The call from Washington came on the same day as Xi's departure for Moscow, and when juxtaposed like this, the twists and turns in the Sino-US relationship in recent weeks provide a contrast with the long-term stability of China-Russia relations. Perhaps many in China will think the US is an unreliable partner, while China and Russia are true friends.
As strategic mutual trust reaches a high level, the leaders of the two countries have met frequently. Since taking office, Xi has visited Russia six times while Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin have met 21 times.
The two sides are not developing strategic cooperation for short-term purposes. The China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination has concrete content and both sides consider it their most important diplomatic asset, while their bilateral ties are a bulwark in dealing with a complex world.
Managing ties with Washington is crucial to both Beijing and Moscow; however it's a difficult, if not impossible, task for both to have a smooth relationship with the US.
Strong anti-Russian sentiment in the US has forced Trump to nearly abandon his plan for a Washington-Moscow détente. The US strategic circle is also increasingly advocating a hard-line policy toward China, arguing the engagement policy of the past decades has failed.
Up to now, Washington has not given up its attempts to "transform" Beijing. On the one hand, it coordinates with Beijing to maximize its economic interests, and on the other, strategically restrains the latter to ensure its absolute advantage in security.
The US holds a sophisticated attitude toward Russia as well. It attempts to squeeze Russia's strategic space through NATO's eastward expansion, but meanwhile doesn't want to have a strategic showdown with the Kremlin. The Washington-Moscow relationship is always full of uncertainties.
China's relationship with the US cannot be simplistically compared to that with Russia. The Sino-US relationship is complicated and multilayered. Their bilateral trade is one of the largest in the world, bringing concrete benefits to both countries, and this may explain the unique resilience of Sino-US ties under the surface tensions.
We cannot be too pessimistic or optimistic about Sino-US relations. The two powers should seek more common interests in risk management.
The China-Russia relationship is the most significant factor in the current global strategic balance, and should continue to develop in the direction of an all-weather strategic partnership.
The more balanced the world is, the more active world powers will seek friendly ties with each other. Washington may someday get bored of its geopolitical calculations and divert its attention to its internal affairs.