RAY McGOVERN: Russia & China — Two Against One

Xi Jinping’s reception of Putin yesterday in Beijing sealed the increasingly formidable strategic relationship, fundamentally misunderstood in Washington.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping and their teams meeting in Beijing on Thursday. (Konstantin Zavrazhin, Kremlin)

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s extremely warm reception of President Vladimir Putin yesterday in Beijing sealed the increasingly formidable Russia-China strategic relationship. It amounts to a tectonic shift in the world balance of power. 

The Russia-China entente also sounds the death knell for attempts by U.S. foreign policy neophytes to drive a wedge between the two countries. The triangular relationship has become two-against-one, with serious implications, particularly for the war in Ukraine. If U.S. President Joe Biden’s foreign policy geniuses remain in denial, escalation is almost certain.

In a pre-visit interview with Xinhua, Putin noted the “unprecedented level of strategic partnership between our countries.” He and Xi have met more than 40 times in person or virtually. In June 2018, Xi described Putin as “an old friend of the Chinese people” and, personally, his “best friend.”

For his part, Putin noted Thursday that he and Xi are “in constant contact to keep personal control over all pressing issues on the Russian-Chinese and international agenda.” Putin brought along Defense Minister Andrey Belousov as well as veterans like Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and key business leaders.

Joint Statements Matter

Putin and Xi in Beijing on Feb. 4, 2022. (Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Xi and Putin signed a strong joint statement Thursday, similar to the extraordinary one the two issued on Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing. It portrayed their relationship as “superior to political and military alliances of the Cold War era. Friendship between the two States has no limits, there are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation …”

The full import of that statement did not hit home until Putin launched the Special Military Operation into the Donbass three weeks later. China’s muted reaction shocked most analysts, who had dismissed the possibility that Xi would give “best friend” Putin, in effect, a waiver on China’s bedrock policy of non-interference abroad.

In the following weeks, official Chinese statements made clear that the principles of Westphalia had taken a back seat to “the need for every country to defend its core interests” and to judge each situation “on its own merits.”

Nuclear War

Thursday’s statement expressed concern over “increased strategic risks between nuclear powers” — referring to continued escalation of the war between NATO-supported Ukraine and Russia. It condemns “the expansion of military alliances and creation of military bridgeheads close to the borders of other nuclear powers, particularly with the advanced deployment of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery, as well as other items.”

Putin has undoubtedly briefed Xi on the U.S. missile sites already in Romania and Poland that can launch what Russians call “offensive strike missiles” with flight time to Moscow of less than 10 minutes. Putin surely has told Xi about the inconsistencies in U.S. statements regarding intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

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For example, Xi is aware — just as surely as consumers of Western media are unaware — that during a Dec. 30, 2021, telephone conversation, Biden assured Putin that “Washington had no intention of deploying offensive strike weapons in Ukraine.”

There was rejoicing in the Kremlin that New Years’ Eve, since Biden’s assurance was the first sign that Washington might acknowledge Russia’s security concerns. Indeed, Biden addressed a key issue in at least five of the eight articles of the Russian draft treaty given to the U.S. on Dec. 17, 2021. Russian rejoicing, however, was short-lived.

Foreign Minister Lavrov revealed last month that when he met Antony Blinken in Geneva in January 2022, the U.S. secretary of state pretended he’d not heard of Biden’s undertaking to Putin on Dec. 30, 2021. Rather, Blinken insisted that U.S. medium-range missiles could be deployed in Ukraine, and only that the U.S. might be willing to limit their number, Lavrov said.

The Mother of All Miscalculations

Biden and Putin meeting at the at the Villa La Grange in Geneva, June 16, 2021, flanked by Blinken on left, Lavrov on right. (White House/ Adam Schultz)

When Biden took office in 2021, his advisers assured him that he could play on Russia’s fear (sic) of China and drive a wedge between them. This became embarrassingly clear when Biden indicated what he had told Putin during their Geneva summit on June 16, 2021.

