Relations between Beijing and Moscow continue to grow as the Chinese Defence Minister visits Russia for a forum on international security

Chinese Defence Minister visits Russia and Belarus for 11th Moscow Conference on International Security

KREMLIN/MIKHAIL TERESHCHENKO via REUTERS - El presidente ruso, Vladimir Putin, y el presidente chino, Xi Jinping, asisten a una ceremonia de firma despues de sus conversaciones en el Kremlin en Moscú, Rusia, el 21 de marzo de 2023
KREMLIN/MIKHAIL TERESHCHCHENKO via REUTERS - Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping

On Monday, the Chinese Ministry of Defence announced that its Minister Li Shangfu will be visiting Russia and Belarus from 14 to 19 August. The defence chief will attend an international security meeting, the XI Moscow Conference on International Security, where he will deliver a speech and hold talks with his defence counterparts from Russia and other countries.

“Li Shangfu will travel to Russia from 14 to 19 August to attend the 11th Moscow Conference on International Security and will also visit Belarus,” Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Defence, said in a statement. 

PHOTO/FILE - Xi Jinping, presidente de la República Popular China
PHOTO/FILE - Chinese President Xi Jinping

The Chinese defence representative will also visit Belarus, a close ally of Russia and a safe haven for the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, to meet its head of state, Alexander Lukashenko, and its armed forces and visit military installations.

According to RTE, China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by telephone last week and praised the “practical cooperation” between the two countries. The Chinese diplomat told the Russian minister that Beijing and Moscow “should continue to maintain close strategic coordination, promote the multipolarisation of the world and the democratisation of international relations”.

The XI Moscow Conference on International Security, a forum for promoting a multipolar world 

Established in 2012, the conference is seen by the Russian Ministry of Defence as “an essential platform for open discussion of the most pressing global and regional security issues”. It states that, for its 2023 edition, “the conference will be held against a backdrop of fundamental changes in the military and political situation in the world, and the establishment and consolidation of a genuine multipolar world order”, referring to the war in Ukraine that has been raging since 24 February 2022.

The conference will bring together the heads and representatives of several defence agencies, international organisations and the expert and political science communities to “exchange views on strengthening constructive cooperation in the new realities”.  

SPUPTNIK/ALEXANDER KAZAKOV - El presidente ruso Vladimir Putin asiste a una cumbre de líderes de la Organización de Cooperación de Shanghái (OCS) a través de una videoconferencia en el Kremlin en Moscú, Rusia, el 4 de julio de 2023
SPUPTNIK/ALEXANDER KAZAKOV - Russian President Vladimir Putin 

The conference will address global and regional stability issues, as well as various aspects of security in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe. It will open with a seminar on “The realities of global security in a multipolar world”, an important geopolitical trend for both the Russian and Chinese authorities.

China and Russia are both driven by the common goal of counterbalancing the West. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to address the conference on the theme of “the search by countries of the majority world for means of development outside Western mechanisms, including the strengthening of multilateral associations of a new type”, according to the official Russian news agency TASS

AFP/MAXIM SHEMETOV - El ministro de Asuntos Exteriores ruso, Serguéi Lavrov
AFP/MAXIM SHEMETOV - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Li Shangfu's participation underlines the willingness of China and Russia to align their foreign policies in an attempt to undermine the Western-led liberal-democratic world order, despite the economic and reputational costs involved, says Yahoo news. Indeed, it is worth remembering that although China has called for respect for the territorial integrity of all countries, it has never explicitly condemned the Russian invasion and is considering playing a mediating role in the conflict.

China regularly accuses the United States and its allies of provoking Russia. Beijing has supported Russia on several occasions by maintaining strong economic, diplomatic and commercial ties with Moscow. However, it maintains that it will not supply any weapons to either of the warring parties.

However, the Chinese Defence Minister had already visited Russia last April to reaffirm military relations between the two countries in the first official military talks. Beijing and Moscow also organised a series of joint exercises, while two Russian naval vessels visited China last month.

As far as Sino-American relations are concerned, the Chinese Defence Minister has refused to meet his American counterparts until Washington has lifted the sanctions imposed on it over the acquisition of Russian military technology. He has avoided all contact with Lloyd Austin, the US Defence Secretary, notably at a recent security forum in Singapore and by refusing to answer his telephone call following the shooting down of an alleged Chinese spy balloon.