Joint statements by China and Russia have over the last three decades shifted from an emphasis on rapprochement and economic development to employ a globalized and revisionist vocabulary under China’s party and state leader Xi Jinping.
Our analysis shows China-Russia communiqués have since 2013 put global issues center stage and increasingly opposed the Western-dominated status quo, culminating in February’s declaration of a “friendship without limits” as “a new form of inter-state relations.”
As Russia wages war against Ukraine, the world is looking to Beijing to see whether it might continue to support Russia. Our analysis suggests it will.
In February 1972, the United States and China signed the Shanghai Communiqué, reinforcing Beijing’s split from Moscow and altering the Cold War balance of power. But the 50th anniversary of the US-China rapprochement was this February overshadowed by another event. On the inaugural day of the Winter Olympics in Beijing on 4 February, China and Russia released a joint statement challenging the existing global order and proclaiming the beginning of a new era. Bilateral relations had entered “a new historical period,” Xi Jinping announced.
We used textual and semantic network analysis software to look back at three phases of recent Chinese history — the leadership of Jiang Zemin from 1993 to 2003, of Hu Jintao from 2003 to 2013, and of Xi since 2013. The data shows a steady deepening of engagement — and, under Xi, a major change in the terms associated with the relationship. Joint statements under Jiang paid attention to good neighborliness and border areas, those under Hu emphasized intensifying cooperation in economic development, often using keywords such as “investment,” “trade” and “energy.”
But under Xi China-Russia relations have adopted a much more “geopoliticized” language.
First, the US has become an increasing focal point of Sino-Russian joint statements. While mentions of the US in Chinese-Russian statements were negligible under Jiang and Hu, they have gained traction from 2014, leading to an all-time high with the 2022 joint statement (which additionally also singled out NATO for the first time; see exhibit 1). In this joint statement, both sides identified the US as a security…