This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Russia and China further cemented their alliance on Wednesday, hitting out “illegal” international sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
“The ministers had a thorough exchange of views on the situation around Ukraine,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement following talks between Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in the eastern province of Anhui on Wednesday.
“The head of the Russian foreign ministry informed his Chinese counterpart about the progress of the special military operation … and the dynamics of the negotiation process with the Kyiv regime,” the statement said.
“The sides noted the counterproductive nature of the illegal unilateral sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and its satellites.”
Wang and Lavrov, who were shown masked and bumping elbows on state TV in deference to CCP leader Xi Jinping’s zero-COVID policy, had agreed to continue to speak out on the issue “with a united voice,” it said.
Both China and Russia also referenced their vision of a “multipolar” world order, implying a challenge to U.S. diplomatic and military power.
China has refused to describe the war as an invasion, nor to condemn Russia’s military action in Ukraine, blaming eastward expansion by NATO for stoking security tensions with Russia and calling for the issue to be resolved through negotiation.
The two foreign ministers also discussed strengthening coordination on foreign policy matters, and widening bilateral cooperation.
Wang Yi was quoted as saying by state-backed Phoenix TV that Sino-Russian ties had “withstood the test of international turbulence,” amid an increased willingness to develop the relationship on both sides.
“Our striving for peace has no limits, our upholding of security has no limits, our opposition towards hegemony has no limits,” Wang said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin meanwhile reiterated the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) line that Beijing sees this alliance as having unlimited potential.
“There is no limit to China-Russia cooperation, no limit to our efforts to achieve peace, safeguard security and oppose hegemony,” Wang told a regular news briefing in Beijing.
“China-Russia relations are non-aligned, non-confrontational and not targeted at any third party,” the spokesman said.
On Ukraine, Wang Wenbin said China would “play a constructive role and provide assistance to normalize the situation in Ukraine,” adding, “any action that could add fuel to the fire or exacerbate controversies must be prevented.”
Lavrov, who is in the country ostensibly for talks about the future of Afghanistan, said the international community is “living through a very serious stage in the history of international relations.”
“We, together with you, and with our sympathizers will move towards a multipolar, just, democratic world order,” he said in a video clip released by the Russian foreign ministry ahead of a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Beijing-based independent commentator Zha Jianguo said the meeting shows that the alliance between Beijing and Moscow is rock-solid.
“China’s basic attitude towards the war in Ukraine will not change, which is to say that it will side with Russia while remaining neutral, and focus on its own interests,” Zha said.
“I think both sides were probably telling each other the truth, sharing views and attitudes, and gaining further understanding of each other’s positions,” he said of the meeting.
Low Russian morale
Zha said the war had almost certainly not gone according to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s original plan.
“The sticking point right now is likely to be coming from Russia,” he said. “Personally, I’m not very optimistic about [these] negotiations.”
Independent political commentator Wu Qiang said it was hard to see how long Putin could keep the war going, however.
“If they try to keep the areas they had de facto control of before the war, Donbass and the Crimean peninsula, then this could lead to a protracted defensive war,” Wu said. “But the state of the Russian army right now suggests that would be pretty hard for the Kremlin to do.”
Wu said low morale and a hostile international community could affect the stability of Putin’s hold on power.
A senior international news editor surnamed Gao said the friendly relationship between Beijing and Moscow had definitely been reaffirmed on this visit by Lavrov.
“They have once more jointly condemned the so-called eastward expansion of NATO, and aid supplies will still be sent to Russia,” Gao said. “It’s just a little more subtle now, but the friendly ties are definitely being reaffirmed.”
“China won’t give the U.S. anything, substantially or superficially.”