AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis
Following Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, most of the focus has been on the personal relationship between the two autocrats and what it means for the West. But perhaps an equally important relationship is the decades-old bond between Xi Jinping and his Chinese Communist Party allies and the Russian Communist Party.
In order to understand the significance of this bond, it is important to first understand the historical context of the relationship between Russia and China and the record of cooperation between the Russian and Chinese communists.
After the ban of the Soviet Communist Party in 1991, disgruntled former Soviet officials revived it under the name of the “Communist Party of the Soviet Federation.” While the name of the party had changed, its Marxist-Leninist political philosophy did not.
That organization became today’s Russian Communist Party. In many ways, it is similar to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in its thinly-veiled territorial ambitions and violent undertones. Just as the PLO charter references a “right to return,” the Russian Communist Party program expresses a desire to return “the historic lands” to control of Moscow – including Crimea and other regions in Ukraine.
The Russian Communist Party has also courted close ties with the Chinese Communist Party. Immediately after its founding, the Russian Communist Party signed a collaboration agreement with Beijing that is renewed every four years. Twice, Xi Jinping signed it with Russian Communist Party leaders present.
Upon renewal of the agreement in 2014 in Beijing, Russian communist leader Gennady Zyuganov accused America of “pursuing fascist politics while discussing democracy.” He knew that China actively supported the Ukrainian Communist Party, not the government in Kyiv, backed by the West. That has never changed, as is evidenced by Beijing’s increasingly explicit support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.
For Xi Jinping, strengthening relations with Russian communists has served the purpose of bolstering his own power at home.
Since he first rose to power, Xi has feared diversion from Marxist-Leninist philosophy as a threat to his rule. In his view, the collapse of the Soviet Union was not a victory over tyranny, but rather a stark warning about what could befall his own country.
The Russian communists with their dire warnings about the dangers of democracy and the West thus proved a useful ally to Xi, even producing a semi-documentary called “In Memory of the Collapse of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union.” The film features Russian communists begging China to preserve Marxist-Leninist ideology and the guiding rule of the Party – thus paving the way for Xi’s desired “Stalinization” of China.
Xi has also directed considerable material and ideological support for Russia’s Communist Party, which has allowed it to expand daily outreach among ordinary Russian citizens.
Xi Jinping and Russian Communist Party leadership have been effusive in their praise for one another. Zyuganov has called China a “guiding star for every people on the planet,” while Xi referred to Zyuganov as an “esteemed Comrade” – perhaps an even more alarming title than his reference to Vladimir Putin as a “dear friend.”
Another Russian Communist Party leader, Yury Afonin, has said that he sees in Beijing an instrument to restore the Soviet Union, the fall of which he called “a colonial yoke imposed by Gorbachev and Yeltsin.”
“The socialist China will help us in this fight against Western hegemony,” he claimed recently during a popular television talk show.
These warm words between the communist party leaders of Russia and China also come against the backdrop of closer cooperation on economic and military projects between the two nations.
Chinese companies have been actively involved in a Russian project to construct a highway between Moscow and Vladivostok. Russian leaders have also praised Chinese carmakers, who are by now near-monopolists in the Russian market.
This background underscores why an increasingly close relationship between Xi and Putin should be so alarming for Western leaders.
Since Putin first rose to power, his political bloc and the Russian Communist Party have been at odds with one another – a result more of an internal power struggle rather than any real ideological differences. The Office of the Russian President, which orchestrates all national election results, routinely doles out less than 10 percent of the vote to communist candidates.
Yet Xi still brokered a close relationship with both Putin and the Russian Communist Party. According to Kremlin data, Xi and Putin have conversed about 60 times, including face-to-face meetings more than 20 times. In that same time period, Chinese and Russian communist leaders have held about 100 formal meetings and talks annually and probably many more informal contacts.
Now, Xi may soon use his leverage over Putin as a result of China’s support for Russian throughout its war in Ukraine to elevate the standing of the Russian Communist Party.
While such a development would likely be orchestrated quietly behind the scenes, it could have disastrous ramifications for the world – namely the emergence of a new openly communist alliance that would threaten democracy everywhere.
Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian, and researcher.