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Russia, Iran and their archenemies: Why China has good relations with everyone


Russia, Iran and their archenemies: Why China has good relations with everyone Created: 12/23/2022, 1:00 p.m By: Sven Hauberg China stands by Saudi Arabia and its arch-enemy Iran, by Russia and at the same time by Ukraine. Beijing doesn't see a contradiction - and is undeterred in pursuing its own goals. Munich/Beijing/Riyadh – It was a reception that Xi Jinping loves: When China's head of sta

Russia, Iran and their archenemies: Why China has good relations with everyone

Created: 12/23/2022, 1:00 p.m

By: Sven Hauberg

China stands by Saudi Arabia and its arch-enemy Iran, by Russia and at the same time by Ukraine.

Beijing doesn't see a contradiction - and is undeterred in pursuing its own goals.

Munich/Beijing/Riyadh – It was a reception that Xi Jinping loves: When China's head of state and party leader got out of his Boeing 747-400 in Riyadh at the beginning of December, seven fighter jets swept over the airport in Saudi Arabia's capital, and half a dozen guns fired a salute.

A little later, the Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, gave a friendly handshake while the Chinese national anthem was sung in the background.

Clearly, it was a meeting among friends.

Only: China apparently has many friends.

Because just one day after Xi's departure from Saudi Arabia, Hu Chunhua, China's Deputy Prime Minister, emphasized his country's friendship with an archenemy of the Saudis: Hu had traveled to Iran, where he met President Ebrahim Raisi, among others.

It was like Olaf Scholz flying to Kyiv and his Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck flying to Moscow just a day later.

China's state-run Xinhua news agency said it "strongly supports the Iranian side in resisting outside interference and upholding national sovereignty, territorial integrity and national dignity."

A short time later, China's Foreign Ministry declared the protests against the regime in Tehran, in line with Iran's interests, to be the country's "internal affair".

What the Chinese side did not say: Raisi was very angry about Xi's Riyadh visit, spoke of "dissatisfaction" and demanded "compensation" from China.

You can read about it in a statement published by the presidential palace in Tehran.

Raisi was probably so angry because Xi had earlier in Riyadh, along with the Saudis and other Gulf states, called for Tehran's nuclear program to serve peaceful purposes - and that territorial disputes between Iran and the United Arab Emirates over three islands in the Strait of Hormuz should be clarified.

"The three islands in the Persian Gulf are inseparable parts of Iran and belong to the motherland forever," Iran's foreign minister tweeted.

Apparently the country feels betrayed:

The history of the People's Republic of China from 1949 to the present

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Friendship with Russia despite the Ukraine war: "China's foreign policy is opportunistic"

The episode shows the area of ​​conflict in which China's foreign politicians are on the move.

It's the same in diplomacy as in real life: if you're friends with two people who don't like each other, sooner or later you'll have to choose one of them.

Or just live with the fact that it crunches again and again.

China has chosen the latter path and shakes hands with anyone who wants it.

With one restriction, however: anyone who wants to be friends with China must not maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Because Beijing regards the democratically governed island state as a "breakaway province" and part of its own national territory.

Worldwide, however, only 13 states and the Holy See are on the “Taiwan team” and have recognized the island as a state.

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping in Samarkand, Uzbekistan: the two heads of state last met in person in September.

© Sergei Bobylev/imago

"Chinese foreign policy is opportunistic," says Ivana Karaskova, founder of the Eastern European China think tank Choice, the

Munich Merkur



The government in Beijing emphasizes similarities rather than differences when dealing with other countries and disseminates narratives that are “tailored” to the respective recipients.

In concrete terms, according to Karaskova, when Chinese politicians travel to the Middle East, they point out that China is also a Muslim country.

When dealing with Central and Eastern Europe, "a common communist legacy is spoken of", in Africa "of the common experience of having been colonised".

Everyone gets to hear what they want to hear.

Similar experiences as Iran had to make in dealing with China in Ukraine.

