“To help counteract an economic slowdown, China is ready to provide financial aid to develop cooperation,” Premier Li Keqiang said at a Dec. 15 gathering in Astana, Kazakhstan. While the remark applied to any of the five other nations represented at the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization group, it was directed at Russia, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be named as the plans weren’t public.
Any rescue package for Russia would give China the opportunity of exercising the kind of great-power leadership the U.S. has demonstrated for a century -- sustaining other economies with its superior financial resources. President Xi Jinping last month called for China to adopt “big-country diplomacy” as he laid out goals for elevating his nation’s status.
“If the Kremlin decides to seek assistance from Beijing, it’s very unlikely for the Xi leadership to turn it down,” said Cheng Yijun, senior researcher with the Institute of Russian, Eastern European, Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. “This would be a perfect opportunity to demonstrate China is a friend indeed, and also its big power status.”
Russia isn’t in talks with China about any financial aid, said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin. He said he didn’t know if China is preparing to offer aid. China’s Foreign Ministry, asked about assisting Russia, said the country is ready to work with all members of the SCO group to strengthen economic cooperation.
One-time Cold War ally China already proved a help to its neighbor embroiled in tensions with the U.S. and European Union earlier this year, signing a three-decade, $400 billion deal to buy Russian gas.
Seeking China’s support is one of Russia’s most realistic options, the state-run Chinese newspaper Global Times wrote in a Dec. 17 editorial. A decision on whether to use some of its windfall gains from falling oil prices to aid Russia would hinge on whether Putin’s government is willing to ask for assistance, said Cheng, who is also a research fellow at the Development Research Center, which is a unit of the State Council, or cabinet.
The two nations’ strategic partnership means that China would have to step in if the ruble crisis deepens, Cheng said.
Putin gave no indication he was entertaining the idea of asking for Chinese help. In an annual press conference, he warned that his nation’s economic slump could drag on for two years. Blaming the U.S. and Europe for the crisis