US Sanctions Drive Formation of China-Led Global Alliance

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US Sanctions Drive Formation of China-Led Global Alliance

U.S.-led sanctions have unintentionally strengthened a shadowy global alliance spearheaded by China, altering the geopolitical landscape.

The U.S.’s extensive use of sanctions to isolate its adversaries has inadvertently paved the way for a new global alliance led by China, according to recent reports. The sanctions, aimed at countries like Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela, have driven these nations to seek stronger economic and military ties with China.

Data from China’s General Administration of Customs and The Wall Street Journal indicate record-level trade cooperation among these nations. This shift has not only bolstered trade but also enhanced security and military agreements, creating an anti-Western axis with China at its center.

“China is the strategic competitor willing and able to reshape the current global order,” Dana Stroul, a former senior U.S. defense official, told the WSJ.

Following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration and its Western allies imposed harsh sanctions on Russia. The U.S. alone has imposed over 4,000 sanctions against Russian entities and individuals. In response, Russia has strengthened its alliance with China, with Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping promising a “no limits” relationship in late 2023.

The total value of imports and exports between Russia and China surged from $11 billion in April 2021 to over $19 billion in April 2024. Russia’s oil exports to China have also increased significantly, rising from 1.6 million barrels per day in 2021 to approximately 2.6 million barrels in 2024.

China has similarly deepened its economic ties with VenezuelaIran, and North Korea. North Korea’s trade with China grew from $28 million in 2021 to $200 million in 2024, while Venezuela’s trade increased from $167 million to over $560 million in the same period. Iran’s oil exports to China have nearly doubled from 1 million barrels per day in 2021 to 1.8 million in 2024.

The alliance also includes significant military cooperation. Despite U.S. warnings against providing military aid to Russia, China has supplied Russia with “dual-use” technologies, including drones, jet-fighter parts, and advanced integrated circuits used in weapon production.

Iran has also supported Russia with military equipment, including ballistic missiles and Shahed suicide drones, enhancing Tehran’s global military profile and generating revenue. Venezuela, in turn, receives military equipment from Iran in exchange for gold, which is difficult to trace and useful for evading sanctions.

Andrea Kendall-Taylor, director of the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for New American Security, described the emerging alliance as an “axis of upheaval” intent on challenging the current international order. “In the two years since Russia’s invasion, the evidence of their convergence has mounted, making it impossible and even irresponsible to dismiss their alignment,” she wrote.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.