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Inside the Sino-Russian Alignment: Intimacy on the Surface, Mistrust Underneath

The convergence this week of US President Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, where China is hosting the annual summit of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) members, highlights the rising geopolitical tensions that are being fuelled by deep mistrust on all sides. Russia’s turn eastward to Asia, and particularly to China, in the face of its increasing alienation from the West, has raised concerns in Washington and European capitals of a new geostrategic alignment that is aimed at challenging the existing, US-led international order. Putin and Xi share a critical attitude toward the United States and the cultural norms it champions, and both believe themselves to be the subject of a policy of containment on the part of Washington and see Washington as standing in the way of each taking what they perceive to be their rightful place in the international pecking order. The inking Sunday in Beijing of yet another major gas deal between the two sides, which Russia says could make China a larger buyer of its gas than is Europe, underlines the deepening of the relationship and the geopolitical shifts it represents.