China-Russia relations are unrivalled, Beijing warns before US’ Mike Pompeo meets Vladimir Putin

Zhenhua Lu

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has issued a veiled warning to the United States not to undermine China’s relations with Russia and criticised “outside interference” in the relationship between the two countries.

Visiting Sochi on Monday for meetings with counterpart Sergei Lavrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin – a day before the Russian pair met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – Wang said China-Russia relations set an example “beyond compare”, while the world was “in chaos and disorder”.

“Unilateralism runs rampant, conflicting the current international system and basic norms of international relations,” Wang said, according to a statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry on Tuesday.

“Rumours and smears are used as tools to attack other countries, as if a lie repeats a thousand times and becomes a fact,” he said.

Wang’s comment came after Beijing and Washington dramatically escalated their tit-for-tat trade war, imposing extra punitive tariffs on each other’s exports after the two sides failed to agree a trade deal last week.

Pompeo has warned of the dangers of Russian militarisation and Chinese investment in the Arctic, which he said had become “an arena of global power and competition”. He has also called on the US’ allies not to use Chinese telecoms company Huawei’s equipment to build their 5G networks.

Lavrov and Putin were expected to meet Pompeo on Tuesday afternoon to “discuss the full range of bilateral and multilateral challenges”, the US State Department said.

In a joint press conference with Lavrov, Wang told reporters that China, Russia and the US should get rid of unnecessary suspicion and misunderstanding and continuously expand cooperation with each other, according to Xinhua.

The China-Russia relationship, in particular, had set an example for the international community in this regard, Wang said.

“We are ready to settle differences and strengthen cooperation with other countries including the United States on the basis of mutual respect, so as to strive for more peace, security and stability for the world,” he said.

In Sochi, in a separate meeting with Putin, the foreign minister warned of “outside interference” into China-Russia ties.

Wang said he hoped that the two governments “will continue to be able to reinforce mutual trust and mutual support”, according to a transcript released by the Kremlin.

China and Russia should “prove to the world that our relations are not vulnerable to obstruction or outside interference and that we will always maintain the rapid pace at which our bilateral relations are progressing”, Wang said, without elaboration on the details of the “obstruction or outside interference” he was referring to.

Putin expressed his support for China’s transcontinental infrastructure strategy the Belt and Road Initiative, and said his country’s relations with China “are being successfully developed in the most literal meaning of this word”.

Late last month, Pompeo’s top policy planning official at the State Department, Kiron Skinner, told a think tank event that the US viewed China as a “different civilisation” and “a great power competitor that is not Caucasian”, according to a Washington Examiner report.

By contrast, Skinner said that the US’ competition with the Soviet Union had been “a fight within the Western family”.

Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said the ongoing US-China trade war would deepen ties between China and Russia.

“Any major US squeezes on China will strengthen Beijing’s motivation to move nearer to Moscow, whose relations with Washington have no hope of improving substantially now,” Shi said, “because of US domestic politics and international hotspots like Iran and Venezuela, and arms control treaties.”

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