That meeting gave Putin confirmation that Biden and his advisers were stuck in a woefully outdated appraisal of Russia-China relations.

Here is the bizarre way Biden described his approach to Putin on China:

“Without quoting him [Putin] — which I don’t think is appropriate — let me ask a rhetorical question: You got a multi-thousand-mile border with China. China is seeking to be the most powerful economy in the world and the largest and the most powerful military in the world.”

The ‘Squeeze’

Putin in video conference with Xi on Dec. 15, 2021. (Kremlin)

At the airport after the summit, Biden’s aides did their best to whisk him onto the plane, but failed to stop him from sharing more wisdom on China:

“Russia is in a very, very difficult spot right now. They are being squeezed by China.”

After these remarks Putin and Xi spent the rest of 2021 trying to disabuse Biden of the “China squeeze” on Russia: it was not a squeeze, but a fraternal embrace. This mutual effort culminated in a Xi-Putin virtual summit on Dec. 15 of that year. 

The video of the first minute of their conversation was picked up by The New York Times, as well as others. Still, most commentators seemed to miss its significance:


“Dear friend, dear President Xi Jinping.

Next February I expect we can finally meet in person in Beijing as we agreed. We will hold talks and then participate in the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games. I am grateful for your invitation to attend this landmark event.”


“Dear President Putin, my old friend. It’s my pleasure to meet you at the end of this year by video, the second time this year, our 37th meeting since 2013. You have hailed … China-Russia relations as a model in international collaboration in the 21st Century, strongly supporting China’s position on safeguarding its core interests, and firmly opposed to attempts to drive a wedge between our two countries. I highly appreciate it.”

Is Biden still unaware of this? Have his advisers told him that Russia and China have never been closer, with what amounts to a virtual military alliance?

The Election

Putin has said he is aware that Washington’s policy toward Russia “is primarily impacted by domestic political processes.” Russia and China certainly assess that Biden’s policy on Ukraine will be influenced by the political imperative to be seen as facing Russia down.

If NATO country hotheads send “trainers” to Ukraine, the prospect of a military dust-up is ever present. What Biden needs to know is that, if it comes to open hostilities between Russia and the West, he is likely to face more than just saber rattling in the South China Sea — and the specter of a two-front war.

The Chinese know they are next in line for the ministrations of NATO/East. Indeed, it is no secret that the Pentagon sees China as enemy No. 1. According to the DOD’s National Defense Strategy, “defense priorities are first, defending the homeland, paced to the growing multi-domain threat posed by the People’s Republic of China.”

The Pentagon will be the last to sing a requiem for the dearly departed unipolar world. May sanity prevail.

Ray McGovern’s first portfolio as a C.I.A. analyst was Sino-Soviet relations. In 1963, their total trade was $220 MILLION; in 2023, $227 BILLION. Do the math.

Views expressed in this article may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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41 comments for “RAY McGOVERN: Russia & China — Two Against One

  1. Ray Peterson
    May 20, 2024 at 09:35

    Ray, as one of your devoted readers this post confuses me.
    Are you saying that the US/Israel/West has something to
    concern itself with a Russia-China alliance; when you have
    made so clear the depth of deception that American hegemony,
    by reporting on Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty, killing
    34 Americans, wounding some 170 during
    its Six-Day war to continue stealing Palestinian land?
    Israel needs to negotiate with Hamas, American business needs
    to invest in China’s new silk road, and pay for the sabotage to
    Russia’s gas pipeline and thank Putin for Russian lives lost in stopping
    Hitler in WWII.
    Are you in agreement?

