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Xi and Putin commit to joint China-Russia partnership after Biden calls for world to combat China

China's President Xi Jinping, shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin. (Mikhail Metzel/Tass/Abaca Press/TNS)
December 30, 2020

Hours after U.S. President-elect Joe Biden called for nations to challenge China on a range of trade abuses and human rights violations, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday said their respective countries have reached the highest level of cooperation and those ties cannot be affected by external pressure.

According to a Kremlin press statement of a phone call between Xi and Putin, the two “reaffirmed their shared intention to further promote cooperation in all areas.” Chinese media outlets described the China-Russia ties as unwavering and, according to a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement on the call, Xi said China-Russia ties can “resist any attempt to suppress and divide the two countries, and meanwhile forge a solid shield to safeguard international fairness and justice.”

Earlier on Monday, Biden had said, “As we compete with China and hold China’s government accountable for its abuses on trade, technology, human rights, and other fronts, our position will be much stronger when we build coalitions of like-minded partners and allies to make common cause with us in defense of our shared interests and values.”

Biden added, “we are stronger and more effective when we are flanked by nations that share our vision for the future of our world.”

On Tuesday, China’s state-run Global Times interviewed Russian Ambassador to China Andrey Ivanovich Denisov. From the interview, Global Times reported “Russia-China relations have in fact gone beyond the traditional alliance relationship.” Denisov said both countries have shown cooperation in aspects of their military ties and said such cooperation “can go further if necessary.”

Russia and China have maintained a strategic partnership since the 2001 Treaty of Good-neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation. More recently, the two countries have alluded to expanding their strategic partnership into a military alliance, though they have not explicitly done so. Discussing a military alliance in October, Putin said “We don’t need it, but, theoretically, it’s quite possible to imagine it.” Putin also said Russia’s existing cooperation with China was advancing China’s military power and “The time will show how it will develop.”

Last week, bombers from both countries’ air forces flew together in a joint military patrol flight around the eastern Pacific, flying between Japan and South Korea. The joint operation was the second time both countries’ military aircraft have flown together and China said such joint patrols are now part of an annual military cooperation plan between the two countries.

Last year, China and Russia also joined with Iran for a set of naval war games in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman. Iran is another country China and Russia have worked more closely with in recent years as Iran and the U.S. have also seen increasingly strained relations in recent years.

The U.S. ended arms control treaties with Russia, and challenged Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea and has increasingly sanctioned both Russia and China in recent years.