A strengthened China-Russia alliance is seriously challenging America’s deteriorating leadership influence among allies and adversaries.
Recent evidence of this power shift includes President Xi’s role in brokering a deal for traditional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran to resume diplomatic relations, and separate Russia-mediated talks for Saudi Arabia and Syria to restore ties – both of which jeopardize Middle East stability regarding threats to our Israeli allies.
Following a three-day March 21-23 meeting in Moscow, China’s President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a joint pledge to deepen economic integration, replace America’s dollar with the Chinese yuan as the dominant global reserve currency, and work together to drive "changes the likes of which we haven’t seen for 100 years."
During the first day of those meetings, Putin said, "It is important that our national currencies are increasingly used in bilateral trade… We should continue promoting settlements in national currencies, and expand the reciprocal presence of financial and banking structures in our countries’ markets."
Notably, two-thirds of trade between the two countries is already conducted in rubles and yuan.
Although previous adversaries sharing a long border, both countries recognize interdependent advantages to what they now term a "no-limits friendship."
Beijing provides diplomatic support and an economic lifeline to Moscow amid Western sanctions, and China gets access to Russian oil and gas in the bargain.
Moscow clearly recognizes Beijing as senior partner in such initiatives, including its role in brokering jointly advantageous relationships with other nations.
A joint statement published by the Chinese Foreign Ministry affirms, for example, that "The Russian side welcomes China’s willingness to play a positive role for the political and diplomatic settlement of the Ukraine crisis."
As observed in a Wall Street Journal report, the Biden administration opposes ceding China influence over settling Ukraine disputes, stating that the "U.S. is trying to head off a potential proposal from Beijing for a cease-fire in Ukraine."
After talks with Putin, Xi has reported plans to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who according to the Wall Street Journal, has said he welcomes Chinese efforts to broker peace conditional to Russia’s withdrawal from all occupied Ukrainian territory.
China has good reasons to wish the Ukraine conflict to end. Although a war-diminished Russian power gives Beijing a stronger hand, a severely crippled Moscow would also weaken combined trade and military advantages where it comes to Taiwan and other territorial ambitions.
Close to home in Latin America, Honduras has recently established diplomatic relations with China which formally cut ties with Taiwan.
China is also expanding economic relationships with Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil, which allowed Irani warships to moor off Rio de Janeiro’s famous beaches from Feb. 26 to March 4 as a consequence of a new wave of leftist leaders who have swept into office across Latin America in recent years.
China is considered Brazil’s largest trading partner, and along with China is a member of an economic organization called BRICS also consisting of Russia, India, and South America.
Across the Mideast, while the U.S. remains the undisputed military power, China is its biggest trading partner, with rapidly expanding investments in infrastructure construction.
President Xi has thrust himself into building those dependencies, and has visited Saudi Arabia and Iran in recent months to welcome them into their sphere of influence and fidelity where the Kingdom is discussing honoring yuan payments for oil.
Relations between the Saudis and U.S. have simultaneously soured over America’s diminishing security guarantees, Riyadh’s decision to cut oil production in response to a desperate plea from the Biden administration to reduce gasoline prices ahead of 2022 midterm elections, and ongoing White House obsessions to resurrect a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) "nuclear deal" with Tehran.
Here, as President Xi Jinping seeks to displace the U.S. as preeminent global superpower, he can’t do this without Middle Eastern oil, which could be disrupted by an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear weapon enrichment facilities triggering wider regional conflict.
As part of the Beijing-bartered agreements, Iran reportedly pledged to halt attacks against Saudi Arabia, including from Houthi rebels it backs in the Yemen civil war, and for Iran, it’s about escaping diplomatic isolation imposed by sanctions.
Emboldened by China’s negotiations and the Biden administration’s apparent military policy weakness as evidenced in its criminally inept Afghanistan debacle, Iran has recently seen fit to test U.S. resolve by conducting drone and rocket attacks against U.S. facilities and personnel in northeast and eastern Syria.
Wall Street Journal editors observe that "the big picture here is that Iran and other adversaries are concluding that the U.S. wants out of the Middle East, and they are willing to spur the exit by inflicting casualties."
Meanwhile, the China-Russia alliance combines their formidable nuclear weapons inventories whereby the U.S. Department of Defense estimates that by 2022 China had doubled its 400 warhead stockpile since 2020, in addition to establishing in recent years the world’s largest naval fleet and standing army.
So yes, let’s take President Xi’s and Putin’s pledge to change global history very seriously in ways that neither we, nor allies that depend upon U.S. strength and policy wisdom, will ever wish for.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and the graduate space architecture program. His latest of 12 books is "Architectures Beyond Boxes and Boundaries: My Life By Design" (2022). Read Larry Bell's Reports — More Here.
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