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Russia must begin this Wednesday, and for eight days, military maneuvers with the Chinese navy. The place: the East China Sea, east of Shanghai, in a very strategic space: Taiwan to the south, Japan to the east and South Korea to the north. Officially, the two countries want to strengthen their naval coordination, also strengthen security in the area. Ulrich Bounat, geopolitical analyst specializing in the Russian world, answers questions from RFI.
RFI : For Russia and China, what are the objectives of these joint maneuvers?
Ulrich Bounat : I thinkthe objectives are quite clear: it is a matter of improving coordination between the fleets, from a purely military point of view. And also from a Russian point of view, showing the world that Russia, despite all the sanctions imposed following its invasion of Ukraine, is not isolated and that it has a strong ally: the China.
I will note all the same that China, for its part, that ” arranges it well to show that it has an ally of the military weight of Russia in this area of the globe where we know that there are extremely strong tensions with the United States, around Taiwan. Nevertheless, let’s keep in mind that if Russia demonstrates these deployments of force to the east of China, China for its part is much more cautious: it always confines its demonstrations of force to the east, in its zone of predilection, and is certainly in no hurry to show such enthusiasm by being closer to the western borders of Russia.
China and Russia have increased joint maneuvers in recent months. But this rapprochement dates from before the start of the war in Ukraine in February…
Indeed, it started several years ago. There is a very clear objective to challenge the world order as it has been defined since the end of the Second World War, and to challenge the preeminence of the United States and the Western world. This basic objective carried by the two countries. Nevertheless, I think that Russia’s failure in Ukraine, with which Beijing does not wish to be associated, provokes a certain reflection in China also with regard to this message that Beijing, like Moscow, has been conveying for years: that the West is about to see its strength gradually dwindle, for the benefit of a so-called multipolar world, with of course China as the main competitor. The fall of Russian military potential in Ukraine puts this vision on hold…
This is also the reason why, while we have recently seen a fairly strong questioning of the status quo around Taiwan around the Chinese, this position has been greatly diluted. We hardly hear about it anymore. And all the more so, of course, since China itself has its own internal problems, with the management of the exit from Covid-19.
How does the West view these maneuvers?
I think they confirm, if need be, that indeed, from a military point of view, there is an increasingly strong partnership – I won’t say an alliance, because once again China is not helping not Russia in Ukraine, but there is indeed a growing partnership. This is also the reason why, from the point of view of NATO, China is now considered a bit like an adversary.
These military and naval maneuvers add another stone to the understanding of Westerners that China and Russia, without being completely allies, have decided to form a group – with a few others, notably Iran – to try to challenge the established order. This makes Westerners aware, if need be, that despite its current economic difficulties, China has clearly not given up on its attempt to question its role in the world and the role of Westerners in the long term.
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Russian-Chinese maneuvers: “Show the world that Russia is not isolated”