Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (center), Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (left) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization foreign ministers meeting in Moscow on September 10, 2020. Photo: AFP

The following is the first installment of an extended report on one of the most important geopolitical developments of the 21st century: the increasingly comprehensive alliance between China and Russia and its implications for Eurasian and regional powers across the planet.

Joint statements between two countries are usually riveted on a particular event, but in extraordinary circumstances involving great powers, they can assume an epochal character and be viewed as diplomatic communication that reflects what the Germans call the zeitgeist – the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history – and frame geopolitical power relations.

This is more so in the case of great powers that have long traditions in diplomacy and have left deep imprints in the march of history.

To be sure, the joint statement issued after the visit of Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Moscow on September 10-11 falls into this second category. 

Wang’s visit to Moscow was in connection with the foreign-minister-level meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. His “bilateral” with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took place on September 11 at the very end of the visit, but from the perspective of international security and the world order, it will stand out as a momentous event as a turning point in the evolution of the Sino-Russian entente.

The document that came out of Wang’s visit turns attention to the core areas of the Sino-Russian partnership for discourse analysis, and the two powers’ mutual interests, and the ever-evolving global geopolitical context in the contemporary world situation. 

The joint statement is more in the nature of a Sino-Russian declaration on the current  international situation and key problems, especially global political stability and global economic recovery.

It is the sort of declaration that we generally attribute to close allies, and it signifies that a qualitatively new stage is approaching in the Sino-Russian comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation, which has already brought the bilateral relationship to its historically highest level.  

Clearly, the Russia-China joint statement of September 11 is a negotiated, public-facing document of a bilateral relationship that reflects not only the political ideologies of the two countries but also their “common vision” and their recommendations to find solutions together to their common problems.

It references a world that is “undergoing a stage of deep transformation. The turbulence is growing stronger.… The coronavirus epidemic has become the most serious global peacetime challenge.” 

The 12 core areas of partnership outlined in the joint statement as such reflect the two countries’ foreign policy objectives as well.

These 12 areas include, first, the invidious campaign begun by Britain and the United States, which was picked up soon by a clutch of other countries (including a chorus within India), that the blame for the Covid-19 pandemic – the “Wuhan virus” – must be squarely put on China, where it began, for its alleged failure to fulfill its international obligation to share details with the world community. 

The “politicization” of the pandemic didn’t gain traction in the international community – even within America – but the US and its close Anglo-Saxon allies used it as a handle to vilify China, to be intrusive in China’s internal affairs and to mount unjustified attacks on the Chinese political system itself. 

The September 11 document underscores that Moscow stands four-square behind Beijing in urging other governments and states, public organizations, media and business circles to promote cooperation and jointly resist false information, to stop politicizing the pandemic and instead pool efforts in order to overcome the coronavirus infection and jointly respond to various challenges and threats. 

No doubt, it will be a matter of great satisfaction and comfort for Beijing at this point in time that as much as Moscow is signaling the high quality of the Sino-Russian entente, it is conveying the Kremlin’s strong solidarity on this issue of high sensitivity to the Chinese leadership.

The two countries have underscored that they insist on the coordinating role of the WHO in the international efforts to counter epidemics, deepen international cooperation in this area and to oversee the accelerated development of medications and vaccines.

This article was produced in partnership by Indian Punchline and Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute, which provided it to Asia Times. It is the first article in a series to be published on Asia Times over the next several days. Part 2 will focus on China’s and Russia’s wariness of the rearmament of Germany.

M K Bhadrakumar is a former Indian diplomat.

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