U.S. luring Russia to fight China
The author is the head of the China Institute of the JoongAng Ilbo.
China, a strong opponent of the South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises, began a five-day joint drill with Russia from Monday. While the objective is the “joint protection of regional security,” everyone knows that the United States is the target. But if a war breaks out between America and China, will Russia side with China? In June, a Chinese media outlet asked Russian Ambassador to China Andrey Denisov. He responded that the U.S. and China will not clash. On June 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked a similar question, and he said he could not talk about something that had not actually happened.
Denisov and Putin’s responses may be disappointing for China. It doesn’t seem to fit the passionate friendship Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Putin claim and the strategic partnership between the two countries. China and Russia are now considered a “quasi military alliance.” However, Russia seems to be playing the U.S. and China off against each other. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger secretly visited China 50 years ago to contain the Soviet Union. Half a century later, changes have been made in the triangular structure of the United States, China, and Russia.
Now, the Biden administration is courting Russia to pressure China. The Biden-Putin summit in June was a prime example. According to a Hong Kong media report in July, 14 countries were described to have “ironclad” relationship with China in the English translation of Chinese foreign ministry’s statements, and they don’t include North Korea and Russia. Wang Yiwei, a professor at People’s University of China, said that there is no betrayal between countries that are “ironclad.”
I can read China’s intentions on Russia, considered a semi-ally. Shi Yinhong, a professor at Renmin University of China, said that China and Russia have different dreams. While they now want to be together because of U.S. pressure, it’s hard for them to truly trust each other, he claimed. Then why does China have a military drill with Russia when it doesn’t trust Russia fully? It is not because China wants Russia’s help, but because China thinks a joint drill could hold back the United States from using forces rashly on the Taiwan issue and others.
Russia is likely to remain neutral in the event of a Sino-U.S. clash. China and Russia boast about their relationship. But the United States is luring Russia over. Twenty years after Kissinger visited China, the Soviet Union fell. I am curious what the outcome will be this time.