Pro-Western media look for cracks in China-Russia relations as Beijing and Moscow increase trade volume

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Pro-Western media are increasingly trying to create the impression that China is simply using Russia in its own confrontation with the West

It was just another political talk show on Russian TV, and to make things lively, the editors rolled out a list of questions to all attendees: Is China a sincere and powerful friend of Moscow? in the current crisis, or is it a very capricious friend not to be trusted?

War, sanctions and a global crisis have made these shows an intermittent fixture on all major Russian TV channels. Basically, they all look the same. Experts in foreign policy, military matters and economics stand or sit in a circle and exchange opinions. Not all channels had such shows in the past, but now things are different. For the public, some of them have even replaced television news. After all, your country is at war, so you need not just facts, but their assessment – all the time.

The problem is that the channels have to compete with each other, so the shows have to be emotional, and your experts have to come up against each other. And what better way to tickle the nerves of the public than to debate the reliability of China, Russia’s number one trading partner and “strategic competitor” to the West.

At the show I just attended as an expert on China, we were presented with a series of very familiar questions. We’ll talk later about why it’s familiar; Now let’s look at some of these questions.

Is China simply using Russia in its own confrontation with the West? Is China really keen on replacing Western consumer goods and technologies, denied to Russia due to Western sanctions, or is it abandoning the Russian market? Does Russia feel comfortable with China’s economic activities in Central Asia and all other parts of the world? Will Russia one day only become a junior partner of its immense neighbour?

This set of questions is vital for millions and millions of very ordinary Russians. The fact is that with China, the world’s largest economy, on our side, we can be sure that our military will easily complete the task of ending this interminable Ukrainian civil war – this is, by the way, the true meaning of events that are taking place in Ukraine these days. With China’s help, Western sanctions against the Russian economy will continue to fail, while harming the West, as they are doing now.

The Russian TV show I attended evolved in predictable ways. These lines divided experts who knew how “Xi Jinping” sounds in Russian and those who couldn’t quite pronounce it. This means that people who usually meddle in foreign affairs have no idea of ​​the exact facts. And facts matter.

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The show’s presenter presented information from an obscure American research center, claiming that Russian-Chinese trade fell by 40% in the first half of 2022. China experts, after an initial shock, countered that in fact, trade has jumped 30-40% this year, and it’s not just oil. The Chinese media, after all, follow the subject very closely. And this medium knows its facts well. The share of Chinese-made gadgets in Russian stores (as in smartphones, printers and all sorts of similar things) was once around 36%, now it is close to 70%. Chinese factories have received Russian orders for these items which they cannot fulfill in time. And that’s not to mention the fun stuff, like a surge in Chinese log exports to the US, when China could never produce such a quantity on its own, only Russia can – and does. .

And, no, no one in Moscow (i.e. people in the know) is worried about the growth of Chinese economic activities in Central Asia or anywhere else in the world. There are two reasons for this, one is that Russia does not produce what China does, so we are not in competition. The other is that the Chinese presence is welcome everywhere if it crowds out the Western presence in all its forms.

And so on, point by point in the mentioned list of question marks about the essence of the Russian-Chinese alliance. So where have we seen this list before?

Here, you have to look at the publications of experts in several American magazines, from national interest at The American Conservative to Foreign Affairs. One and the same idea is debated by many authors. Namely, our (American, Western) war against Russia in Ukraine has failed, our sanctions have hurt us more than anyone, and have alienated about two-thirds of the world from us. So it’s time to stop making gestures and making angry speeches, it’s time to do the only thing that can still work, which is to seek out the divides that might, if we’re lucky, shatter the Russian-Chinese alliance and to sow mistrust and suspicion in both societies. .

But how exactly do you create this mistrust? You introduce good ideas into these societies, which of course are not isolated from the global media space. The only thing you need is to make some sort of list of questions, which can seriously shake people up.

What questions are these? Why we have already listed them. Is China simply using Russia in its own confrontation with the West? Will Russia one day only become a junior partner of its immense neighbour? Etc.

I have seen all these ideas everywhere in the Western media, from where they are spreading in Russia beyond the non-existent information borders. In fact, I saw similar lists in 2014, when Western sanctions began in earnest after a referendum in Ukraine’s former Crimea led to its incorporation into Russia. The same ideas about China, an unreliable ally, then circulated with dismal regularity.

And if you are not Russian, but another partner of China, the list will be slightly different. You will discover the “predatory nature” of Chinese companies and a “debt trap”. These primitive ideas are unlikely to impress real experts, but there are always the TV shows to promote them…

The author is a columnist for the website of the Russian state agency ria.ru, as well as for other publications.

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