Political expert Alexander Shatilov: ‘China benefits from the confrontation between Russia and the West’
“Russia does not put 'eggs in one basket”
China is playing its own game and will never engage in charity and help Russia selflessly. This was stated to Realnoe Vremya by Russian political expert, Dean of the Department of Social Sciences and Mass Communications of the Financial University under the Government of Russia Alexander Shatilov, commenting on the statements of Russia's President Vladimir Putin made the day before during the VIII Eastern Economic Forum.
“After February 2022, bilateral relations between Russia and the West finally entered a 'clinch', which forced Vladimir Putin to call on our elites and the population to 'turn to the East'. First of all, a bet was made and is made on the development of cooperation with China as a geopolitical 'heavyweight' capable of providing the Russian Federation with substantial, if not decisive, political, economic and military assistance. In part, such support from the PRC is coming, although there are “restraining” moments. For example, the Chinese economy is strongly oriented towards interaction with the West, and the Chinese are not ready to break established ties and contacts overnight for the sake of Russia. Besides, China is rather 'cool' about the idea of 'pro-Russian' integration in the post-Soviet space, bearing in mind the difficult relations between the USSR and China in the 1960s and 1980s," the political expert noted.
Moreover, according to Shatilov, China as a whole benefits from the tough confrontation between Russia and the West, which mutually weakens the parties, increasing Beijing's quotes in the international political and economic arena.
Nevertheless, the expert continues, there is some support for Russia from the Celestial Empire.
“It includes the export of sanctioned goods and technologies, a fairly loyal vote in the United Nations (UN), including at meetings of the Security Council of this organisation, active purchase of Russian energy resources. Of course, the PRC is not engaged in charity, instead receiving discounts on oil and gas, the most favoured nation regime in trade, political and diplomatic support for Chinese international “big projects”. But, by the way, I would not say that “China dictates its terms to us”. On the contrary, at the moment they are acting quite “delicately”, not trying to rigidly push through his initiatives that are controversial from the point of view of Russia (for example, the plan for a peaceful settlement in Ukraine)," Shatilov stressed.
In his opinion, the Russian elites have no false hopes for Russian-Chinese “friendship”.
“Russia does not put 'eggs in one basket'. We are also trying to build constructive relations with other important geopolitical players. In particular, in recent years, the level of our partnership with India has been growing, which also insures us from Western sanctions in many ways, both by buying our hydrocarbons and supplying scarce goods (for example, in the pharmaceutical sector). Relations with the Arab world are developing similarly, while in addition to our traditional partners in the Middle East (such as Syria), the UAE is openly friendly. As for Iran, which has been living under sanctions for many decades, the partnership with it has already reached a strategic level, including in the military-technical field," the political expert recalled.
Besides, there are Venezuela, Cuba, the CAR, Ethiopia and other “sympathisers”.
“There are also quite constructive relations with Brazil, South Africa, Argentina, Egypt. That is, there is no need to talk about the “isolation” of Russia. But ... at the same time, we need to remember that there are practically no permanent allies in world politics, moreover, everyone defends their national interests, and the elites of even our most reliable partners are very differentiated in their sympathies. Let's take at least India, where part of the elite speaks from “pro-British” positions, or Iran, where a certain part of the establishment would like to take advantage of a convenient moment and lobby the United States to lift some of the sanctions in exchange for curtailing relations with Russia," Shatilov summed up.
“China primarily proceeds from its own interests”
Alexey Makarkin, a political expert, deputy director general of the Center for Political Technologies, Professor at the HSE, recently told Realnoe Vremya that he does not see a sharp warming of relations between Russia and China. In his opinion, they have always been “contradictory”. Moreover, based on the current global situation, Russia may become dependent on China in certain industries. For example, in the automotive industry.
On Tuesday, September 12, speaking at the plenary session of the VIII Eastern Economic Forum, held in Vladivostok from September 10 to 13, Vladimir Putin said that Russia and China respond to each other's requests, but based on their interests.
“China is an independent country, and China primarily proceeds from its own interests. Well, we also do the same, based on our interests. It would be wrong to say that we do not respond to each other's request. This is one of such sensitive moments as the opening of the Chinese market for our coal miners. Well, China also has problems in the coal industry, they also want their miners to supply their products to the domestic market. Nevertheless, they are opening up the market for our coal industry, and quite decently," Putin said during the Eastern Economic Forum plenary session.
According to the Russian leader, Russia should work more actively with Chinese partners.
“We are moving on each of them, and I am sure that the problems that you have mentioned will also be solved. But we also need to work harder and show our advantages," he said.