A Brittle Axis That Suits Merkel

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    • Shunned by the West for its involvement in the Ukraine and Syrian, Russia is reaching out to China. A common call for free trade could further isolate Donald Trump at the G20 summit.
  • Facts


    • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed deeper cooperation at a two-day summit in Moscow.
    • Their joint call for open trade was a swipe at the “America First” isolationism of US President Donald Trump.
    • The show of unity between China and Russia masks lingering divisions between the two countries.
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A friendly encounter. Source: DPA

At face value, Chancellor Angela Merkel – dubbed the new leader of the free world since Donald Trump came to power – may not welcome a strengthening alliance between two nations as undemocratic as Russia and China. But as she prepares to host the G20 summit in Hamburg, the joint pledge to free trade made by the leaders of Russia and China at their two-day meeting in Moscow is in keeping with her message of a multilateral world – and will underline Mr. Trump’s isolation on the world stage.

Both Mr. Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping echoed each other in their call for less protectionism and more cooperation.

In a further swipe at Mr. Trump’s threat to put up trade barriers under his “America first” policy, China’s G20 sherpa, Li Baodong, wrote to Handelsblatt that the summit in Hamburg “could make new progress by upholding openness, inclusiveness and multilateralism.”

Days before leaders and protesters converge on Hamburg, Russia and China pledged to deepen their cooperation. On Tuesday, Mr. Putin handed Mr. Xi Russia’s highest state award, the Order of St. Andrew, at a ceremony in the Kremlin for “outstanding services towards strengthening the friendship between the peoples of Russia and China.”

It was, of course, a political statement. Russia has moved closer to China in economic and security policy in recent years while its relations with the West have soured over the Ukraine conflict and the Syrian civil war.

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