ON March 20-22, 2023, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russia, meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin both in official and unofficial capacity. From those discussions came a statement from Xi that is profound in its implications.
“We signed a statement on deepening the strategic partnership and bilateral ties which are entering a new era. Change is coming that hasn’t happened in 100 years and we are driving this change together.” In response, Putin toasted, “I am sure that Russian-Chinese cooperation has truly unlimited possibilities and prospects.”
At first glance, and immediately mentioned in US and European press, one might think that Xi could be referring to the World War One “Central Powers” of German and the Austro-Hungarian Empires. However, that alliance was publicly formed after the beginning of the mobilization of troops by Austria against Serbia.
A more interesting correlation might be the “Entente Cordiale” between the United Kingdom and France in 1904, marking the end of almost a thousand years of intermittent conflict between the two states. The core of the “Cordial Agreement” were accords that, for example, said Egypt was fully in the British sphere and Morocco in France’s and economic issues from other overseas territories of the two countries.
British diplomat—and Britain’s “Germany expert”—Eyre Crowe wrote: “The fundamental fact of course is that the Entente is not an alliance. For purposes of ultimate emergencies it may be found to have no substance at all. For the Entente is nothing more than a frame of mind, a view of general policy which is shared by the governments of two countries.”
At the time of this agreement, the UK had been economically isolated from “The Continent” by choice, relying for its wealth on its colonies. France was isolated involuntarily as both Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire appropriately viewed France as an economic rival.
It may not be an overstatement as Pepe Escobar, a Brazilian geopolitical analyst, wrote, “This is the first time in arguably five centuries that no political leader from the west is setting the global agenda.”
It is important to realize that 77 percent of Russia’s area is in Asia, the western 23 percent located in Europe. Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, Dmitri Trenin, commented that, “Contemporary Russia is neither the East, nor the West, neither Europe, nor Asia. Rather, it is possible to speak confidently about the civilizational uniqueness of Russia.”
A cornerstone of the Xi-Putin agreement is to move forward with the Power of Siberia 2 pipeline, which would deliver annually 50 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia to China. The pipeline has gained urgency as Moscow seeks to replace Europe as its major gas customer. The proposed pipeline would bring gas from the massive Yamal peninsula reserves in west Siberia to the world’s top energy consumer and growing gas consumer.
Putin told Xi that Chinese investors will get first priority on all hard assets left behind when Western companies left Russia. In addition, Russia has been forced by the economic sanctions to look elsewhere from Europe and the US to buy everything from high-tech to machinery, all goods that China is more than happy to sell to Russia.
Now we add in the BRICS plus Russian ally Iran and China’s new BFF Saudi Arabia. Further, over 40 delegations from Africa arrived in Moscow a day before Xi to take part in a “Russia-Africa in the Multipolar World” conference—a run-up to the second Russia-Africa summit in July. Putin chose this moment to write off more than $20 billion in African debt.
Pepe Escobar: “A new day is dawning, from the lands of the Rising Sun to the Eurasian steppes.”