China and Russia make Military Cooperation a Priority
The second and third most powerful armies in the world increased their military relations during the last APEC meeting in Beijing.
The visit of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to the Chinese capital has highlighted the desire of both countries to deepen military exchanges. Shoigu and his Chinese counterpart, Chang Wanquan, stated that cooperation in this field is “a priority“.
“Our military cooperation has great potential, and Russia is ready to develop it in the broadest way,” said the Russian minister. Chang said there is a “solid” development of relations and called for greater mutual trust. The goal of both countries is to “create a collective regional security system,” reported Xinhua.
Russia has traditionally been the main supplier of arms to China since 1989, when after the Tiananmen massacre, both the European Union and the United States declared a military embargo to China. The first Chinese aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, whose launch in 2012 scored a historic landmark, was built in 1985 by the Soviet Union.
Although cooperation has limits -Russia has resisted selling to China its advanced military technology- in recent years military cooperation has been increasing. China also has outgrown its status as subordinate, and Shoigu emphasized to the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that they two countries have a relationship where they see each other “as equals”.
In May, the two powers held their third joint maneuvers in the East China Sea, and in August both countries led some land exercises along with three other countries in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which brings together several nations in Central Asia.
The collaboration will continue in 2015, when the Russian Navy and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army plan two rounds of maneuvers, one during spring in the Mediterranean and another one in the Pacific. They also will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, a conflict that continues to cause distrust among neighbors in the region.
The narrowing of military relations comes at a time of overall improvement of bilateral relations between the two powers. Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin recently met on the sidelines of the summit forum of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and signed a new agreement under which Russia will supply China 30,000 million cubic meters of natural gas, an amount that adds up to the 38,000 million that Russia already provides the Asian country. The deal means that for Russia will get some 320,000 million euros which may come in different payment forms.
Both countries also have closed ranks in international affairs: China has not criticized or blamed Moscow for the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and recently Russian Deputy Defense Anatoly Antonov, suggested that the two countries shared the same thesis on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The harmonious relationship is a demonstration of the alleged coalition against the United States, which in the so-called pivot to Asia, wants to regain its hegemony in the region and counter Chinese strength.
Shoigu was clear in this regard:
“We have expressed our concern at attempts by the US to strengthen its military and political influence.” China and Russia argue that their military cooperation poses no threat to third countries and that their alliance “contributes to international stability and peace.”
Reluctance to US interference in the region was also evident at the last Conference for Interaction and Building Measures Confidence in Asia (CICA), where Chinese President Xi Jinping, defended before the 28 member states of the organization that “Asia’s problems have to be solved by the Asian people, and security in Asia must also be protected by Asians“.