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China-Russia: A pseudo-alliance fraught with mistrust and irritation

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HIGH-level bonhomie was on display at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires last December, as it invariably is at meetings between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin – the irreplaceable leaders of China and Russia.

Yet the exaggerated gestures of goodwill cannot quite camouflage the underlying tensions in this presidential pseudo-alliance.

Following the party-political line, the so-called ‘Connectivity Index’, a measure constructed by researchers at Peking University for evaluating the suitability of about 100 states for China’s Belt & Road Initiative, awards Russia the first place.

Yet Russia is not formally a member in this initiative and consents only to its ‘link-up’ (sopryazhenie) with its Eurasian Economic Union project. A meaningful synergy in this construct is yet to be found.

SEE ALSO: Is Russia looking to extend its influence in the Asia Pacific?

The Ukraine crisis in spring 2014 prompted Putin to attempt an upgrade in relations with China. It was, indeed, the only way to consolidate Russia’s geopolitical positions in the escalating and deeply asymmetric confrontation with the West.

Expansion of Russia’s energy exports was supposed to be the main content of the upgraded partnership, and the gas deal between the two nations signified a breakthrough in political rapprochement.

By the end of 2015, it had transpired, however, that the fast development of ‘green fields’ in Eastern Siberia and the construction of extra-long pipelines were tasks too ambitious for Gazprom, so the implementation of the deal........

© Asian Correspondent