New Cold War Alliances Forming

News Analysis Western economic sanctions may drive Russia closer to communist China, with their axis of authoritarianism expanding to include countries in both the Chinese and Russian orbits. Although Russia and China are intensifying their alliance, they have no formal defense agreement. China’s only official ally is North Korea. Nevertheless, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is building relationships with other authoritarian regimes through the sale of surveillance technology, and by providing training on how to control the populace and censor the internet. Through these and other economic interests, the countries expected to join China’s side are Iran, Venezuela, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and possibly other nations that are part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as “One Belt, One Road”). Afghanistan is likely to support China, but it is not in a position to wage a foreign war. Many of the BRI countries are horribly indebted to China and may feel the need to vote with Beijing at the United Nations—but most are unable to aid China in a war and many would not want to do so. Cambodia has become nearly a vassal state of China, but again, the military capabilities of Cambodia are quite limited. Beijing seems to be trying to project some soft power through participation in global organizations and events, such as the Olympics, but it is doubtful that it will win over any new allies. The CCP is facing difficulties as advanced, wealthy countries are unlikely to abandon the U.S. side to join the China camp. Previously, the CCP counted on China’s position as the world’s factory and global financier to garner support. Now, however, it appears that industrial power alone will not be enough to help Beijing recover from its destructive diplomacy or its history of broken deals and aggressive actions. Unlike China, Russia has official allies. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is comprised of six countries: Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. The remaining Central Asian Republics, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, while not part of the CSTO, are clearly within the Russian sphere of influence. Additionally, the Central Asian Republics are dependent on trade with China, making it improbable that they would turn their back on the China-Russia axis. Cuba is a Russian ally in the Americas. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel have discussed forming a “strategic partnership.” In January, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian Television network RTVI that Russia may position military assets in Cuba if the United States and its allies do not yield on the Ukraine issue. India opposes the CCP and has been moving deeper into the U.S. orbit, despite continued weapons purchases from Russia. According to a 2020 report by the Stimson Center, around 70 percent to 85 percent of Indian military equipment come from Russia. New Delhi has also been increasing its purchases of U.S. weapons, but India is unable to operate militarily without support from Russia, according to a 2021 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report. This political ambiguity has worked for India, until now, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may force India to take sides. So far, New Delhi has failed to condemn the invasion, and Washington is increasing pressure for India to join the rest of its allies in sending a strong and unified message to Russia. Similar to India, Vietnam and China have an uneasy diplomatic history. Vietnam’s hatred of China has been moving it deeper into the American sphere, although Russia is its largest supplier of weapons. While Hanoi has not specifically condemned the invasion, Vietnamese media are covering the unfolding events without their usual pro-Russia bias. This leaves Vietnam as a bit of a wild card in terms of which side it will favor. It is possible that Hanoi’s distrust of the CCP is stronger than its fondness for Russia. Or, the fact that the United States is Vietnam’s largest trading partner may tip the scales in favor of Vietnam joining the U.S.-led alliance. The Burmese junta has spoken out in support of the invasion. Facing its own set of Western sanctions, Burma (commonly known as Myanmar) is dependent on the CCP for trade and investment. The Burmese junta also purchases weapons from both China and Russia, as well as Ukraine, Serbia, and India. In addition to selling weapons to Burma, Serbia has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia. Serbia buys weapons from both China and Russia, while the Russian Federation is Serbia’s fifth-largest trading partner. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Union and NATO, including the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada, have all signaled their closer alignment with the United States. In the Asia-Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Indonesia condemned Russia. This leaves Russia and China with a bit of a rogues’ gallery

New Cold War Alliances Forming

News Analysis

Western economic sanctions may drive Russia closer to communist China, with their axis of authoritarianism expanding to include countries in both the Chinese and Russian orbits.

