As the ongoing war in Ukraine forces China and Russia to band together in the face of Western isolation, relations between the two superpowers have grown closer than ever.
Approval of Chinese leadership among Russia’s general population has hit an all-time high of 71 percent, according to a Gallup study published Thursday — while Russian views of the U.S. sank to levels not seen in more than a decade.
Russia’s positive feelings towards China soared this year as Western countries continued to impose sanctions on Moscow. Beijing’s approval ratings among ordinary Russians have been climbing since the disputed territory of Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014, Gallup data shows. Approval for China is highest in Russia’s far eastern region and lowest in St. Petersburg in the north-west, where opposition to the Kremlin is also most widespread. Meanwhile, Russians’ approval of America’s leaders has plummeted, according to the global research firm, with positive ratings of Washington tumbling to just 6 percent.
Energy trade has been a focal point of Sino-Russian relations since 2008, researchers found, and has increased since the Ukraine war. China is among Russia’s “major gateways” for energy exports –– with European analysts saying it has taken center stage in their economic relations. Russia supplies China with roughly two million barrels of oil per day, making up more than a third of its total crude oil exports. Russia also exports natural gas to Beijing through a 2,500-mile pipeline that connects East Siberia to northeast China, and wants to build a second gas pipeline to China via Mongolia.
Regular face-time between Russia and China’s leaders has contributed to their deepening ties. In anOctober meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Xi noted that the pairhad met 42 times in the past ten years and had developed a “good working relationship and deep friendship” adding that the two would work together to “safeguard international fairness” and “justice”. But while Putin is eager to continue strengthening the relationship, he faces a persistent narrative — reinforced by the White House — that Moscow is the “junior partner”.