South China Morning Post (China): coronavirus will be a test of friendship of Russia and China

Relations between Russia and China have attracted much attention because the pandemic Covid-19 threatens to jeopardize their close collaboration. Russia and China have promised to cooperate in the fight against this disease and condemned American efforts to hold Beijing responsible for the beginning of the pandemic. However, the increase in the number of cases in Russia threatens to disrupt China’s attempts to stop the spread of this virus in its territory, particularly in the border province of Heilongjiang.

The Russian economy is suffering from widespread quarantine measures to combat the spread of the disease, and from the fall in world oil prices. The leader of China XI Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin promised to support a United front in the fight against coronavirus infection. Since March they spent three phone call.

But some observers believe that Russia is moving closer to the United States, citing the fact that during the same period of time Putin had six telephone conversations with U.S. President Donald trump. On March 26, Putin and trump issued a joint statement on the occasion of the 75th anniversary meeting of the American and Soviet troops on the Elbe during the Second world war. The statement said that the “spirit of the Elbe” — is “an example of how our countries can put aside conflict, to build trust and cooperate for a common purpose.”

“Giving back today the most serious challenges of the 21st century, we pay tribute to the valor and courage of all those who fought together to defeat fascism. Their heroic feat will never be forgotten,” — said in a joint statement. Edition of the Wall Street Journal reported that the joint statement surprised many American officials and politicians due to the presence of many political differences between the two countries as well as China. Some observers saw it as a sign of normalization of relations between the United States and Russia.

“Made on 26 April, the statement means that Russia and the United States are able to work together, said Shi Inchon (Shi Yinhong), Professor of international relations at the Chinese people’s University. — While the relations between China and the United States deteriorating personal relations between Putin and trump stronger”.

In Russia there were more than 260 thousand confirmed cases of infection Covid-19 and over 2 thousand deaths. Meanwhile, in Heilongjiang province was recorded 380 imported cases of infection with this virus, and the majority of cases came from Russia. According to Shea, this pandemic has cast a shadow on relations between China and Russia. This is partly due to the fact that at the end of January Moscow has decided to close the border with China, despite the objections of Beijing. “Russia has already closed the border with China, which resulted in many problems for the Chinese citizens who were in Russia,” explained Shea.

According to him, the Russian authorities have chosen the wrong tactics to combat the disease within their borders. “At the beginning of the epidemic the policy of the Russian authorities to curb the pandemic was too soft, and now the situation has become very serious. The impression is that, faced with this problem, Putin is just hiding. This behavior is not like China. And now, when the incidence is growing in Russia, this represents a huge risk for China.”

Dmitri Trenin, Director, Carnegie Moscow center, said that although the pandemic has caused some problems in relations between Russia and China, “while both countries deal with this challenge”.

During his telephone conversation with si 16 April, Putin said that Russia was against any attempts to denigrate China and the actions of its authorities to combat the pandemic. This was announced by the Ministry of foreign Affairs of China. In his statement, Russia and China did not mention a third country, but most observers came to the conclusion that they meant the United States, which has repeatedly accused China of failing to curb the spread of the disease.

In a telephone conversation on may 8 si compared attempts to cope with the coronavirus with the struggle against fascism in the Second world war. In addition, China has sent to Russia of its experts in the field of medicine and medical supplies. Quarantine measures imposed to halt the spread of the coronavirus that caused damage to the Russian and Chinese economies, however, Russia suffered much more due to the fall in world oil prices.

Some observers have warned that Russian oil exports to China might suffer because one contractor, working on Gazprom, announced that it will cease production at Siberian gas field, where gas is delivered to China because of contamination of several of its employees.

But, according to Alexander gabueva, senior researcher of the Moscow Carnegie center, the current crisis may allow China to expand its influence, and its efforts to revive the economy can lead to growth of demand for Russian hydrocarbons. According to some, in March, the volume of Chinese imports of oil purchased from Saudi Arabia, fell by 1.6% compared to the same period of 2019. Meanwhile, according to Reuters calculations, the volume of China’s oil purchases in Russia increased by 31%.

Earlier in may Газпроv reported that it continues to supply natural gas to China as planned. “If we talk about oil and gas, which are perhaps the most important exports for Russia, China is in an advantageous position and can choose whether he needs to reduce the volume of purchases from the Persian Gulf or Latin America, said Gabuev. — Other countries in the Gulf are allies of the United States or experiencing a strong influence of the United States, as is the case in Saudi Arabia. If China wants to turn the crisis into a new opportunity and to consolidate their control over some key assets, he should definitely focus on Russia and Central Asia. And I think this will be one of the main trends 2020”. Gabuev also noted that if Russia wants to sell China more oil, Beijing may require that Chinese companies have provided greater access to key Russian fields.

If Lifan (Li Lifan), researcher of the Shanghai Academy of social Sciences, said that China’s need for energy remains high, and Russia is still the most reliable supplier of energy resources. “Bilateral trade may reduce in the first couple of quarters because of the pandemic, and [coming in March] reports that the Moscow police harshly treated and without any reason detained Chinese citizens can provoke a negative reaction in social networks. But I think this is a minor, factors which may to some extent complicate, but I can’t spoil bilateral relations.” According to Lee, Russia stepped up its foreign exchange reserves to counteract the negative effects of Western sanctions, which were imposed after the annexation of Crimea, and the result is now in a pandemic the economy is in a more stable position.

According to the Central Bank of Russia, may 1, the volume of international reserves amounted to 566 billion dollars. “Russia’s economy is now more sustainable in comparison with the economies of many other countries thanks to its experience counter Western sanctions imposed in 2014. Russia has learned to deal with these crises,” concluded Lee.