No love lost between China, Russia
By Paul Lin 林保華

With the severing of official ties with Panama, Taiwan has lost an important diplomatic ally. While Taiwan may be diplomatically isolated, China is probably the only nation that is hostile toward it.

China has more than 100 diplomatic allies, many of which dislike it, and there is strong anti-Chinese sentiment. Even Russia — which China looks to like a big brother — constantly opposes China.

A Voice of America reporter in Moscow has published a commentary saying that Russia was doing all it could to help Vietnam develop its navy, including providing warships and building a warship maintenance harbor, because it wanted to block China’s momentum in the South China Sea.

Russia supplied Vietnam with upgraded Kilo-class submarines capable of surface attacks and firing ballistic missiles. Part of the deal was that building and delivering the submarines, as well as designing and building submarine bases, would be completed in an unprecedented short period of time.

The Hong Kong-based Cheng Ming magazine has also reported that as a part of US arms sales to Vietnam, Hanoi has made supervising and destroying the Yulin Naval Port east of Sanya in China’s Hainan Province its first priority.

One could say, then, that the US and Russia are working together to block Beijing’s expansion into the South China Sea.

China’s maritime Silk Road will also have to address obstruction by India. India has a closer relationship with Russia than it does with the US. Russia is certain to provide its most advanced weaponry to India before selling it to China, and it is only participating in military exercises with China to promote its new military equipment.

China and Russia spent years in talks about selling Sukhoi 35 planes to China.

The only purpose of the talks was that China wanted to get its hands on the aircraft’s start engine technology, which is why it wants to buy only two planes.

Russia insisted that it would only sell a batch of planes, and in 2015 it was decided that China would buy 24 planes. Four of them were delivered this year, but the start engine section was welded shut and would be completely destroyed if it is opened.

Early last month, residents in Irkutsk, close to the shores of Lake Baikal, initiated two online petitions demanding that the Russian government block Chinese companies from building water plants. Almost 300,000 people signed the two petitions.

Many big cities around the world have a Chinatown, but this is explicitly forbidden in Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has a background in the KGB, knows that a Chinatown flying the Five-Star Red Flag is the base for a Chinese fifth column.

In 2005, a Shanghai plan to invest US$1.5 billion in a real-estate project in St Petersburg was rejected.

Chinese businesspeople do not feel safe in Russia and Russia is worried about Chinese moving to Siberia to work as farmers. The 1.56 million square kilometers of land that China gave to Russia was a decision made following Beijing’s isolation in the wake of the Tiananmen Massacre on June 4, 1989, and China could use migrant workers to try to get it back.

However, the strongest anti-Chinese action occurred in February 2009, when the Chinese cargo ship Xinxing was sunk by Russian border guards. Three sailors were saved and seven were lost, and the Chinese government did not even dare file a complaint, but only entered “talks” and then left the matter unresolved. This has been followed by guns being fired at Chinese fishing boats, but in these instances, China has not made any show of “patriotism.”

China’s diplomatic failures cast a shadow over Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. Forcing the Panama incident is just a matter of China going for the weaker and trying to divert attention because it is afraid of attacking those who are stronger.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Perry Svensson


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