  2. Piotr Berman
    May 19, 2024 at 15:14

    The larger picture that Western think tank analyst miss is that relations of China and Russia require a degree of independence that is beneficial to both. Eurasia has its share of low intensity conflicts, and it may be hard to have excellent relationship with both side. The prime example is India-Pakistan disagreement over Kashmir, Russia has very good relations with India, China with Pakistan, and would a conflict between Pakistan and India flare up, Russia and China are in very good position to mediate, similarly a possible conflict of India and China (so far, they tightly control the level of confrontation, but who knows), Russia is the perfect mediator. Vietnam is another country that has military relations with Russia but not with China. Mind you, the trade of China with both India and Vietnam grows robustly. Multipolarity is much more complex that “global South + Russia” (like OPEC+) with hierarchical relationships.

  3. Yosemite Sam
    May 19, 2024 at 12:00

    Self-inflicted by American belligerence. Here’s a short version of it …

    Back under Bush/Cheney, they began a policy I named as “poking the bear with a stick”, and were constantly aggressive and belligerent to Russia.
    Under Obama/Biden, they began a policy of “poking the dragon with a stick”.
    And not only are these the sort of people who believe that poking bears and dragons with sticks is a great idea, they were so enjoying the poking of the bear with a stick that kept doing so even after they stepped up their poking of the dragon with a stick.

    Putin and Xi had a summit, and looked at each other and said, “hey, you are not poking me with a stick”. That was years ago.

    Thus the comedy of Blinkie showing up in China, with a big stick and willing to poke with it, but at the same time telling the Chinese that they needed to turn against Russia. “Asian inscrutability” apparently means not breaking into open laughter at the fool with the big stick.

  4. Yosemite Sam News
    May 19, 2024 at 10:57

    Breaking News: The President of Iran’s helicopter has gone down. Only reports so far that I see say a ‘hard landing’. Search and Rescue is now reaching the area and beginning their work. The crash occurred on the return trip from a visit to neighboring Turkey-NATO-friendly Azerbaijan.

    Of course, over the years, more than one opponent of Washington has gone down in helicopter or plane crashes. On the other hand, I did see a mention that ‘bad weather’ was hampering the search and rescue ops along with bad terrain. Thus it is too early to speculate.

    So far, corporate media (Mickey Mouse aka Disney->ABC) is echoing the Iranian report, but otherwise appear to be what is now their normal Sunday morning mode of being very careful about what they say until they can contact The Boss and find out what the news is supposed to say.

  5. May 19, 2024 at 07:18

    Thanks to Ray McGovern, another voice for sanity and decency!

  6. Caliman
    May 19, 2024 at 04:34

    One should always listen when the bros McGovern speak …

    The US govt’s main international job is the creation of a reasonable level of chaos and conflict to justify the care and feeding of MICIMATT. There can be no better bugbear to “scare the hell out of the American people” than a China Russia alliance.

    So, so far so good. However, if someone miscalculates and shooting starts, all the money in the world won’t help the masters of the universe when nuclear winter kicks in.

  7. irina
    May 18, 2024 at 22:43

    A strong and lasting Russia-Chinese alliance was foreseen back in the 1960’s by author John Hersey
    (‘Hiroshima’) in his alternate future novel “White Lotus”. A dense and remarkable book, recommended
    to me by a former Green Beret. Who later became another Vietnam War era suicide.

    • 1KoolKat
      May 20, 2024 at 06:25

      Former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski warned in 1997 that the greatest long-term threat to U.S. interests would be a “grand coalition” of China and Russia, “united not by ideology but by complementary grievances.”

  8. May 18, 2024 at 22:38

    The only thing that makes sense to me is that the Obiden administration must stop the election.They all end up in jail when they lose the election.Delusional psychopaths like Lois Gagnon writes above.

    • Yosemite Sam
      May 19, 2024 at 11:21

      Personally, I’ve got a couple of feelings, but not sure which the corporate-government-power-united Democrats will choose, as logic and reason appear to be poor tools for predicting their behavior. But potentials in a quantum crystal ball would be …

      1) There is an anti-democracy replacement of Biden at the infomercial/convention. Don’t let the primary voters have a say, but let the party insiders pick the next nominee on their own. My money would be on Gavin Newsome, and a recent hint may have been seeing Kamala’s name pushed as a potential future governor back home where she built her reputation as “Top Cop”. For awhile, I thought there was a bit of a hidden contest going on, but that tune being played on the State Radio might be a signal that it has been resolved.

