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The limits of a China-Russia partnership (GZERO)

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(April 1, 2021)

Whenever China and Russia shake hands, alarm bells ring in Washington. It’s an old story given new life by increasingly contentious US relations with both countries and a new round of glad-handing by senior Chinese and Russian officials. What if China and Russia were to form some kind of axis of revisionist powers, Americans (and others) wonder? How dangerous might that be for US interests and for global democracy?China and Russia have obvious overlapping interests. Start with trade. China is the world’s largest importer of oil and natural gas. Russia is the number two exporter of oil and the top for natural gas. It’s a natural partnership.

Geopolitically, China and Russia share a common desire to limit American political and economic leverage in their neighborhoods. Neither wants to hear criticism of how they manage dissent within their own borders or US sermons on democracy for Taiwan and Ukraine. China likes US tariffs about as much as Russia likes US sanctions.

Both want seats at the table where global leadership decisions are made. The election of Joe Biden, who has much more to say on human rights in other countries than Donald Trump did, adds new impetus to what Russia’s Vladimir Putin calls his country’s «multifaceted strategic partnership» with China.

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