Why Putin went to ShanghaiStretching from Europe to Asia, Russia is located at the center of Eurasia. Seventy-five percent of its vast territory is in Asia, and the remaining 25 percent is in Europe. The Asian part of the land, in particular, is abundant with resources. So when there is even a slight change of mood in Moscow, the impact spreads across the whole of Eurasia. That’s why Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Shanghai drew worldwide attention. In Shanghai, Putin made three historic moves that could result in an upheaval of the dynamics of power in the region.
First, Putin, along with Chinese President Xi Jinping, participated in a signing ceremony for a $400 billion deal to export Siberian gas to China for 30 years from 2018. Putin and Xi ostentatiously shook hands, each leader having different motives for putting on a show for the United States. For Putin, it was a preemptive response to the EU’s threatened boycott of Russian gas because of the crisis in Ukraine. For Xi, it was an effective broadside to the Obama administration, which supports countries involved in territorial disputes with China in the East and South China seas and actively backs Japan’s right to collective self defense. Moreover, Beijing secured a stable gas supply from Siberia, which will help alleviate the dangerous air pollution plaguing its cities.
Second, Putin, along with Xi, initiated the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) with 24 member countries, including Korea, and 12 observers, revealing their bold ambition to make it a counterweight to America’s “pivot to Asia” strategy. It is noteworthy how America’s allies, such as Korea, will act as a check on Russia and China’s attempt to make the forum stand up to the United States. Korea has initiated the drastic alleviation of the new Asian security concept, which was included in the first draft of the summit statement. The confrontational structure of the United States and Japan versus China and Russia could be a blue ocean for Korean diplomacy.
Third, by attending the launch ceremony of the Russia-China joint naval exercise in the South China Sea, Putin and Xi conveyed the message to the world that the two northern powers have joined forces against the American order. It means that if the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea or countries under America’s wings in the South China Sea have an armed clash with China, Russia’s Pacific Fleet headquartered in Vladivostok will provide “solid support” for China. Upon returning to Russia, Putin made a hard-line remark on the negotiations for
returning the Kuril Islands, raising anxiety in Japan.