Although Russia and China are intensifying their alliance, they have no formal defense agreement. China’s only official ally is North Korea. Nevertheless, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is building relationships with other authoritarian regimes through the sale of surveillance technology, and by providing training on how to control the populace and censor the internet. Through these and other economic interests, the countries expected to join China’s side are Iran, Venezuela, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and possibly other nations that are part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as “One Belt, One Road”).

Afghanistan is likely to support China, but it is not in a position to wage a foreign war. Many of the BRI countries are horribly indebted to China and may feel the need to vote with Beijing at the United Nations—but most are unable to aid China in a war and many would not want to do so. Cambodia has become nearly a vassal state of China, but again, the military capabilities of Cambodia are quite limited.

Beijing seems to be trying to project some soft power through participation in global organizations and events, such as the Olympics, but it is doubtful that it will win over any new allies. The CCP is facing difficulties as advanced, wealthy countries are unlikely to abandon the U.S. side to join the China camp.

Previously, the CCP counted on China’s position as the world’s factory and global financier to garner support. Now, however, it appears that industrial power alone will not be enough to help Beijing recover from its destructive diplomacy or its history of broken deals and aggressive actions.

Unlike China, Russia has official allies. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is comprised of six countries: Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. The remaining Central Asian Republics, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, while not part of the CSTO, are clearly within the Russian sphere of influence. Additionally, the Central Asian Republics are dependent on trade with China, making it improbable that they would turn their back on the China-Russia axis.

Cuba is a Russian ally in the Americas. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel have discussed forming a “strategic partnership.” In January, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian Television network RTVI that Russia may position military assets in Cuba if the United States and its allies do not yield on the Ukraine issue.

India opposes the CCP and has been moving deeper into the U.S. orbit, despite continued weapons purchases from Russia. According to a 2020 report by the Stimson Center, around 70 percent to 85 percent of Indian military equipment come from Russia. New Delhi has also been increasing its purchases of U.S. weapons, but India is unable to operate militarily without support from Russia, according to a 2021 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.

This political ambiguity has worked for India, until now, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may force India to take sides. So far, New Delhi has failed to condemn the invasion, and Washington is increasing pressure for India to join the rest of its allies in sending a strong and unified message to Russia.

Similar to India, Vietnam and China have an uneasy diplomatic history. Vietnam’s hatred of China has been moving it deeper into the American sphere, although Russia is its largest supplier of weapons. While Hanoi has not specifically condemned the invasion, Vietnamese media are covering the unfolding events without their usual pro-Russia bias.

This leaves Vietnam as a bit of a wild card in terms of which side it will favor. It is possible that Hanoi’s distrust of the CCP is stronger than its fondness for Russia. Or, the fact that the United States is Vietnam’s largest trading partner may tip the scales in favor of Vietnam joining the U.S.-led alliance.

The Burmese junta has spoken out in support of the invasion. Facing its own set of Western sanctions, Burma (commonly known as Myanmar) is dependent on the CCP for trade and investment. The Burmese junta also purchases weapons from both China and Russia, as well as Ukraine, Serbia, and India.

In addition to selling weapons to Burma, Serbia has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia. Serbia buys weapons from both China and Russia, while the Russian Federation is Serbia’s fifth-largest trading partner.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Union and NATO, including the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada, have all signaled their closer alignment with the United States. In the Asia-Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Indonesia condemned Russia.

This leaves Russia and China with a bit of a rogues’ gallery of supporters, mostly smaller countries with limited economic and military capabilities. Furthermore, even the partnership between Beijing and Moscow may become so plagued by sanctions that the CCP will distance itself from Russia.

Read part I here. 

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Antonio Graceffo, Ph.D., has spent more than 20 years in Asia. He is a graduate of the Shanghai University of Sport and holds a China-MBA from Shanghai Jiaotong University. Graceffo works as an economics professor and China economic analyst, writing for various international media. Some of his books on China include "Beyond the Belt and Road: China’s Global Economic Expansion" and "A Short Course on the Chinese Economy."