to receive dozens or hundreds of samples of these captured weapons in order to develop their military-industrial complex faster.”
That kind of prescription is too long to fit into a fortune cookie, but it may leave a bitter taste for Western military planners all the same. Russia is not giving away anything for free, either: “Chips are what our military-industrial complex needs from China,” Komsomolskaya Pravda reported, and apparently behind closed doors the two leaders spoke at length about expectations that Beijing will provide Moscow with more of them. Before sanctions, of course, Russia purchased many microelectronic components from the West.
Russia and China will also “focus on conducting joint breakthrough research in advanced areas of science and technology, including in the field of health care,” according to the joint statement. Three years after a global pandemic that is widely believed to have started in a mismanaged virus lab at Wuhan, there is no doubt that Russia’s Chinese Communist interlocutors could use a lift in the health sciences department.
In the least worrying Sino-Russian challenge to Mr. Biden, the authors of the joint statement take aim at what many at Moscow and Beijing perceive to be America’s destructive woke culture. “The parties oppose … discrimination against representatives of the spheres of culture, education, science, sports on any grounds, including citizenship, language, religion, political and other beliefs, national or social origin.” Translation: If you take aim at Dostoevsky, expect that Russian feathers will be ruffled.
Of course, there is more to it than that. When the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently reclassified a trio of Russian painters as Ukrainian, it had the unintended consequence of reinforcing Russian misperceptions that America and the West are out to dismantle the whole of Russian culture. In the meantime, there has been a surge in anti-Russian hate crimes in Britain, with Sky News reporting that even a noted Russian chef has received threats.
Many might say, “So what?” Russia is the country that threatened and then took aim at Ukraine, not the other way round. Historically, though, nations that feel slighted do tend to lash out. If fueled by misplaced moralizing Communist China piles on with Russia in its anti-Western fervor — and the lengthy joint statement between the Eurasian comrades points to it — look out.