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Two days of meetings concluded in Moscow. It was the 40th between them.
There were no spectacular announcements, but it was the confirmation of an alliance between both countries. It is not a marriage of love, but one of convenience. A historical novelty, moreover, since there had never been anything similar between the two, so much so that, during the cold war, there was a relationship of ideological adversaries with the extinct USSR, which even had an armed confrontation in the 60s.
The summit also demonstrated that it is not an alliance of equals, but that China has the upper hand at a time of Russian weakness. They do not weigh or represent the same today, since Russia is a power that only has ambitions in Europe and Asia while China aspires to replace the USA as the dominant power, a project that has a date, October 1, 2049, the day it was 100 years have passed since the founding of the People’s Republic of China by Mao.
For China, it is one more step in a script whose milestone is the impotence of the USA in the face of the virtual lock on Taiwan due to the visit of Nancy Pelosi. Later, at the Communist Party Congress, Xi became the most powerful person since Mao, and personal dictatorship replaced the collective one.
Later, China presented itself to the world with a speech of self-assertion, of aggressive power through its new foreign minister, and surprised Washington and the world by organizing a rapprochement between none other than Saudi Arabia and Iran, the consequences of which are still to be seen. manifest at all, as China negotiates for Saudi Arabia to accept payment in yuan, which would break the monopoly that the US dollar has had on the energy market since 1945.
Now Xi arrives with his peace proposal for Ukraine, twelve points that tell the world that China also wants to replace the USA as the “indispensable nation”, the one that does things that others cannot do, that the New International Order that he proposes in replacing the liberal is a Chinese one, and one that brings geopolitics back to a globalization that seemed to be just economics.
Putin did not indulge him with an acceptance, despite the fact that the proposal favors him, since a ceasefire under these conditions would probably mean the partition of Ukraine and a reality similar to the 38th parallel between the two Koreas. However, Chinese patience does not change, since it is convenient for Russia and because the virtual break in relations that exists makes it have something that the USA lacks, which is to talk with Putin and be heard.
The fact that there is no formal acceptance of Russia does not mean that the issue will disappear, since it will probably be revived in the visit that Lula will make to Beijing on March 28, since the Brazilian president has voiced ideas of peace that are very similar to the Chinese proposal. . Not only out of sympathy (which he has towards both), but for economic convenience, for example, on the agricultural issue.
And this fact opens up a component that makes the Chinese challenge radically different for the US from what the Soviet one was. What makes the difference is the immense economic power of China, for example, its share of Washington’s public debt and its importance to American companies.
The BRIC acronym was an acronym created to identify emerging economies with large geographic and demographic dimensions. It was originally a proposal from a business adviser in London, but it has already had a couple of summits between Brazil, Russia, India and China, and it is a geopolitical reality to which South Africa and through Chinese courtesy also Iran have been added, and although India is an adversary of China, it is a group where the USA does not participate.
It reflects very well the change in the world in recent times, since originally it was between equals and today, Chinese power appears visibly and unequally over others.
And that also marks the summit that just took place in Moscow, since it makes it very clear that Russia is the junior partner, the one that provides raw materials and great nuclear power to the main partner, strengthening the type of relationship that is already it had given in Siberia and in the Arctic, that is to say, capital, ideas and Chinese investments.
There was -for now- no acceptance of the Chinese peace plan, but political and economic agreements, in addition to the support that means that it took place only days after the announcement of the International Criminal Court on Putin, who also received an invitation to visit Beijing .
Xi noted that “a change is coming that has not happened for 100 years,” adding that it is being driven by the two of them, “together.”
For its part, in this choreography, expression of who had predominated in the meetings, the Chinese toast was “for the prosperity, development and happiness of our peoples, for friendship… from generation to generation.”
The most important thing they concluded was the definitive agreement to build a gigantic pipeline to transport gas from Siberia to China, one that will probably be more difficult to destroy than the maritime Nord Stream II between Russia and Germany. And if I mention this issue, it is because among the conclusions is the request that this fact be investigated internationally.
It was a summit where there are differences with what is customary in the West, since there was no public opinion of its own, in the sense that is understood here. Above all, what was sought was to demonstrate a community of interests to confront the USA, also, in days where in Bakhmut, Russia has not managed to conquer this city due to the Ukrainian resistance.
