China, Russia Enhance Partnerships with Eye toward Biden Administration

Reuters file photos
Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin

BEIJING / MOSCOW — China and Russia are enhancing their partnerships in the military and diplomatic fields, moves to show off their unity in preparation for the January inauguration of the next U.S. administration, to be led by President-elect Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, the two countries conducted a joint bomber flight over the Sea of Japan and other areas to shake up the United States, Japan and other countries. The same day, they also held a foreign ministerial meeting by phone to criticize the United States.

According to an announcement by the Chinese and Russian defense ministries, Tuesday’s joint flight of six bombers lasted more than 10 hours over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea. This was the second such flight following one in July last year, and China deployed four H-6K strategic bombers, doubling the number of aircraft sent on the previous flight. There were no airspace violations in the drill, but the aircraft circled over the Takeshima islands in Shimane Prefecture. They also flew south between Okinawa Island and Miyakojima island, both in Okinawa Prefecture, before entering the Pacific. This is a route that Chinese aircraft take in drills envisaging an attack on Taiwan.

The Chinese military is aiming to eliminate U.S. troops from the western Pacific, and cooperation with Russia is significant in terms of restraining the United States. On Tuesday, Chinese newspaper The Global Times quoted air force experts as saying that joint flights are expected to become regular and be expanded in scale.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Minister Sergei Shoigu reported directly to President Vladimir Putin that the joint flight was “successful,” suggesting that the flight was based on Putin’s intentions.

Putin was trying to demonstrate a closer relationship with China in light of the upcoming presidential inauguration of Biden, who is known as a hard-liner against Russia.

Putin said of China-Russia relations at a press conference on Dec. 17: “We have overlapping interests in many areas. Maybe this, or maybe some personal harmony, has contributed to the fact that I have good, business-like relations above all, but at the same time very trusting and friendly relations, with President Xi Jinping.”

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a phone conversation Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in which Wang complained, “The United States is still going against the trend of the times, and brandishing the stick of unilateral sanctions,” to which Lavrov responded by saying that the two countries “should firmly oppose the U.S. acts of undermining multilateralism, and resist America’s suppression against Russia and China.”