This is of course a desperate lie. China did not stand behind Russia in the UN Security Council vote on Crimea, as it had over Syria. It pointedly abstained. Its foreign ministry stated that “China always sticks to the principle of non-interference in any country’s internal affairs and respects the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
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China is breaking Russia’s control over the gas basins of Central Asia systematically and ruthlessly. Turkmenistan’s gas used to flow North, hostage to prices set by Gazprom. It now flows East. President Xi went in person last September to open the new 1,800 km pipeline to China from the Galkynysh field, the world’s second largest with 26 trillion cubic meters.
It will ultimately supply 65 BCM, equal to half Gazprom’s exports to Europe. Much the same is going on in Kazakhstan, where Chinese companies have taken over much of the energy industry. The politics are poignantly exposed in Wikileaks cables from Central Asia. A British diplomat is cited in a 2010 dispatch describing the “Chinese commercial colonization” of the region, saying Russia was “painfully” watching its energy domination in Central Asia slip away.
Yet more revealing is a cable quoting Cheng Guoping, China’s ambassador to Kazakhstan, warning that Russia and China are on a collision course, and China will not be the one to yield. “In the future, great power relations in Central Asia will be complicated, delicate. The new oil and gas pipelines are breaking Russia’s monopoly in energy exports.”
Mr Cheng not only expressed “a positive view of the US role in the region” but also suggested that NATO should take part as a guest at talks on the Shanghai Cooperation group — allegedly the Sino-Russian answer to EU/NATO — in order to “break the Russian monopoly in the region.” That word “break” again. So there we have it in the raw, what really goes on behind closed doors, so far removed from the pieties of a Moscow-Beijing axis.