The Russian-Chinese alliance across a number of vectors, including the Syrian conflict, has proven for the west to be dangerously effective. As a result, we have noted the rise of a pernicious form of wishful thinking in western press – that Russia and China are destined to become competitors. This dovetails with the Trump administrations apparent aim to split Russia and China from each other, in order to focus on containing China. However, a Russia without Chinese support would be left weakened overall. Russia has no territorial interests on China, but western press has pursued an idea that Chinese would like someday to take Pacific Russia, given its vast population and need for valuable Russian resources. It’s been proposed that Russia will soon see China as its main problem.
But there’s no been no shortage of Russian yellow journalism also jumping on the bandwagon, quick to push a line that seems to co-align with both the ostensible interests of Moscow and Trump doctrine Washington D.C.
Chinese diplomacy chief Wang Yi has promised that China will help restore Syria after the war ends. Syria is rich in oil and Beijing has long been interested in the country, granted. But according to a recurring theme in the Vzglyad newspaper, we are supposed to take this to mean that Russian and Chinese interests will ultimately be diametrically opposed. We should note first that the Vzglyad newspaper is run by Konstantin Rykov who has been vigorously pushing a pro-Trump line in Russia.
Is it time for Moscow to worry about Chinese influence?
The Chinese foreign minister met with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem on the margins of the UN General Assembly last Thursday and said Beijing appreciates Syrian-Chinese relations and “will not refrain” from Syria’s recovery, the Xinhua news agency .
However, Vzglyad columnist Mikhail Moshkin, said that Beijing maintained ties with Syria even during the war, and Damascus, as President Bashar Assad said in March 2016, hopes that “the [recovery] process will be based on the help of the three the main states that supported Syria during the crisis: Russia, China and Iran. ”
Before the war, China was the largest exporter of products to Syria while actively investing in the country’s oil sector, the article’s author points out. It is worth mentioning that in 2010 the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation, together with Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell, became a shareholder in the main Syrian refining company, Al-Furat Petroleum.
In addition, Beijing has considered Syria as one of the “interfaces” of the New Silk Road Initiative: China plans for a Eurasian transport system that will pass through Iran and Iraq to Syria and its Mediterranean ports.
As for the political-military partnership between the two countries, it goes back to the time of Mao Tse-tung, notes the columnist, adding that Beijing helped in the development of the Syrian missile program.
In this context, it is logical that Chinese navy ships visited the Syrian coast in 2013, when the war was at its peak and two years before the start of the Russian operation, so China “marked its presence”, but in a cautious way, says Moshkin.
Chinese affairs expert Aleksei Maslov points out that China has received several proposals to participate in the peacekeeping operation in the Arab country, but Beijing has never been involved in military action.
“China was observing what the confrontation between Damascus and the Syrian opposition on the one hand, and between Russia and the US, on the other hand, would be. China has now begun to announce that it is ready to provide humanitarian aid,” said the analyst.
The greater success of the Syrian army, supported by the Russian Aerospace Force, in the fight against the terrorists, the more actively Beijing promised to participate in the recovery of Syria , the article said. Thus, in 2017 the Chinese government announced plans to invest about $2 billion in the construction of an industrial park in the Arab country. Later, he was informed that Chinese communications equipment giant Huawei could take charge of restoring Syrian telecommunications.
“First, China is interested in entering Syria to recover the infrastructure,” said Maslov, “because those who own the infrastructure, the railways, own the country, and secondly, Beijing has an interest in exploring the Syrian oil fields.”
The analyst believes that at the moment it is not so important who will win the Syrian war, but who will recover its economy, and China “wants this [recovery] to follow a model.”
At this point it will somehow compete with Russia, he says, which “suffered the highest expenses and casualties in Syria”, and is also interested in the recovery, which is advantageous for Moscow from the geopolitical point of view.
“The recovery of Syria will mean that the countries participating in the process will recognize that the ‘Assad regime’ should remain at least until the next elections. So the Chinese participation in the recovery is also a political issue, not just an economic one,” Vzglyad Konstantin Simonov, director of the National Energy Security Fund, told reporters.
Summing up, the author of the article points out that, like Beijing, Moscow has its economic interests in Syria, which President Putin spoke about.
But to make of this ‘competition’ is not really explained. What is missing from many analysis attempting to do so, is that Russia and China have already long committed to doubling up on their supply-line security. Anyone looking will note that in the strategically important zones, China’s Silk Road, One Belt One Road initiative, run above ground where Russia has its energy pipelines running underground. That the two countries have done this means that any friendly competition on a smaller scale, bidding wars, etc, will only benefit those countries they are working with, but will far from turn the two giants on each other.