Since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression, Beijing's diplomats have not tired of demanding a diplomatic solution to the "crisis" in Ukraine.

So far, however, there have been no initiatives of its own.

Instead, China emphasizes its “rock-solid” friendship with Russia at every conceivable opportunity.

Shortly before the start of the Ukraine war – which China, in line with Moscow's intentions, does not call it that – Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin signed a comprehensive friendship agreement in Beijing.

Since then, the two heads of state have met several times, on the phone and in person.

According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, another meeting is planned for this year, and another personal meeting next year – it would be the 40th.

Meeting of the two authoritarian rulers.

It was only in mid-week that Xi received Dmitry Medvedev, head of Putin's United Russia party, in Beijing. 

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China and Saudi Arabia: The friendship begins with oil

However, a meeting between Xi and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has not taken place to date.

Most recently, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had to settle for a few warm, non-binding words from his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York - and was assured that China "respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries".

Of course, such assurances are of little use in the fight against Moscow.

Late last year, Wang said there were two trends in international diplomacy.

"One is to return to the Cold War mentality in order to deepen divisions and hostilities and foment confrontation between the blocs." That meant, of course, the US.

China, on the other hand, according to Wang, "is guided by the common good of mankind to strengthen solidarity and cooperation, advocate openness and win-win outcomes, and promote equality and respect."

What looks like a thoroughly unselfish policy turns out to be not quite so selfless on closer inspection.

Because the Chinese government does set priorities.

Take Iran as an example: although Beijing obtains large quantities of crude oil from the country, significantly more flows from Saudi Arabia towards China.

18 percent of China's crude oil imports recently came from the Saudis, more than from any other country.

So in Tehran you have to live with the fact that Beijing, if it serves its own interests, also makes common cause with its own archenemy.

China's trade with Russia is growing

The same applies to Russia and Ukraine: the war is not stopping Beijing from continuing to trade diligently with Moscow – and to expand it even further.

As the

Wall Street Journal

recently reported, citing political advisors in Beijing, China wants to import even more oil, gas and agricultural products from Russia in the future.

Trade between the two countries could increase to 200 billion US dollars this year - more than twice as much as in 2014 and significantly more than the almost 150 billion last year.

In this way, China indirectly helps to finance the Russian war against Ukraine.

In order not to completely alienate the West, China sometimes distances itself from Russia – but only where it doesn't hurt.

During Olaf Scholz's visit to Beijing in early November, Xi declared that the international community must "commonly speak out against the use or the threat of the use of nuclear weapons".

That sounded like a broadside towards the Kremlin.

However, at the time, Xi avoided using the name of Russia as much as possible.

And it has long been known that China rejects the use of nuclear weapons.

"China intends to reshape the international order"

Beijing is primarily concerned with “creating a friendly environment for its strategic interests” and safeguarding its “core interests”, says China expert Karaskova.

For China's communists, maintaining their own rule is the top priority, only then come the security of the country and economic well-being.

And Xi Jinping is pursuing another goal: the international order, which is dominated by the USA, is to be reshaped according to Chinese ideas.

"China's international influence, appeal and formative power have improved significantly," Xi Jinping said in October, at the start of his communist party congress.

This was meant as an invitation to continue efforts to reduce Washington's influence.

For Karaskova, this is the key to understanding China's proximity to Russia.

"Beijing does not want to alienate Moscow, as it needs an ally whose ideological view of the world order is in line with China's," she says.

This includes forming partnerships around the world to limit US influence.

"The People's Republic of China is the only competitor that both intends to reshape the international order and increasingly has the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do so," the new US security strategy reads .

However, Beijing does not want to go too far.

After all, the country continues to depend on Western technology, as well as on markets in the US and Europe.

"The result," says Karaskova, "is cautious maneuvering between the US, the EU and Russia to take advantage of the situation."

Source: merkur

All news articles on 2022-12-23

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