ON JULY 21st three Chinese warships sailed into the Baltic Sea for China’s first war games in those waters with Russia’s fleet. The two powers wanted to send a message to America and to audiences at home: we are united in opposing the West’s domination, and we are not afraid to show off our muscle in NATO’s backyard. The war games were also intended to show how close the friendship between China and Russia has become—so much has changed since the days of bitter cold-war enmity that endured between them from the 1960s to the 1980s.
There has been an abundance of such symbolism in recent weeks. On his way to this month’s meeting in Germany of leaders from the G20 group of countries, China’s president, Xi Jinping, stopped off in Moscow. There his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, hung an elaborate medallion around his neck: the Order of St Andrew, Russia’s highest state award. At the G20 (where they are pictured), “only two leaders in the world exuded calm confidence,”…Continue reading