China's growing relationship with Russia discussed by expert

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Speaking to Express.co.uk, Zhouchen Mao, Asia-Pacific Analyst for A K E International, a global risk and security consultancy group and expert in Chinese Foreign Policy at SOAS University London, said how tensions with the West have forced China and Russia closer together. He explained how a major factor of this lies in China’s “vulnerability” with its acess to resources which it needs to shore up in order to remain strong. He outlined how various energy trading projects around the globe have been an important safety net and bonding factor with other nations amid fears their supply chains could be cut in tensions with the West.

The China expert said: “China’s tension with the West has really pushed Beijing and Moscow together than ever before.”

He explained how a central factor of this is China’s “vulnerability” in regards to resources.

Mr Mao pointed to how China “understands” its lack of resources as a point of weakness and thus relies heavily on Russia as well as the Middle East, to build closer ties in order to whet its heavy demand for resources.

He said how the East Asian powerhouse “has relied heavily on Russia as well as Central Asia” for oil and gas imports for many years but this has pushed both countries closer together as Russia sees China as a major market for oil and gas exports.

Mr Mao went on to stress how this has led in part to a “mutual beneficiary partnership” between Moscow and Beijing “amidst tensions with the west”.

But the relationship is not gaurunteed and despite closer ties, the two nations are “frenemies” said the expert, with tensions lying around influence in Central Asia.

He went on to stress how for China, tackling its resource vulnerability is important for its survival.

He expanded by saying: “Another example of Chinese recognition of this vulnerability, particularly its over reliance on gas and oil imports from the Middle East, is the choke point of the Strait of Malacca.”

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The Strait of Malacca is a narrow stretch of water between mainland Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra and means Chinese ships do not have to sail a long route around the South China Sea.

As a result, Mao explained: “China, since the early 2000’s… has seen the Strait of Malacca as a potential choke point in time of war with the United States.”

He added how China has thus “sought to diversify the strait of Malacca” by seeking to prevent major trade routes and energy supplies being cut in the event of rising tensions with the West.

Mr Mao pointed to a number of major Chinese oil infrastructure projects across Asia which seek to ease the vulnerability of China in this regard.

He said: “[China] has built the Sino-Myanmar Pipeline that connects the Port of Kyaukphyu in the Indian Ocean where ships from the Middle East can dock and ship overland from the Sino-Myanmar pipelines to the inland provinces.”

The AKE expert explained China has also set about building “Strings of Pearls” in the Indian Ocean.

He explained how these are intended to diversify trade routes across Asia which further strengthen China’s standing in the world and relations with nations to that they cooperate with.

He said: “Pakistan is seen as another example of this, China is building these so-called Strings of Pearl in the Indian Ocean in order to diversify trade through the Strait of Malaka which is seen as a huge liability for the Chinese.”

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