This summit seems to have added what was missing to two documents, of joint interest, that had circulated in previous meetings in a more embryonic way, and that have to do with the vision of a common future, where both recognize that the new international configuration has Chinese predominance, which is evident in the structure of the documents.
For their part, the pillars of cooperation, which apparently would be nine, are not all usual for the Russians, but they are for the Chinese, which also appears on the list of areas of interest.
The first document talks about the “Deepening of the Strategic Coordination Alliance for the New Era” and the second about a kind of “Plan on the priorities of Economic Cooperation” between the two.
Chinese priorities figure in supporting the Headquarters Road Initiative and in the “path of modernization”, as well as that the vision on human rights and military cooperation is “common.”
Chinese priorities also emerge on issues such as “international governance reform” and “the democratization of international relations.”
Finally, Beijing’s hand is also noticeable in criticizing Aukus, the alliance between the USA, Australia, and the United Kingdom, which includes nuclear submarines, to contain China in the Pacific.
How does Ukraine figure? It is said that “China is not neutral” and that both countries have common positions towards it, without further elaborating or adding anything new.
There is undoubtedly an alliance, a shared vision of the international order and a narrative, where China predominates, which obviously suits Beijing and where the diminished role of Russia, perhaps China sees as a geopolitical gift.
In this new scheme, the successes and, above all, the errors of the USA have not been minor in this result of clear benefit of China, the great and only rival of the USA at the top, leaving open the question of whether the USA is prepared to confront to a China that is unfolding at all levels, and whose journey to the top can only be stopped if there is the will to confront it.
It is also a world where the USA has lost its deterrent power (above all, after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan) and also its articulation with partners other than the Europeans. Clearly, today neither China nor Russia listens to her very much.
It is undoubtedly a new stage, where not only Scandinavian neutrality is modified, but even the defeated of World War II seem available to arm themselves for the first time since 1945, Germany in Europe and Japan in Asia. In these same days, even the prime minister of Japan escapes the usual prudence of office to visit Kyiv.
What is missing in the USA? Everything, everything that abounded in the cold war. That is, clarity in identifying the adversary, confidence in one’s own advantages, as well as internal unity and the decision to lead part of the world in this task. Indeed, if the US wants to remain the leading superpower, before leading others it must convince itself that there is no return from the Chinese challenge.
That is, you need to react.
To begin with, it must not allow China to pass it by with the narrative of a new international order, since the one that we are experiencing today is the result of the leadership of the USA, including the creation of the United Nations. So had the previous one in the 20th century, the failed League of Nations.
And even if it is not noticed, since resolutions against the USA abound, it continues to finance it. Control by adversaries of key UN institutions, such as Human Rights, also abounds. There is also an international bureaucracy that controls agendas and has its own interests, which never happened in the cold war. Above all, there is a feeling of obsolescence.
For the USA to proclaim its decision to create a New International Architecture, with institutions that better reflect the 21st century, is also a necessity for internal politics, since it would give a polarized and divided country unity of purpose and a sense of mission of the that is lacking It would provide a bipartisan foreign policy, which does not exist today.
The USA needs to rescue the powerful idea that the fight is for principles such as democracy and human rights. It is not because of the market, since its primacy as an allocator of resources is so accepted that this recent Sino-Russian summit features the promotion of an “open world economy.”
What must be stressed again and again is the difference between freedom and dictatorship.
Also the fact that the greatest power in the USA may not be the “hard”, the military, but the “soft”, on a double level: a) in the demonstration effect of the “American dream” that attracts so many immigrants to its borders , and that it was vital for the victory over the USSR. And b) a power that no other country or empire had ever provided, not that of the elite, that of popular culture, that of images, the one where even to protest against the USA, artifacts of that popular culture are used.
As for China, to be convinced of its intentions, the USA only has to review its own history, since the Chinese steps seem to be a copy of what Washington did to Great Britain a century ago.
Without forgetting, that this was the case even though they were allies. And China has never been.
This article is part of an agreement between El American and the Interamerican Institute for Democracy.
Ricardo Israel es un reconocido escritor, bogado, analista político y académico chileno. Fue candidato presidencial de su país en 2013. Actualmente hace parte del directorio del Interamerican Institute for Democracy // Ricardo Israel is a renowned Chilean writer, lawyer, political analyst and academic. He was a presidential candidate in his country in 2013. He is currently a member of the board of directors of the Interamerican Institute for Democracy