      2) Biden follows the now beta-tested Zelensky Plan and declares that it is just too dangerous to hold elections in wartime and that it will only be safe to have elections after our great victory is in hand.

      They may also try the first, then see its now working, and then go for plan B. If nothing else, by now the Democrats should have a lot of experience with their plans not working out quite as they dreamed over champagne and caviar. They probably end up in the Democrat fashion by calling for a “police riot” ala Macron in France when 70% of the people opposed him, in a modern show of democracy and freedom.

      Meanwhile, 70% of Americans think a Civil War is on the horizon. The big Democrat thing is to try to convince their own supporters to give up their guns.

  9. Jack Lomax
    May 18, 2024 at 21:12

    It is possible, so yes let us hope so. Possible but sadly not likely

  10. Sam F
    May 18, 2024 at 17:46

    Thank you, Ray McGovern!
    I had not predicted that the US would become so corrupt as to unify the rest of civilization.
    Hopefully BRICS et al will develop a UN with proportional votes and no security council.
    Now we must unify the US against its utterly corrupt government and institute reforms.

    • Yosemite Sam
      May 19, 2024 at 12:26

      “I had not predicted that the US would become so corrupt…”
      Apparently you were more optimistic than Ben Franklin, whose speech at the end of the Constitutional Convention said that
      “there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well administred; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administred for a Course of Years, and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”

      People don’t seem to credit Ben with the powers of Nostradamus, but he obviously had a crystal ball that could show him 21st century America, or maybe even just Tammany Hall and Ulysses S. Grant, to pick a bi-partisan pair of old examples from oh so many choices.

  11. vinnieoh
    May 18, 2024 at 13:32

    Mr. McGovern:

    It seems to this observer that the US is already at war with Russia. Ukraine appears unable to continue without constant re-supply of arms and munitions by the US. And as time goes on, and as Ukraine fails to make significant counter-advances the types of weapons being given to Ukraine become more potent and more sophisticated, to the point that US ‘advisors’ are providing targeting and other logistical labor as a pre-condition for the use of those weapons. The US executive branch requests billion-dollar military aid ‘packages’ to Ukraine and the legislative branch dutifully complies. I of course have no way of verifying my suspicion that there are already more than a few US ‘volunteers’ or mercenaries embedded within the fighting elements of the Ukraine forces. I find it naive to think that Ukraine’s strikes within Russia by drones and missiles can be carries out without the full logistical input of the US military intelligence capabilities.

    How is not the US already at war with Russia?

    • Yosemite Sam
      May 19, 2024 at 12:37

      What I find interesting is that America is so exceptional, that America believes that it has the final and only word on a question such as whether or not they are at war. America believes that as long as it says it is not at war, then it is not at war. In other words, these Democrats are right out there with the Bush Republican who said off the record something along the lines of “We don’t care about reality. We create reality.”

      It might be interesting to consider what the Russians say. The following is from a CNN report, but of course its in the form of stuff those evil Russians say that we really should not pay attention to. The report of course has to include “context” about “Russian claims” and a repeating of the official government mantras. But still, since what Russia thinks about whether it is at war might be a bit relevant ….
      “Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday that the United States and other allies of Ukraine are “directly at war” with Moscow.

      Lavrov had been asked by a journalist at what point the US becomes directly involved in war against Russia, as opposed to engaged in a proxy conflict.

      “You can call this whatever you want to call this, but they are directly at war with us. We can call this a hybrid war, but that doesn’t change the reality,” Lavrov said. “They are effectively engaged in hostilities with us, using the Ukrainians as fodder,” he added. ”
      IIRC, Putin has also publicly said pretty much the same thing. There is never any sign that Putin and Lavrov are not working together and on the same page.

