China and Russia’s ambassadors to the United States teamed up this week to pay tribute to their countries’ World War II alliance in what analysts say is a pointed and topical message for Washington: we have other friends if you insist on decoupling the US and Chinese economies.
Cui Tiankai and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Antonov released a joint article to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, which gave a quick nod to the US before devoting most of its time to the strong bonds between Moscow and Beijing. Cui followed up by releasing a video on Thursday which echoed the sentiments of the article.
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— Cui Tiankai (@AmbCuiTiankai) September 3, 2020
“The friendship developed between the Russian and Chinese people in World War II represents an inexhaustible driving force for Russia-China relations and would last throughout the times,” the two ambassadors wrote in the article entitled “Honour the History for a Better Future”.
But the “lessons from history” included some none-too-subtle jabs at the Trump administration, which both Beijing and Moscow have criticised for its blunt style, aggressive rhetoric, unilateralism and apparent delight in ignoring precedent.
“The law of the jungle leaves the weak at the mercy of the strong; it is not the way for countries to conduct their relations,” the ambassadors wrote. “We should give up the thinking of zero-sum game.”
In his follow-up message on Twitter, a platform banned in China, Cui was more direct, calling on Washington and Beijing to “recapture the spirit of cooperation from World War II” and “join hands to confront our common enemies in the new era.”
The article, originally published by military website Defence One before its broader dissemination on Thursday by the Chinese embassy, said today’s global challenges include climate change, terrorism, economic recession and pandemics.
Analysts said the ambassadorial penmanship appeared to have a dual objective, to poke at the administration in Washington and to impress the bosses in their respective home countries.
“It combines a display of China-Russia friendship and half-hearted message of goodwill to the US with a criticism of US unilateralism and hegemony,” said Michael Hirson, lead China analyst with the Eurasia Group and former US Treasury attaché in Beijing.
The note and display of Chinese-Russian brotherhood comes as relations between Washington and Beijing hit new lows, China comes under global criticism for cracking down in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, mysterious Russian actors are accused of poisoning opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, and both countries have been called out for trying to meddle in the US presidential election.
“There is little need for either China or Russia to remind Washington of the increasingly close relationship between the two countries, as the political establishment in this country is certainly aware and troubled by it,” Hirson said.
What is unsaid in the ambassadors’ article is at least as important as what is written, said Jeff Moon, a principal with Moon Strategies consultancy and a former National Security Council official.
“The message here … is that our two countries are advancing cooperation and it’s a shame that the US has forgotten the post-World War II spirit and is not with us,” said Moon. “And China is implicitly saying that, while some in the US may advocate decoupling, we still have significant friends around the world.”
“It’s criticism by omission,” he added.
In an echo earlier this week, Huawei Technologies founder Ren Zhengfei pointedly announced that the tech giant had increased its investment in Russia after Washington slapped sanctions on the company.
The US has blocked Huawei’s participation in 5G telecommunication infrastructure arguing the company could route sensitive data to Beijing, a charge the Shenzhen-based firm denies.
While shifting alliances and one-upmanship between Moscow, Beijing and Washington extend back to president Richard Nixon’s opening of relations with China as Moscow-Beijing relations soured, Russia is hardly the player it once was in this game, undercutting China’s leverage, Moon said.
“Russia is not the Soviet Union in every way, economically, militarily, in terms of their power projections,” he said. “They just don’t have the capability that the Soviet Union had when they did this decades ago.”
Amid the criticism, however, Cui’s report also included a stretched out hand to Washington, said Moon – who attended a celebratory lunch for the 60th anniversary of World War II in 2005 as then-US consul general in Chongqing.
This was amplified by Cui on Thursday in video comments pointing out that American heroes Claire Chennault and Joseph Stilwell, as well as the US Flying Tigers pilots, were household names in China.
“The US and China cooperated pretty closely during that period,” Moon said. “No matter what’s happened in US-China relations, that is one of the few areas where the US and China can agree.”
More from South China Morning Post:
- China’s Xi Jinping marks WWII victory, slams those who ‘vilify Communist Party’
- US-China decoupling prompts Beijing to relax rules for foreign investors in onshore bond market
- China calls for ‘soybean industry alliance’ with strategic partner Russia
This article China and Russia send pointed message to Washington on war anniversary first appeared on South China Morning Post