Fifty years ago, President Nixon made an international tour that would change the fate of the world: the visit of a US president to China for the first time in two decades.

By Patricio Torres Luque*

This was the great catalyst for President Carter to establish diplomatic relations between the two countries years later.

But it was not only the US that was opening up to China, but also other governments around the world that had supported the policy of isolation towards “the country at the centre”. With this move, the US took advantage of the drift in relations between Mao and Khrushchev to align itself with China against the Soviet Union, weakening it and eventually causing it to collapse, thus culminating the Cold War.

However, the world has changed and relations between China and Russia seem to be at their best.

A few days ago, Putin telephoned Xi for his 69th birthday. At the event, Xi Jinping argued that China has always assessed the Russian-Ukrainian war independently, based on historical context, expressing the typical rhetoric that China has actively promoted world peace and the stability of the global economic order, thus backed Putin, and delivered a powerful political signal to the West that China’s Sino-Russian strategic alignment with Russia is not a threat to the West: that the strategic Sino-Russian alignment will endure over time.

Will President Biden be able to break such an alliance as Nixon did 50 years ago? The conditions do not appear to be ripe for such a ploy today. Let us consider a few scenarios.

The first is to seduce China, a hypothesis that is not plausible, since even during the Biden administration the US has declared China to be its greatest long-term threat.

The second is that Russia loses the war, but could nevertheless use weapons of mass destruction on Ukraine.

The third and, in my view, more sensible option is to win over Russia, something that looks politically impossible, but such an option would be the most accelerated form of war termination, with an outcome that favours Putin.

However, it seems that Western governments lack the political will to achieve such an outcome and, in the meantime, it has been four months since the start of the war in Ukraine.

*Academic of the Department of Organisational Management UTEM