China is Russia's most important and responsible partner in the international arena. The five years that have passed since the beginning of the fundamental complication of relations between Russia and the West have shown that despite prejudices and lack of trust at the grassroots level, relations between the two countries remain friendly. Moscow and Beijing and the citizens of both countries, share common approaches toward what rights and freedoms mean in relations between states and have common values regarding the future world order. Therefore, it is very important for Russia to carefully consider the internal and external processes in China and to understand in which situations and circumstances our friends and allies will be limited in their actions and in which they may need our help. This is particularly important in regions where China’s foreign policy opponents have resources that allow them to relatively destabilize the situation.
Amid the mass rallies that have been going on for several months now, comprised of a significant portion of Hong Kong’s disgruntled urban population, the Chinese authorities have demonstrated incredible restraint and staying power as they continue to withstand these confrontations with protesters without resorting to the use of tough military suppression measures. However, at the same time, these events show numerous “bottlenecks” or vulnerabilities in modern China, at which its geostrategic opponents – primarily the United States, Great Britain and Taiwan – can strike. The governments of these international actors do not hide their long-term negative feelings about Beijing and its foreign policy. For the United States, China is a strategic adversary of its own making. For Great Britain, this is a good opportunity to prove its worth to Washington and to lend a helping hand in achieving the most delicate goals of US foreign policy.
To begin with, Hong Kong is, of course, not Tiananmen Square, and unrest in Hong Kong reflects only local politics and includes a significant number of citizens who were brought up under British colonial rule and whose thinking is susceptible to clichés and slogans instilled by the West. In 1989, things were different, and Beijing students and the working class were the main driving force behind the protests in Beijing. They needed actual political changes amid the policy of reform and openness that began 15 years after Mao’s death.
Second, Hong Kong is, of course, a distorted miniature image of mainland China. Over more than four decades of reform and openness, China found itself linked to the United States by millions of economic, cultural, academic and people-to-people ties. Truth be told, the United States was the main sponsor of Chinese reform and thunderous economic success in the late 1970s and the 1980s. The strategic confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union started this process. The actual victory in the Cold War between the East and the West was, in fact, achieved by Henry Kissinger, who convinced the US establishment to reject clichés of ideological differences with Beijing in order to defeat a more important adversary in Moscow. President Nixon’s visit to China in the early 1970s put an end to strategic plans of the Soviet Union.
Clearly, this historical period is coming to an end. And the main difference between China and the United States has begun to fully manifest itself and has thus increased Beijing’s vulnerability. For China, its relations with the United States, primarily economic, were closely integrated into the national development strategy and these relations were critical for the implementation of it. For the United States, these relations were important, but not critical.