Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is currently paying a visit to China at his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang's invitation. China and Russia started the Prime Ministers' Regular Meeting in 1996 as a platform to manage cooperation and cultural communication after the Cold War. This is the 22nd meeting which will help maintain the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination against changes in the international order.
The timing and background should attract our attention as Medvedev is the first foreign leader to come to China after the new leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has been elected in the just-concluded 19th CPC National Congress. One of the goals of Medvedev's visit is to represent Russian President Vladimir Putin in communicating with the new Chinese leadership to enhance their recognition of Russia and expand Sino-Russian cooperation.
At the Valdai Discussion Club panel in Sochi in mid October, Putin said that Chinese President Xi Jinping is his friend. On October 26, Xi also said that China will not change its determination to deepen relations with Russia in his phone call with Putin. Their friendship formed the bedrock of Sino-Russian relations. Under their guidance, the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination will keep developing and all-round cooperation will be strengthened.
In this context, Medvedev's visit aims to implement cooperation between China's Belt and Road initiative and the Russia-proposed Eurasian Economic Union and enhance bilateral ties. In the past two years, China and Russia have explored methods to promote such cooperation using the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS as international cooperation platforms and cooperation between the Far East and Northeast China, the Mongolia-China-Russia Economic Corridor, as well as the Yangtze-Volga mechanism as regional cooperation platforms. These international and regional mechanisms have performed well. Medvedev will also visit Chongqing to promote the Yangtze-Volga mechanism.
Medvedev's visit comes close to the China tour of US President Donald Trump this month. Trilateral relations between the Cold War trio have always been crucial in international politics. The international order has entered a period of restructuring as there has been a corrosion in the power of the US and the EU. The two have been involved less in global affairs due to populism. China and other emerging countries, with their growing power, have more potential and willingness to participate in international governance. The "new Cold War" between Russia and the West leads to unexpected ramifications for the world.
The importance of relations among China, the US and Russia has not waned but has become essential to the process of dealing with international crises and reconstructing global order. Confrontation between the US and Russia benefits China. But cooperation exists along with competition in the Sino-US relationship, so the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination becomes the pillar of relations among the three countries.
Although there are some undesirable factors in Sino-Russian relations, such good ties have not been witnessed in history. The two leaders see each other as good friends, which means they can trust and rely on each other. As can be seen, bilateral relations are likely to expand in 2017, especially at the level of strategy and national security.
First, China and Russia held the first joint naval drill this year in the Baltic Sea, which is the frontline of the confrontation between Russia and the West. They then held the second phase of the exercises in the strategically sensitive Sea of Japan at a time when tensions on the Korean Peninsula were high. The breakthrough of bilateral military cooperation reveals the depth of their strategic trust.
Second, China and Russia worked together at the UN Security Council under pressure from the West after the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula escalated. They have tried to maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula and avoided military conflicts in Northeast Asia.
Cooperation, instead of alliance, between China and Russia shows bilateral ties go beyond traditional geopolitics. Fu Ying, chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress, said the two nations should surpass the limit of geopolitics at the Valdai Discussion Club panel this year. The goal of cooperation between China and Russia is not to confront the US or the West, but to speed up the process of development and global governance and to make the community of shared destiny, a notion proposed by Xi, come true.