The year is 2065.
Russia and China have combined their space programs, and now have a functioning, expansive joint lunar station.
Chinese shuttle landers are making regular visits to the base, which has pioneered major mining projects below the lunar surface with the use of robotic devices.
The station generates its own food, water and oxygen, and the landers regularly deliver workers and supplies, and return to Earth with shipments of valuable minerals.
America, a once-great power in space, could not keep up in the race after the two nations formed a strong alliance early into the new century. The United States now trails them, not just in space, but also in military development and technology.
Back on Earth, China, with Russia’s help, invaded Taiwan and now controls the former democratic island, enforcing a strict communist crackdown on the helpless population.
The US is a country racked by crumbling infrastructure, runaway poverty and deep political divisions. Now, it is dwarfed by the Sino-Russian alliance as Pax Americana starts to fragment.
This might sound like a nightmare, or even a dream, depending on what your perspective is. But could it happen? Nobody knows, of course, but the way things are going, an alliance of this nature appears to be growing with each day, week and month.
The more the US and its allies place pressure on China for its perceived sins, the more they push the Red Dragon into an unholy alliance with the Russian bear. Beware of such a development, because it will change the world.
According to a report in the New York Times, the militaries of both countries have stepped up joint exercises and even operations, including in the air. For the first time in October, naval patrols were conducted in the Pacific. They have also pledged to explore space together.
Analysts say that an important factor in Russian-Chinese ties is the personal chemistry between the two presidents, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Both men are in their late 60s and have consolidated control over their countries’ political systems, NYT reported.
Xi has addressed Putin as his “old friend,” while the Russian president called his Chinese counterpart both his “dear friend” and “esteemed friend.”
There is still historical friction between the two nations that share a land border stretching more than 2,600 miles. But on trade, security and geopolitics they are increasingly on the same page, forming a bloc to counter Washington’s influence.
For Putin, a recent friendly video summit with Xi comes at a high-stakes moment in his brinkmanship over Western influence in Ukraine.
The imposing Kremlin leader, facing threats of crushing Western sanctions if Russian forces attack Ukraine, heard Xi propose that Russian and China cooperate to “more effectively safeguard the security interests of both parties.”
China, meanwhile, has come under US and European pressure for human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region and its suppression of political freedoms in Hong Kong, as well as its alarming military moves in the Indo-Pacific region.
Make no mistake, the mere thought that two of the strongest military nations in the world could join forces against the US and its allies will send shockwaves through the corridors of power in major global democracies.
Many believe it would be a two-front crisis that US President Joe Biden could not win.
And while the two countries have not signed anything official – and neither of the leaders can really be trusted further than you can toss a grizzly bear – this can’t be ignored.
Yet the US appears blind to the fact that it is pushing China into a corner, with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin pouring fuel on the fire by rejecting so-called “red-lines” in Ukraine and Taiwan. Tough talk, but it might just be another hollow gesture.
This week, the Biden administration added China’s top military medical research institute to an export blacklist in response to concerns about Beijing’s use of emerging technologies such as biometrics and brain-control weapons.
As for the world’s two flashpoints, tension continues to rise.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO and does not receive Article 5 protection from the alliance, Defense One reported. But the country does receive regular rotations of US troops and sales of weapons to bolster its self-defense.
Taiwan is recognized by the Taiwan Relations Act, under which Washington provides weapons and training to the democratic island so it too can defend itself. But neither is guaranteed US military protection in case of an attack.
The US plans to channel US$7.1 billion to bolster defense in the Indo-Pacific region in the next financial year to counter China’s rise, the South China Morning Post reported.
It is turning its entire military might – the Navy, Marines, the Air Force and the Army – toward the Indo-Pacific theater. Even the CIA is following suit, with the creation of a new China mandate, abandoning its Bush-era war on terror.
Zhao Tong, a senior fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, told the SCMP that the funding indicated the US was determined to confront China head-on.
“Beijing is driven by its goals for national rejuvenation and Washington understands that it’s impossible for them to change China’s political mindset, which is counter to the one recognized by the Western world,” he said.
The winds for a perfect storm are howling just as the White House is reeling from the effects of a chaotic withdrawal from a 20-year war in Afghanistan and a persistent pandemic that has exacerbated sharp political divides at home, Newsweek reported.
“This is a time when democracies are being challenged – some being challenged from within, others being challenged from without,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe media conference.
“And there is a contest between autocracies and democracies, and as President Biden has spoken to on numerous occasions, that is a fundamental contest of our time,” he added.
That might be the diplomatic view. But two against one is never a “fair contest.”
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of China Factor.