How Trump helped Putin before meeting Xi Jinping
3 July, Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow began. It is obvious that the parties are facing very difficult negotiations on the future of Russian participation in the Chinese project “One Belt - One Way” and the volume of Chinese investment in the Russian economy.
More recently, the Chinese in such negotiations possessed stronger cards. Russia’s relations with the West were spoiled, the “Turn to the East” advertised turned into a turn towards China, which the Chinese used (absolutely rightfully), imposing their conditions of cooperation on Moscow. However, the current summit will not be held in such an atmosphere - almost for the first time ever for the Russian-Western conflict, the position of the PRC looks somewhat weaker than the Russian ones. And thanks for that Moscow owes Donald Trump.
Did not work well
After Xi Jinping’s rather successful April visit to the United States, after his meekly eating chocolate cake amid Trump’s statements about an air strike on Syria, many experts exhaled and put statements on the “US-China conflict” aside. Trump himself has sharply softened his rhetoric regarding the PRC, and it seemed to some that the president’s words from the series “We won’t allow China to rape our country, for it’s exactly what he does” are a thing of the past. Some even began to say that the PRC and the United States even felt a certain modus vivendi, and that the “Fukidida trap” (in which the war between the growing Chinese challenger and the American dominant is inevitable) would not work in this case. Xi Jinping himself assured that there is no “trap of Thucydides” between China and the United States, because, in his opinion, the parties can build “new relations between superpowers” based on respect for each other’s legitimate interests.
However, Trump, apparently, had a slightly different perspective on this relationship. The American president replaced anger with mercy towards China only because he was counting on cooperation with Beijing in the matter of resolving American problems. In particular, the trade surplus in the direction of China and the North Korean nuclear missile program. And both questions for Trump were interrelated. “I explained to the Chinese president that a trade deal with the United States would be much more profitable for them if they could solve the North Korean problem,” Trump said.
This collaboration never took place. For trade reasons, Beijing, for understandable reasons, refused to obey the American demands, and its possibilities are greatly exaggerated on the North Korean issue. China would very much like a call to Pyongyang to solve the North Korean nuclear missile program (for then, for example, the United States would have no reason to deploy TMD in South Korea, and the American military bases on the Korean Peninsula and Japan would lose their sense of existence), but Beijing cannot do this, because Kim Jong-un will simply reject all Chinese demands. Direct pressure will not help here, for the answer to this will be either the radicalization of the DPRK, or its collapse - both options are extremely disadvantageous to China. “China will only become active if it realizes that the status quo is impossible,” said Evan Medeiros, the former head of the Asian direction at the Obama National Security Council. Therefore, the Chinese leadership is now pressing carefully behind the scenes. However, Trump is not satisfied with this pace. “We would like China to have a little more help on the North Korean issue, but for now we’re not getting it,” Trump said. In fact, his administration blamed the PRC for all the actions of the DPRK. China "is obliged to exert more serious economic and diplomatic pressure on the (North Korean - ed. Mode) if Beijing wants to avoid an escalation of the situation in the region," said Rex Tillerson.
As a result, at the end of June, the White House turned on the cynophobia again. “It took Trump four days to get rid of two, or maybe four decades of US policy toward China,” writes The Daily Beast. The first day was the meeting of 26 June Trump and Narendra Modi, after which the American leader said that "US-Indian relations have never been in such excellent condition as now." Well, it reinforced this relationship by agreeing to sell 22 reconnaissance drons worth 2 billion dollars to India so that they could monitor Chinese operations in the Indian Ocean in Delhi (the Indian leadership has been seeking this supply since last summer). In addition, the United States announced the holding of naval exercises with the traditional "friends" of China - India and Japan.
Then, the Department of State 27 on June published a list of countries where human trafficking is most developed - and China turned out to be in the third, worst basket. "China strongly rejects the irresponsible US statements regarding the extent of other countries' fight against human trafficking, based on the specifics of US law," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Kang.
On Wednesday 28 June, the United States gathered its forces, and on Thursday 30 June dealt as many as two blows. At first, the US Ministry of Finance imposed sanctions against Chinese companies for cooperation with the DPRK, thereby, according to some experts, making it clear that China will continue to be punished for economic cooperation with Pyongyang (which, we recall, Beijing cannot refuse, because otherwise the collapse of the North Korean regime and the war on the peninsula). And finally, on the same day, the White House announced its intention to supply Taiwan with weapon on 1,42 a billion dollars to "maintain its self-defense capabilities." This will be the first sale of arms to Taiwan under the Trump administration, and the special charm of this sale is the fact that the current leader of the island, Tsai Invan, is a supporter of the island’s independence and has a negative view on any projects of rapprochement with the PRC (except for economic ones).
As a result, Congress is pleased, Taiwan is pleased, and China is upset. Well, in order to upset the PRC even more, the Senate approved a law that American warships could enter Taiwanese ports (these visits stopped in the 1979 year, when the United States adopted the “one China” principle). For obvious reasons, trump is unlikely to veto this law.
And finally - one day before the visit of the head of the People's Republic of China to Moscow - the American missile destroyer sailed near the island of Triton, one of the contested patches of land in the Paracel Islands group. The United States calls this a “free-navigation operation”, and it has become the second since the Trump administration came to power (the first was in May, and then the American ship sailed near an artificial Chinese island in the South China Sea).
Thus, for Trump, US interests turned out to be higher than friendship with China. Is this approach in the interests of Russia? Of course, the more conflicting (naturally, to reasonable limits) the US-China relationship will be, the easier it will be for Moscow to negotiate with the PRC and the US, which will take into account Russia's interests so as not to push it into the arms of the enemy. The main thing is to keep the balance and not get up in this conflict either on the American or the Chinese side, and also to avoid corresponding political statements (like Sergey Lavrov's words that Moscow supports Beijing’s position on territorial disputes in the South China Sea). If we choose China, we will put ourselves in conflict with the whole of the West and become the younger brother of the PRC. If we choose the United States, we will get a conflict with the largest Eastern power, and besides, it’s not a fact that Washington will not throw us (as it usually does). You just need to take advantage of the situation and partner with everyone.
- Gevorg Mirzayan, a special correspondent for the magazine "Expert". Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation