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Many in the West have been predicting a downturn in the China-Russia alliance in the wake of the ongoing Russian Special Military Operations in Ukraine. A recent article in the Foreign Affairs magazine pointed out 'key' points of disagreement between Beijing and Moscow to highlight the obvious 'limits' of the otherwise 'no limits' friendship. According to such projections, we should have seen conflict between both countries. But what we are actually seeing is the exact opposite of this prediction: China and Russia recently reaffirmed their 'no limits' friendship, an alliance that originally started almost a year ago ('no-limits 1.0') and is now growing to the next level as 'no-limits' 2.0. This reaffirmation has caused some trouble in the Western world, as the latter has already started to scramble allies to 'punish' China for its persistent support for Russia against the combined strength of NATO.

As reports in the mainstream media show, the US is already consulting with its G7 allies to impose new sanctions on China if the latter extends any support to Russia over Ukraine. While the official projections point out the possibility of China's military support for Russia, in reality, this politics of sanction applies to any type of Chinese support. More importantly, the fact that the US is considering imposing new sanctions on China for the latter's support for Russia once again reinforces the need to fundamentally change the global political order, an order that allows some states (NATO countries) to extend support to their ally (Ukraine) but punishes those (China) who dare take a different position and extend support to the other party (Russia).

In this context, China's decision to extend its friendship with Russia is dangerous and alarming for the US and its NATO allies precisely because it will make it a lot harder for them to defeat Russia, a country that has shown remarkable resilience against the combined military and economic onslaught of the entire West for over a year and achieved many of its objectives in Ukraine.

What, however, is really worrying for the West is how this friendship is not merely bilateral but is following an agenda of global change. In fact, this is the linchpin of 'no-limits 2.0' as reinforced by China's Wang Yi in his latest meeting with President Putin in Moscow on February 22. As the Chinese readout of the meeting pointed out, the China-Russia partnership is "for a new era", adding that "a multi-polar world and greater democracy in international relations, which China and Russia jointly support, are in line with the trend of the times and meet the aspirations of most countries. China is ready to work with Russia to maintain strategic resolve, deepen political mutual trust, strengthen strategic coordination, expand practical cooperation and defend the legitimate interests of both countries, to play a constructive role in promoting world peace and development."

Wang's meeting with Putin was followed by China's official statement highlighting its 'political position' on Ukraine. The statement, using unambiguous words, reinforced Russia's core position on the underlying cause of the conflict i.e., a US-led effort to expand NATO. The statement very clearly said that "The security of a region [Europe] should not be achieved by strengthening or expanding military blocs [NATO to include Ukraine]. Such a step amounts to what the statement describes as the policy of achieving a country's security "at the expense of others."

Why would such a reaffirmation of Russia's position not cause a stir in the West, after all its direct target is the US and its hegemony and the imperative is to defeat the US? The Chinese made it clear within days after their essential reaffirmation of the 'no-limits friendship 2.0.' They did so via a document titled "US Hegemony and Its Perils."

The document, pointing the US as a country that "interfere[s] in the internal affairs of other countries, pursue[s], maintain[s] and abuse[s] hegemony, advance[s] subversion and infiltration, and willfully wage[s] wars", asserts that "the hegemony of U.S. dollar is the main source of instability and uncertainty in the world economy."

The question is: why is China taking an unusually bold position on the current global scenario? The underlying reason is its own survival. Its policy and position vis-ร -vis both Russia and the US stem from the fact that were the US to succeed in ultimately defeating Russia in Ukraine, China will be the next target of a war in the Indo-Pacific that it may not be able to win on its own i.e., without strong allies e.g., Russia, on its side. We already know that the US considers both China and Russia as two "revisionist" powers and that it wants to defeat them both to maintain its own hegemony.

But achieving this objective is a lot harder than it looks. Contrary to Washington's hopes, many countries in the world do not agree with the imperative of fighting a war with Russia and/or China. Russia is not "isolated", as its ties with China show. But apart from China, the extent of the support that Russia has around the world is immense. The world's most populous country, India, recently said that its trade with Russia has grown by 400 per cent since the start of the conflict last year. In just the past six weeks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been welcomed in nine countries in Africa and the Middle East โ€” including South Africa, whose foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, hailed their meeting as "wonderful" and called South Africa and Russia "friends."

This is nothing short of a major boost to China's confidence in Russia's ability to confront - and defeat - the West despite the latter's massive economic and financial sanctions and military support to Ukraine worth billions of dollars. Only 33 countries in the whole world have imposed sanctions on Russia, while the world's two-thirds population lives in countries that have refrained from opposing/condemning Russia. This is not a good sign for Washington insofar as it defeats Joe Biden's self-proclaimed success in having developed a "global coalition" against Russia and "isolating" it into a corner.

For China, Russia's continuing acceptability across the world is nothing short of a reaffirmation of their joint plan - and resolve - to push for a new world order, a system that is as essential for Russia and China to survive as for the rest of the world - in particular in the Global South - under constant repression of Western neo-imperialism.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan's foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook."