China and Russia are going to great lengths to express their warming alliance against the United States ahead of Wednesday’s much-anticipated summit between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.
President Biden has played up revived U.S. relations with NATO and European Union allies this week as leverage ahead of his first meeting as president with Mr. Putin. But Moscow and Beijing are employing some leverage of their own.
“China and Russia are united like a mountain, and our friendship is unbreakable,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing on Tuesday, days after Mr. Putin had heaped his own praise on China.
During an interview with NBC News on Friday, Mr. Putin said Moscow and Beijing “have developed a strategic partnership relationship” that “previously had not been achieved in the history of our nations.”
“We do not believe that China is a threat to us,” Mr. Putin said. “China is a friendly nation. It has not declared us an enemy as the United States has done.”
Asked about those comments Tuesday, Mr. Zhao responded that relations have “withstood the test of the changing international landscape, setting an example of a new type of major-country relationship.”
Western analysts say China and Russia stand together as autocratic rivals as Mr. Biden explicitly seeks to rally an alliance of democratic governments to uphold the liberal international order and prove Western governments can out-compete economically and militarily the increasingly assertive Communist regime in Beijing in the developing world.
One of the major questions in the Biden-Putin summit is whether the U.S. and Russia can work together to update the set of Cold War-era nuclear arms control agreements in a way that brings China, which has more than 300 of its own nuclear warheads, into the fold of a new global nonproliferation strategic architecture.
Chinese officials have so far resisted U.S. calls for Beijing to be covered by future nuclear arms agreements. Beijing has also sharply criticized what they say in the anti-China tone of the Group of Seven and NATO summits.
Mr. Putin said this week Russia wanted no part of Washington’s campaign to draw China into the nuclear talks, backing Beijing‘s argument that its nuclear arsenal is overshadowed by those of the U.S. and Russia.
“The Chinese justly say, ‘Why would we make reductions if we are already far behind what you have?’ … Making [Russia] responsible for China‘s position is just comical,” Mr. Putin told NBC News.
A NATO statement this week lumped China with Russia as a potential threat to the pro-democracy global order. The statement made reference to China‘s growing military and expanding nuclear weapons activities, asserting that “China is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal with more warheads and a larger number of sophisticated delivery systems.”
Mr. Zhao on Tuesday accused NATO of hypocrisy and described the alliance as being “up to its neck in debt morally.”
“NATO urges its member states to increase their military spending to at least 2% of GDP, while criticizing China‘s normal defense development and military modernization,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said. “This is typical double standards. In fact, China‘s defense accounts for about 1.3% of its GDP, much lower than the standard of NATO countries.”
According to Reuters, China’s reported defense budget in 2021 is about a quarter of U.S. defense spending, which amounted to $714 billion in fiscal year 2020 and is expected to increase to $733 billion in the 2021 fiscal year.
Officials in Beijing will be watching the Biden-Putin summit closely. The Chinese Communist Party-allied Global Times newspaper on Tuesday quoted Chinese experts who said they believe the “biggest expectation for Biden” in the summit is to “stabilize U.S.-Russia relations and split China-Russia ties as much as he could.”
“This won’t work,” the article claimed.