As Russian Navy Engages in Joint Exercises with Beijing's Fleet in the South China Sea, Chinese State Media Uses Term "Alliance"

For every action by a weakening hegemon trying to hang on to the illusion of 'full spectrum dominance', there is an equal and opposite set of reactions. Jeff J. Brown, a Francophone American expat living in Shenzhen from Oklahoma, has taken note of the upgrading in Chinese state media from describing Beijing's relationship with Moscow as a "close partnership" to "semi-alliance".

Up till now, both Russian and China have eschewed the concept of an “alliance”. Why? Because of all the historical Western empire baggage that goes with it, including sometimes secret, frequently broken treaties, treachery, double dealing, back stabbing and all the other perfidy that goes with it. Not to mention, potentially unenforceable or unwise commitments to militarily attack an enemy of an ally, regardless of how stupid or absurd it is. Just recall the insanity of World War I, to put things in perspective.

The Chinese and Russians have preferred to talk about their “special relationship”, “friendship”, “historical ties” and “strategic partnership”. Until today, that is. People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the government of China splashed this headline:

China, Russia ‘semi-alliance’ to launch drills in S. China Sea

“Semi”, but nonetheless, an alliance. Out of curiosity, I searched “China-Russia alliance” in Chinese on the People’s Daily website and was surprised to see that it has been used sparingly, starting in November, 2015. “Semi” was not used, but “new” was, as in “new Sino-Russian alliance”. This in spite of the fact that Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, as well as their Foreign Ministries, have both publicly stated that their countries’ relationship is not an alliance, but something else.

But clearly, the semantic Rubicon has been crossed. Geopolitically and diplomatically, this is huge, “semi” or not.

I always say to my students that “words are powerful things”. This week’s headlines confirm that in spades. Please officially welcome the Sino-Russian alliance onto the world stage. WOW!


As the Russian and Chinese navies perform joint exercises in the South China Sea, where a U.S-backed Dutch court recently ruled China has no legitimate claims to the rocks and reefs Beijing sees as strategic to its defense and historically Chinese dating to the 5th century B.C., this shift in China's stance takes on a new meaning. Those in Washington who believe that all they need to do to restore the unipolarity of a U.S.-led globalist empire is elect Hillary Clinton president had better think again.

The Russia Analyst, being focused on the Russian Federation and Eurasia rather than being a China hand, doesn't have a lot to add to Mr. Brown's excellent analysis. However, we can point out a few aspects of the ongoing integration of the Russian and Chinese economies and militaries that are relevant to this 21st century shaping topic. Some of these points have already been mentioned, credit where credit's due, by a friend of my friend Andre Raevsky aka The Saker, who goes by Larchmonter445 in LC445's late 2014 white paper, "The China-Russia Double Helix". But they bear repeating here, in light of the short-termist, propagandistic and academic efforts to 'debunk' the Russian-Chinese alliance as a serious thing, and present it as mere posturing against Washington and its re-arming ally in Tokyo.

The Russia-China alliance has also been given more urgency on the part of Moscow and Beijing by the prospect of Hillary Rodham Clinton being the next President of the United States, and the common military and hybrid warfare aka 'colored revolution' and terrorist threats the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and One Belt One Road initiative face as the weakening Empire of Chaos goes for broke.

In preparation for the situation between the U.S./NATO on one side and the Russia-China alliance on the other worsening in 2017-18, what we see happening is:

1) More exercises at sea, on land and soon in the air will enhance inter-operability. During exercises, the process starts with the most basic level of communications, with either English or Russian more likely to be used between the two militaries than Chinese as there are more officers in the People's Liberation Army/Navy/Air Forces who speak those languages than there are Russian interpreters who speak Chinese attached to Moscow's military. Using English of course makes it easier for the National Security Agency and its '5Eyes' particularly Australia's SIGINT collection service to listen in, but that may be intentional. Moscow and Beijing may want the U.S. to know to some extent how rapidly their forces are learning to work with each other, as a deterrent against further aggression. 

