China and Russia eyes stronger military ties: balancing cooperation and concerns

China and Russia’s recent defence ministers’ meeting has ignited international concern due to its focus on significantly elevating their military cooperation.

China’s newly appointed Defense Minister, Dong Jun, sent shockwaves through the international community when he held his first official meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, on January 31st. The virtual summit, marking Dong’s international debut, was dominated by a singular, and concerning theme: Elevating China-Russia military cooperation to an unprecedented “higher level.”

Both ministers agreed to “continuously expand practical cooperation and promote the military ties to a higher level,” according to a statement from China’s Defense Ministry. Building upon the previous month’s declaration of “unlimited cooperation” between the two nations, the meeting underscored a shared desire to strengthen strategic ties and bolster mutual trust in the face of “global challenges.” This comes amid heightened tensions with the West, particularly concerning the ongoing Ukraine war, fueling concerns about a potential united front against Western powers.

In his opening remarks, Dong emphasized the need to “continuously expand practical cooperation and promote the military ties to a higher level.” He stressed the importance of responding to global challenges jointly and contributing to a deeper China-Russia relationship.

Echoing Dong’s sentiments, Shoigu expressed his eagerness for “closest and most fruitful cooperation,” highlighting the importance of strengthening the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership in the defence sector. Both ministers emphasized their commitment to non-aggression towards third countries, with Shoigu refuting a formal military bloc formation. This aimed to alleviate concerns about an impending military alliance against the West.

Whether this translates into a full-fledged military alliance or remains focused on specific areas of cooperation is yet to be seen. Internal pressures within both nations, the international response from the West and others, and the unclear specifics of collaboration all act as wildcards, making it impossible to predict whether this will blossom into a full-fledged alliance or stay confined to specific areas.

The meeting also highlighted the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Russia, underscoring the two nations’ longstanding ties and shared history. One thing is certain: the world will be watching closely as this relationship unfolds. The choices made by China and Russia in the coming months will have significant ramifications for international security and the balance of power on the global stage.