A Sino-Russian Bloc?

While the US ruminates over North Korea’s chest thumping and posturing, China has already turned away from the mess on the peninsula and is sidling up next to its new buddy in the world, Russia.

Presidents Hu Jintao and Vladimir Putin met this week and shook hands for the world to see while their underlings went about completing the last phase of the Argansk-Daqing pipeline and setting the table for yesterday’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit.

The two leaders are on the same page concerning a lot of foreign policy:

1) Both aim to curb US influence by promoting a stronger UN role in virtually every conflict in the world, except for Chechnya. And Taiwan.

2) Both urge the US to use peaceful means to counter terrorism

3) Both want to stay out of the North Korean problem as much as possible and let the US concede a few things before bringing in the UN to observe matters

4) And both are real intent on developing their economies (particularly oil) on a global scale.

Sino-Russian ties have been many things in the past – violent, strained, non-existent – But only since 9/11 and the arrival of American troops have the two stepped up efforts to turn the SCO into more than just a name and the development of an oil pipeline into more than just a plan.

This week’s SCO summit will focus more on organizational development and gaining more recognition from international (and national) bodies as a viable group with economic potential and political clout. Whether or not this is possible, with the Central Asian -stans contributing little in the way of either, is unclear.

Regardless of the -stans, the SCO provides another chance for Russians and Chinese to meet and do a little plotting. The Russians envy the Chinese business acumen and the Chinese envy the fear Russians can still inspire. Together, Russia may get rich again and China may be able to swagger a little more when meeting with the US.

The eastern border of Russia and the northern Chinese border are crisscrossed with the tracks of Russian trucks hauling lumber across, as far as Sichuan. Siberia is not unlike any other area around the world with opportunity and exploitable resources in that "there be Chinese." The development of the region is vital to Russian oil interests as is cooperation with the Chinese government — if anything to insure that Siberia remains Russian!

But just as the Chinese "invade" Siberia and set up shop, so have the Russians established themselves in the northeastern Chinese city of Ha’arbin. So much so, that foreigners walking the streets are greeted in Russian by local Chinese.

Both peoples have a common history of hardship under dictators, hardship as international pariahs, loss of face at the hands of foreigners and, more importantly, former (and potential future) greatness.

Chinese and Russians can find more common ground with each other than, say, with French or English or Americans.

A tight relationship with mutual economic and political benefit is a good thing for the common people of both countries. Perhaps in the future, the cross border exchange can include more people than goods, more artists, scholars and students than businessmen and working girls.

Of course this may be seen by some as detrimental to the US. Two former enemies of the US becoming friends, something that didn’t happen in the Cold War, is now happening during the War on Terrorism. If the "war" continues to focus on terrorists and less on war, then the friendship between the Russians and Chinese can only help the US "rid the world of evil."

But if the war, now unleashed, focuses less on terrorists and more on war, well then expect blocs to start forming up – with the biggest led by two of the biggest countries on the world.