China: Russia ‘Too Big and Too Powerful’ for Biden

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual press conference in Moscow on December 19, 2019. (Photo by Alexey NIKOLSKY / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Photo by ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

The Chinese Communist Party applauded the meeting between Russian leader Vladimir Putin and American President Joe Biden on Thursday, leaving open the possibility of a similar encounter with its dictator, Xi Jinping.

Chinese state media condemned Biden, however, for not showing proper “respect” to Russia and attempting to brush away the Washington-Moscow relationship to focus on antagonizing China, but failing because Russia is “too big and too powerful.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian — most prominent on the international stage for floating the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that U.S. Army is responsible for the Chinese coronavirus pandemic — in particular applauded Putin and Biden affirming their decision to extend the New START Treaty for another five years. The treaty limits nuclear weapons development. Russia had requested a year-long extension but Biden surprised Putin with a five-year extension in January. His predecessor, Donald Trump, had refused to extend the treaty without binding China to the agreement, given the latter is a much more formidable military power.

“China welcomes the agreement reached between the US and Russia on engaging in a bilateral dialogue on strategic stability,” Zhao told reporters Thursday. “As countries with the largest nuclear arsenals, Russia and the U.S. should follow relevant U.N. instruments and international consensus, fulfill their special and primary responsibilities in nuclear disarmament, and further substantively slash their nuclear stockpile.”

Zhao praised the text of the short joint statement the two world leaders published after meeting in Geneva, which affirmed in part, “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

“China always actively supports international efforts in nuclear arms control, and will continue to hold discussions on a broad range of issues bearing on strategic stability with relevant parties,” Zhao promised. “We also stand ready to have bilateral dialogue with relevant sides with mutual respect and on an equal footing.”

Zhao abstained from remarking on the results of the meeting beyond discussing the nuclear weapons issue. The two world leaders met for about three hours and reportedly touched on the Russia-fueled war in Ukraine, Putin’s long list of human rights atrocities, and economic concerns, among other issues. The two did not enter any new agreements, however, only reaching a deal to restore the presence of ambassadors at their respective embassies.

Following the summit, Putin and Biden held separate press conferences. Putin used his to deliver multiple unhinged tirades about alleged American human rights abuses and the Black Lives Matter movement. Biden berated reporters for questioning his apparent optimistic take on the meeting, then apologized for being a “wise guy.”

The Global Times, a state-run Chinese propaganda newspaper, mildly applauded the two nonetheless, calling it “an achievement” that the event occurred at all. It then went on to make the case that Putin, with “nowhere to retreat,” succeeded in at least preventing Biden from branding Russia irrelevant.

“Biden is obviously the new president who is more ‘anti-Russia.’ But he has an additional motivation to ease the US-Russia tensions — he wants to concentrate on dealing with China now,” the outlet claimed. “But as Russia is too big and too powerful, the US-Russia relationship is not a simple game in which Washington can make any adjustment at will.”

The Global Times accused the United States in general of lacking “basic respect” for Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union and pursuing “hegemony,” making it impossible for any substantive results to come out of the Biden-Putin meeting.

Elsewhere in its pages, following the two leaders’ press conferences on Wednesday, the Global Times gave Putin the win over Biden’s convoluted remarks to the media.

“Putin released a lot more information than Biden did through media. This also proves that Putin is better at handling media than his US counterpart,” the Times asserted, “as experts said Putin is a Russian leader that has the experience in dealing with five different US presidents, from Bill Clinton to Biden, and he perfectly understands what the U.S. is.”

The newspaper nonetheless appeared to dismiss Putin as an inferior world leader to Xi Jinping.

“Now that Biden has finally met almost all the leaders of major world powers, except for Chinese President Xi Jinping, and now he can probably prepare for the last and the most significant one,” the newspaper, citing observers, speculated, “as Biden is learning what the positions of all his major counterparts are on China.”

Neither Putin nor Biden mentioned China in any significant way on Wednesday, derailing the Global Times‘ prediction that China would be “high” on the agenda.

“When we had exchanges with American scholars and officials in the past, they even tried to persuade us [Chinese scholars] that Russia is irrelevant as they believed Russia’s strength is declining,” one Chinese “expert” told the Global Times, affirming the newspaper’s claim that Washington does not respect Moscow given its sluggish economy and minimal international influence compared to the peak of the Soviet Union.

Just as Chinese state media attempted to frame China as superior to Russia in terms of American foreign relations, to the point of insisting that China would be more important than Russia even within the Biden-Putin summit, the outlets preceded the meeting with anticipatory coverage browbeating the Putin regime in case Putin secretly planned to strengthen ties with America at the expense of his ties with the United States. The Global Times itself accused Biden of “attempts at destroying the relationship between Russia and China” and cited its stable of Communist Party “experts” to assert, “the U.S. has nothing to offer Russia.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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