The relationship between Russia and the West remains frozen because of Russia's alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom. The US, Canada and many European countries expelled Russian diplomats and Russia retaliated quickly. With the US and Russia closing consulates, diplomatic sanctions have reached a new height in the two countries. As a big power stepping onto the center of the international stage, China's role between Russia and the West garnered wide attention and the world is watching whether the relationship between China, Russia and the West will change.
The truth of the incident is not clear yet and the West does not have solid evidence proving that Russia is responsible for the poisoning. However the issue provided a chance for the West, which has been deeply mired in division and conflicts, to show solidarity. Populism is on the rise in the US and Europe. Washington has witnessed frequent high-level official changes and political and social divisions. The EU continues to grapple with Brexit and internal reforms. The relationship between the US and the EU has also been shaken by US behavior in trade, global governance and European security under the America First doctrine. Western leadership has been questioned and hence the West desperately needed an opportunity to show solidarity.
The Skripal incident came along at the right time. The West appears united and has tarnished Russia's international image as it held a presidential election. No matter the truth of the incident, Western diplomatic sanctions against Moscow are full of political intentions. The West hyped the Russia threat out of their political purposes. As one of Russia's closest partners, China's response to the West's anti-Russia fervor is important.
In recent years, efforts to upgrade the Sino-Russian relationship have often been demonized by the West. At the end of 2017, US President Donald Trump's first National Security Strategy deemed China and Russia "revisionist powers," claiming the two countries represent economic and political threats to the US. Such a biased report with a Cold War mind-set reveals that traditional geopolitics is returning to Western strategy due to emerging powers' development.
Inside the US, the forces advocating rivalry and confrontation with China are on the rise and the EU's suspicions of China have also surged in trade, investment and over the Belt and Road initiative. The West is alert to China and such a view will not easily change in the near future.
"We believe the Skripal incident should be properly resolved through dialogue between the UK and Russia based on getting the facts straight. The relevant countries should avoid taking any step that would escalate the confrontation," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily briefing. In fact, not all Western countries participated in expelling Russian diplomats, namely Austria and 10 other EU states. Although France joined Britain in ejecting Russian diplomats, President Emmanuel Macron will go ahead with his scheduled trip to Russia in May, to balance the bilateral relationship, manage differences and ease tensions.
China will continue to hold high the banner of peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit and pursue a new form of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation. Properly handling relationships with big powers like the US, the EU and Russia will create a favorable outside environment for the great goal of national rejuvenation.
Russia is China's largest neighbor and its development and stability goes in line with China's interests. And its just-concluded presidential election shows its domestic and foreign policies are welcomed by its people.
Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message to re-elected Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 19. Xi said China is willing to work with Russia to keep promoting China-Russia relations to a higher level, provide driving force for respective national development in both countries, and promote regional and global peace and tranquility, showing China's appreciation of the relationship with Russia.
China will meanwhile seek to push the Sino-US relationship back on track. To promote the relationship with the EU, China will enhance mutual trust and accommodate each other's concerns and seek more common interests. The world is in the midst of profound and complex changes. China should stay calm and continue to develop a new type of major power relations.
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