[23 May 2024] The Hindu Op-ed: A ‘No-Limit’ bromance that is not just a bilateral matter

PYQ Relevance:
Q) What is the significance of Indo-US defense deals over Indo-Russian defense deals? Discuss with reference to stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (UPSC CSE 2020)

Q) The new tri-nation partnership AUKUS is aimed at countering China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region. Is it going to supersede the existing partnerships in the region? Discuss the strength and impact of AUKUS in the present scenario. (UPSC CSE 2021)


With reference to the ‘Trans-Pacific Partnership’, consider the following statements:  (UPSC CSE 2016)
1. It is an agreement among all the Pacific Rim countries except China and Russia.
2. It is a strategic alliance for the purpose of maritime security only.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2


Prelims: Global Issues;

Mains: Global Issues; Multipolar World; Russia-China Relations;

Mentor comment: The article discusses the present “no-limits” friendship declared between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, and how it is a defining feature of the emerging multipolar world order. During World War II, the world was divided into – Allied (UK, USSR, US, and China)  and Axis (Germany, Italy, and Japan). Eventually after WW II, there was again a division between the US and the USSR which came to be known as the ‘Cold War’ where India adopted its Non-aligned stand. Taking today’s article view i.e. the Russia-China Friendship, the relations between both countries date back to the 17th century, with historical conflicts and territorial disputes. However, the relationship improved significantly after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, leading to the establishment of diplomatic relations and the signing of the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation in 2001. In the present context, we need to study what impact it will have on World order and of course our India also.

Let’s learn.

Why in the News?

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin declared their ‘no-limits’ friendship just days before the Ukraine war began.

  • Putin, who was sworn in for his new term recently, will spend two days in China.
  • The Putin-Xi bromance is not just a bilateral affair, but a harbinger of a new world order. 

What are the common grounds for ‘no limits’ friendship?

  • A Shared Anti-West Sentiment: Both leaders believe the West is trying to hold them back and undermine their influence. This shared grievance has brought them closer together, with Putin and Xi presenting a united front against what they see as a hostile Western world.
  • Military Cooperation: The two leaders have celebrated military cooperation, particularly during times of heightened tensions such as the US-China trade war. It includes security cooperation, emphasizing their mutual opposition to the Washington-led global consensus.
  • Economy and Trades: The structure of their bilateral trade shows that Russia mainly supplies raw materials, such as oil, natural gas, and coal, while importing manufacturing and technological products from China.
    • Russia has also been receiving loans and export credits, with the yuan’s share in the Russian central bank’s foreign currency reserves increasing significantly.
  • Strategic Partnership: The friendship between Putin and Xi is strategic, aiming to counterbalance U.S. global influence.
    • The two leaders have been attempting to put economics at the center of their strategic partnership, with Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Putin’s Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) aiming to create a single market among Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. 

Limitations on their ‘no limit’ friendship:

  • A Relationship of Unequals: Despite aiming for equal friendship, China’s growing economic and technological might dwarf Russia’s. This power imbalance could create tension in the relationship, especially as China’s dominance continues to grow in Central and West Asia.
    • Russia may struggle to maintain its status as an equal partner, potentially leading to friction in the alliance.
  • A Delicate Balance: Beijing may face pressure from its trading countries and internal critics to distance itself from Moscow, especially if Russia’s actions continue to attract international condemnation.

What does it mean for the rest of the world?

  • New Multipolar System and Geoplotical Risks: Russia has recently shifted its Nuclers Policies making it questionable for European and other Western countries. This shift in power dynamics (Russia-China) could lead to a more fragmented and unstable world, with the West facing a united front from two of its most powerful adversaries. 
  • Potential Risks to Global Energy Security: Russia’s growing dependence on China as an energy export market could give China more leverage over Russia and influence global energy prices and supply.
    • Expanded Russia-China energy cooperation may undermine Western efforts to isolate Russia economically and limit its ability to wage war in Ukraine.
  • Implications for Global Gas Markets: If the power of the Siberia pipeline is completed, it could reshape global gas markets by providing a new major source of supply to China and reducing Russia’s dependence on European gas exports.
    • However, the fate of the pipeline remains uncertain, as China has refrained from committing to it so far, likely because it currently benefits from keeping the project in Limbo.

What does it mean for India?

  • Strategic Concerns: Russia being a major supporter of the Indian defense system, India can face challenges in ensuring reliable defense supplies after the evolution of such “no limit” friendship and China-Russia cooperation.
  • Diplomatic Balancing: India aims to balance ties with Russia and West Asia to have a seamless connection with the European Union but faces challenges due to evolving Russia-China relations.
  • National Interests: India has always been a ‘big brother’ in the Asian region incorporating its Foreign Policies. Seeing the present context, India must navigate the changing geopolitical landscape, leveraging its diplomatic strengths and pursuing a clear long-term strategy.

Conclusion: The economic interests and trade between Russia and China are critical components of their “no-limits” friendship. While their bilateral trade has grown significantly, the relationship is marked by an unequal dynamic, with China’s economic dominance over Russia growing. 

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