Russian and Chinese cooperation has been on a rise since the early 2000s, beginning with the treaty of friendship signed by both countries in 2001. The treaty outlined how the countries would engage in peaceful relations, economic cooperation, and diplomatic interaction. The treaty was set to expire in 2021 but both countries elected to extend it. However, the Ukraine conflict has inadvertently helped strengthen the Russian-Chinese alliance while also illuminating some of its shortcomings.
Key Judgement 1: It is almost certain that Russian and Chinese cooperation with continue through the next 6 months.
- In February of 2022, Russia and China released a 5,000-word statement outlining their new commitment to joint cooperation. Xi Jinping stated that Russian and Chinese cooperation had “no limits” at the outset of the Ukraine invasion. (Source)
- Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are known to be close friends who call each other on their birthdays and have met 38 times since 2013. (Source)
- In the wake of the Ukraine conflict, China has begun to purchase the bulk of its imported oil from Russia. As of May, there has been 55% increase since last year totalling 8.42 million tonnes of oil. Equating to 1.98 million barrels per day which has increased 25% since April. (Source)
- Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin jointly agreed to boost annual trade by 50% by 2024 despite Western sanctions. Trade between the two countries has totalled US$65.81 billion in the first five months of this year, up 28.9% from this time last year. (Source, Source)
- Chinese Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui said they were ready to supply Russia with aircraft parts. Aircraft parts have been in short supply because of the Western sanctions on Russia. (Source)
Key Judgement 2: It is likely that Russian reliance on China with increase over the next 6 months.
- With the sanctions imposed by the West, Russia is desperate to sell its oil to anyone who will buy, primarily China. In May alone, China bought US$7.47 billion of Russian oil. However, Russia is selling the oil at discount of 30% to entice sales. (Source, Source)
- Russia is far more reliant on China than China is in Russia. Trade with China makes up 18% of Russia’s international trade. Conversely, trade with Russia makes up only 2% of China’s international trade. (Source)
- Chinese firms have begun constructing railroads into Siberia without the express permission of the Russian government. The primary goal of the railroads is to extract resources from the region and the expansion of China’s Arctic policy. Russia is not in favor of the railroads as they have very little to gain but can’t afford to put their foot down on the issue. (Source)
Key Judgement 3: It is unlikely that China will provide military resources to Russia in the next 6 months.
- Russia and China have fundamentally different ways in which they engage with the current international system. Russia tends to rebel against the system while China operates within it to gain an advantage. Russia’s invasion of Ukrainian sovereignty is in direct conflict with China’s policy of non-interference. (Source)
- China and Russia have never been formal allies. There has never been a formal treaty providing mutual defence assurances between the two countries. (Source)
- China’s foreign minister stated that, “China is willing to work with Russia and the international community to promote true democracy in line with the national conditions and public opinions of all countries”. (Source)
- China’s economic ties to the Western world a far too important to China’s success to compromise for Russia. Seven of China’s top ten trading partners are Western countries or allies. Combined these seven countries comprise over 48% of China’s total exports. (Source, Source)
Intelligence Cut-Off Date: 17th of July 2022