A recent meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin has put an exclamation point on their, until recently, cordial acquaintanceship. Gone were the casual remarks about admiration of each side, maybe best characterized and encapsulated in the 2001 Treaty of Good Neighborliness and friendly cooperation (which sounds like the title penned by The Simpsons’ source of puritanical emotional repression, Ned Flanders).
No. There were smiles, shaking of hands, comments of deep admiration, and further conversation about a peace plan involving the Russian-Ukraine war, which both powers seem eager to address. Meanwhile, the US and NATO are far away from sharing the same sentiments, with Ukraine President Zelensky turning down every peace treaty offer, no matter where it comes from, and a constant outpouring of aid arriving at Ukraine’s doorstep.
However, it seems we are unintentionally creating a new axis of power that could have America and its allies on the outside looking in.
China is amassing many allies via diplomatic relations…especially allying with any country that is allied with Taiwan (which immediately forfeits that relationship, as a clause in any diplomatic relations with China), giving them a lot of stake in predominantly Latin American countries. Although there are no clear signs of it yet, China may be able to create similar openings in the countries that border Russia. Many of those countries have stood alone or enjoyed a tenuous relationship with NATO, but a closer partnership with China (as many latin american countries can attest) brings an upsurge in financial support. It might be attractive to any country looking to speed up the process of progress, even if they were formerly leary of any further interactions with Putin.
Putin, for his part, has had very little reason to maintain tepidly, at best, relations with the US. Often in his speeches, he has cited Russia’s rejection from NATO, spurred by the West; America’s consistent vaulting over agreed-upon standards and/or laws set by Russia; and America’s less than charitable characterization of the Russian government.
Meanwhile, the US-China relationship is becoming frayed. One of the first orders of business by China’s new Foreign Minister, Qin Gang, was to hold a media conference in which he echoed and expounded upon criticisms recently made by President Xi Jinping. Numerous mentions of American interventionism, “neo-McCarthyism,” and unfair competition were punctuated by a closing remark which made clear the stakes at hand:
“If the United States does not hit the brake but continues to speed down the wrong path … there will surely be conflict and confrontation, and who will bear the catastrophic consequences?”
It’s time for nuance. It’s time for talks. It’s time for an end to bravado and bluster.