      So, now contemplate, exactly how much it really matters that America says that it is not at war?

    • Yosemite Sam
      May 19, 2024 at 13:08

      PS to the other comment. I don’t link to CNN, but the report is from roughly the fall equinox of 2023. 2 and 2/3rds seasons ago as we approach summer solstice. I’m not sure it is the first time such a thought was said by Russia, but it was the one my search turned up that I could quote from the flood of propaganda that resulted from such a search. Most of the search results have obviously emotional propaganda wordings that vigorously denies that we are at war and uses wording about “accuses” aimed at the Russian FM for daring to contradict the “reality”.

  12. intp1
    May 18, 2024 at 11:50

    Awesome succinct analysis; why does the American Administration not get this kind of input?

  13. susan
    May 18, 2024 at 11:34

    I hope that these two super-powers will be able to clean up the ruin that the US government and its western allies have made of the world. I really hope the American government, the MIC and the MSM are crapping their pants right now!

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      May 18, 2024 at 14:15

      So do I.

  14. Eric Arthur Blair
    May 18, 2024 at 11:03

    China and Russia have failed to take into account that weapon of evil wielded by the US, monstrous and ghastly beyond belief: the grotesque screeching and guitar mangling of stinkin’ Blinken, a weapon of torture so painfully excrutiating that it will bring any alliance of great powers to their knees.
    No more we beg you, enough, no more, noooooooooo!!!

    • Susan Siens
      May 18, 2024 at 15:14

      Are you trying to say that Winken Blinken cannot count on a future as a rock star?!?!?!?

      • Eric Arthur Blair
        May 20, 2024 at 08:38

        That’s STINKIN’ Blinken.
        A little respect, please.

    • Piotr Berman
      May 18, 2024 at 22:53

      You forgot about an even more powerful counter-weapon, Havana crickets, that selectively bring the forceful opponents of Russia to blabbering insanity. Do you really believe that Blinken damages opponents more severely than a cricket?

    • Yosemite Sam
      May 19, 2024 at 13:21

      The funny part is that it is a protest song by an anti-fascist against President George Herbert Walker Bush. If Blinkie actually followed the lyrics, a part of what he sang were versus that included ….

      “There’s colors on the street
      Red, white and blue
      People shufflin’ their feet
      People sleepin’ in their shoes
      But there’s a warnin’ sign on the road ahead
      There’s a lot of people sayin’ we’d be better off dead”
      … and …
      “We got a thousand points of light
      For the homeless man
      We got a kinder, gentler machine gun hand”

      One would have thought that to get to be Secretary of State, one might be intelligent enough to question publicizing the poetry of a anti-fascist foreigner who was well known as opposing American wars. But, smart doesn’t appear to be Blinkie’s brand.

      At least he didn’t do Neil’s “Like an Inca” as an encore, with its repeating chorus “we’re gonna lose this place, just like we lost Atlantis” after the imagery of “who put the Bomb, on the sacred altar?”

      • Burt
        May 20, 2024 at 08:39

        All these idiots see USA or Free World in the title and want to make it a patriotic anthem but don’t bother with the actual lyrics. Remember how Reagan tried to use Born in the USA as a campaign theme?

    • Yosemite Sam
      May 19, 2024 at 13:40

      Of course, what I really wish he had done is the Neil Young classic “Why Do I Keep F%#ing Up?”

  15. TP Graf
    May 18, 2024 at 07:40

    It is a unique time in which we live. We witness an ever-growing coalition of cooperation across broad fronts from the diplomacy of the Russians and Chinese, while at the same time an ever-growing insanity and phobia of everything from the blatant anti diplomacy of the US/UK/EU/Aus, et.al.

    May the sane triumph before the insane blow us to smithereens.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      May 18, 2024 at 14:16

      I agree. The U.S. government and its propagandists still think it’s 1945.

