The joint statements between two countries are usually riveted on a particular event but in extraordinary circumstances involving great powers, it could assume an epochal character and can be viewed as diplomatic communication that reflects what the Germans call the zeitgeist — the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history — and frame geopolitical power relations. This is more so in the case of great powers that have long traditions in diplomacy and have left deep imprints in the march of history.
To be sure, the joint statement issued after the visit of the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Moscow on September 10-11, 2020 falls in this second category.
Wang’s visit to Moscow was in connection with the foreign minister level meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. His “bilateral” with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took place on September 11 at the fag-end of the visit but from the perspective of international security and the world order, it will stand out as a momentous event as a turning point in the evolution of the Sino-Russian entente.
The document that came out of Wang’s visit turns attention to the core areas of the Sino-Russian partnership for discourse analysis, and two powers’ mutual interests, and the ever-evolving global geopolitical context in the contemporary world situation.
The joint statement is more in the nature of a Sino-Russian declaration on the current international situation and key problems, especially global political stability and global economic recovery. It is the sort of declaration that we generally attribute to close allies and it signifies that a qualitatively new stage is approaching in the Sino-Russian comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation, which has already brought the bilateral relationship to its historically highest level.
Clearly, the Russia-China joint statement of September 11 is a negotiated, public-facing document of a bilateral relationship that reflects not only the political ideologies of the two countries but also their “common vision” and their recommendations to find solutions together to their common problems. It references a world that is “undergoing a stage of deep transformation. The turbulence is growing stronger… The coronavirus epidemic has become the most serious global peacetime challenge.”
The twelve core areas of partnership outlined in the joint statement as such reflect the two countries’ foreign policy objectives as well. These twelve areas include, first, the invidious campaign begun by Britain and the United States, which was picked up soon by a clutch of other countries (including a chorus within India), that the blame for the coronavirus pandemic — “Wuhan virus” — must be squarely put on China, where it began, for its alleged failure to fulfil its international obligation to share details with the world community.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) signed the statements on the “comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era” and on “strengthening contemporary global strategic stability”, Moscow, June 5, 2019