China and Russia on the opening day of the Winter Olympics declared a ‘limitless’ partnership, supporting each other in clashes with Ukraine and Taiwan with the promise of more collaboration against the West .

President Xi Jinping hosted President Vladimir Putin on Friday as the two nations said their relationship was superior to any Cold War-era alliance and would work together on space, climate change, intelligence and Internet control.

Beijing has backed Russia’s demand that Ukraine should not be admitted into NATO, as the Kremlin rallies 100,000 troops near its neighbor, while Moscow opposes any form of independence from Taiwan , as world powers jostle over their spheres of influence.

“The friendship between the two states has no limits, there are no ‘prohibited’ areas of cooperation,” the two countries said in a joint statement.

The timing of their announcement was highly symbolic, during an Olympics hosted by China that the United States subjected to a diplomatic boycott.

The agreement marked the most detailed and assertive statement of Russian and Chinese willingness to work together to build a new international order based on their vision of human rights and democracy.

Putin used the occasion to trumpet a new gas deal with China worth an estimated US$117.5 billion, promising to boost Russia’s exports to the Far East.

The United States hit back, saying Xi should have used the meeting to push down tensions in Ukraine.

Such an approach is what the world expects from “responsible powers”, said the US State Department’s top diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink.

“If Russia further invades Ukraine and China looks the other way, it suggests that China is willing to tolerate or tacitly support Russia’s efforts to coerce Ukraine…”

Moscow denies planning an invasion of Ukraine.

Daniel Russel of the Asia Society think tank, who served as the US State Department’s top East Asia diplomat in the Obama administration, said Xi and Putin were “announcing their determination to unite and to oppose the United States and the West – ready to resist sanctions and challenge American global leadership”.

Although not officially allies, the two “tactically join forces to better defend their respective interests and authoritarian systems against Western pressure”, he said.

The two countries grew closer as they both came under pressure from the West on human rights and other issues.

In the lengthy document – nearly 5,400 words in English translation – each went much further than before in supporting the other on hotspots of tension with the West.

– Russia expressed its support for China’s position that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China and its opposition to any form of independence for the island.

– Moscow and Beijing have also expressed opposition to the AUKUS alliance between Australia, Britain and the United States, saying it increases the danger of an arms race in the region.

– China joined Russia in calling for an end to NATO enlargement and backed its demand for security guarantees from the West.

– They expressed concern over “advancement of US plans to develop global missile defense and deploy its elements in various regions of the world, combined with building high-precision non-nuclear weapons capabilities for the disarmament of strikes and other strategic objectives”.

Elsewhere, without naming Washington, they criticized attempts by “certain states” to establish global hegemony, stir up confrontation and impose their own standards of democracy.

Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that despite the rhetoric, there would be limits to the alliance.

“China is willing to support Russia through difficult but not difficult times,” he said. “If a war breaks out over Ukraine or Taiwan, we can expect this partnership to fracture.”

In the technological field, Russia and China have declared their readiness to strengthen their cooperation in the field of artificial intelligence and information security.

They said they believe “any attempt to limit their sovereign right to regulate domestic segments of the Internet and keep them secure is unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, Russian energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft struck new gas and oil supply deals with Beijing on Friday worth tens of billions of dollars.

The deals capitalize on Putin’s desire to diversify Russian energy exports away from the West, which began shortly after he came to power in 1999. Since then, Russia has become China’s top energy supplier and reduced its dependence on the West for its income.

The Kremlin said the presidents also discussed the need to expand trade in national currencies due to the unpredictability surrounding the use of the dollar.

US President Joe Biden has said Russian companies could be deprived of the ability to exchange dollars under sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine.

The first of 2,000 US troops sent to reinforce NATO allies in Eastern Europe and Germany arrived on Friday.



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