      • Burt
        May 20, 2024 at 17:07

        All these idiots see USA or Free World in the title and want to make it a patriotic anthem but don’t bother with the actual lyrics. Remember how Reagan tried to use Born in the USA as a campaign theme?

  16. Jeff Harrison
    May 18, 2024 at 00:43

    Your assessments are always enlightening (and confirming). Thank you.

  17. Lois Gagnon
    May 17, 2024 at 22:33

    An empire in denial teetering on the brink of collapse armed with nukes and controlled by delusional psychopaths. What could possibly go wrong?

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      May 18, 2024 at 14:16

      Right? We are so fucked.

    • Susan Siens
      May 18, 2024 at 15:14

      I listened to Pepe Escobar speak to Danny Haiphong and Pepe suggested we enjoy the calm before the storm.

      • Lois Gagnon
        May 19, 2024 at 12:11

        Interesting . I’ll check that out.

    • Realist
      May 18, 2024 at 16:49

      I’ll tell you what, Lois. Ol’ Geriatric Genocidal Joe is what could and has gone wrong. Wrong man, in the wrong place and time, with the wrong ideas supported by the wrong privileged elites for the wrong selfish egocentric reasons. When I’m feeling most charitable, I may ascribe Joe’s many seriously fatal flaws to old age, dementia, flat out life-long stupidity and the convenience the elites find for using these many “talents” that Joe has practiced and perfected over the many decades ensconced in power or at the right hand of power in Washington DC. But let’s face it, Joe more often displays nothing that I can characterise beyond simple lust for power and personal avarice. The “Big Guy” doesn’t even seem to adhere to any consistent political ideology, rather he lies about anything and everything whenever he opens his pie-hole, contradicting himself not merely from day-to-day but from moment to moment! He probably doesn’t even have a consistent, if not principled, “code of honor amongst thieves!” He’s just a worthless bum who has only taken whilst giving back nothing but trouble to the American nation.

      • Lois Gagnon
        May 19, 2024 at 12:08

        Indeed Realist. We can thank Obama for his 2020 coup during the fake Dem primary and whatever he did to convince Bernie to go along with the plot he was engineering. It was obviously a piece of cake to clear the field of the other candidates by offering bribes. Leaving genocide Joe as the only “choice.” This has all been by design. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the depth of evil enveloping the West.

    • Jack Lomax
      May 18, 2024 at 21:08

      There can be no reply to that Lois for the rest is eternal silence

    • Man
      May 18, 2024 at 21:44

      Very scary! There’s no sure way to stop psychopaths. Can we hope that the US Armed Forces will refuse to launch nukes when commanded to do so?

    • David H
      May 18, 2024 at 22:14

      For a number of reasons I haven’t been able to seek out exotic or specialized sites to inform me about Gaza. Al Jazerra was enough. It’s been harder for me to get a breakdown on Sudan, but the closer I get the more it looks like things there could end up worse than Gaza by orders of magnitude. Or have been for some time even without anything close to the bombing from air Gazans have experienced; I don’t have all the casualty stats handy. And then…and then there’s the situation you describe above.

      • TP Graf
        May 19, 2024 at 08:05

        @ DavidH You are spot on in trying to get any context of what is happening across African nations. They get lots of press when one country wants to kick out the West or cozy up to Russia. As to horrors on the ground, we remain in the dark.

    • hetro
      May 19, 2024 at 09:43

      “Do you believe,’ said Candide, ‘that men have always massacred each other as they do to-day, that they have always been liars, cheats, traitors, ingrates, brigands, idiots, thieves, scoundrels, gluttons, drunkards, misers, envious, ambitious, bloody-minded, calumniators, debauchees, fanatics, hypocrites, and fools?’

      Do you believe,’ said Martin, ‘that hawks have always eaten pigeons when they have found them?”

      ? Voltaire, Candide

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