The Russia Analyst recalls his Russian language classroom in Moscow being nearly half full of students from mainland China. It would not be surprising if by now several years later that some of those Chinese students of the Russian language have returned to their homeland to become translators for the PLA.

2) Identifying synergies between Russian and Chinese weapons systems and enhancing common arms export markets. We already see this trend on the battlefields of the Middle East, where the Iraqi Army and allied Shi'a militias fighting the Islamic State terrorists use a mixture of American, Russian and Chinese equipment, with the new orders skewing towards the Eurasian powers.

The Iraqis have demonstrated using Chinese developed versions of the U.S. Predator drone while the Russian made Mi-28 'Night Hunters' attack Daesh positions identified using the drones. In Syria, Assad's Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is using Chinese made electronic warfare and radio detection equipment to identify and target jihadist strong points for air and artillery strikes. The SAA is also using Iranian made Toophan, an Iranian development of the U.S. TOW anti-tank missile with many of the electro-optical/laser range finding systems likely Chinese in origin, via Beijing's reverse engineering of TOWs the USA provided to China's ally Pakistan.

A Chinese volunteer with the YPG Kurds. The People's Liberation Army, according to a conversation Dr. Ben Carson leaked during the GOP primaries, has a small presence inside Syria alongside the Russians, but PLA 'Dragonwater' types may also be observing or participating in the Kurdish YPG's fight with ISIS, especially with several hundred Uiyghir jihadists from China.

3) In addition to making Russian and Chinese weaponry more compatible with each other for arms export customers and allies of both nations like the Pakistanis, Iranians and Syrians, there's also the question of Eurasian 'Lend Lease' as a deterrent and answer to a conventional U.S. military build up against either or both powers. Meaning, the People's Liberation Army's gear will increasingly resemble Russia's 'ratniki' or warrior kit with kevlar helmets and body armor first noticed by non-military observers during the Russians' securing of Crimean independence from Kiev.

We can also expect to see pressure from the top generals in both nations that the next generation Kalashnikov AK-12 and Chinese assault rifles to be mass produced for their respective armies use identical ammunition, including quite probably the rifle-grenade rounds. This would enable, in the extremely unlikely scenario of hostilities breaking out between either great power and the U.S. without the conflict immediately going nuclear, for the shipment of ammo via the trans-Siberian railway, by sea or by heavy airlift to either party in case of a protracted, struggle of attrition along the lines of the Second World War.

Again, this is an extremely unlikely scenario, given the unwillingness of most Europeans to fight and the USA's lacking the stomach for the casualties from, or the logistics to sustain, a truly massive war on the Eurasian landmass. But even seemingly crazy scenarios do occasionally enter into serious defense industry planning, particularly in the two countries that lost millions of soldiers and civilians during World War II - Russia and China.

We may even see similarities in the 'smart munitions' that both countries develop to enhance the firepower of infantry, especially in firing through or around walls in urban combat. The fact that Russia's current frontline main battle tank the T-90 like China's VT-4/MBT3000 have been developed based on the venerable T-72 chassis also may add up to some common parts if not ammunition between them. Who knows? Perhaps the solution to the question of what main gun will be mass produced for the new Russian T-14 Armata MBT is to use the same 125 mm smoothbore cannon as the Chinese model. With perhaps the only snag for such an arrangement besides China's historic quality control problems would be that neither India nor Vietnam as export customers of the Armata would necessarily want it to be able to fire ammunition that the Chinese use or vice versa!

At the highest level of defense technology sharing and military industrial complex integration, we could see under intense American pressure China share its crown jewel weapons systems with the Russians and vice versa. Already we see Moscow selling its super-advanced S400 hypersonic air defense systems to China, which has been producing its own knockoff version of the Russian S300 SAM for many years.

Should the U.S./NATO defense buildup continue along Russia's borders including its frontiers at sea, we could see the Russians either developing an anti-shipping version of the hypersonic Iskander ballistic missile, or alternatively ask Beijing to sell it the Mach 10 capable, 1,300 mile range DF-21D 'carrier killer' missile. That would represent a major 'back off' signal, perhaps one of the last Washington would receive, to any aggressive actions against Russian or Chinese forces by the next administration.