Axis of Authoritarians
“China and Russia are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s.” That was the conclusion of a January report by the United States Director of National Intelligence.
Bloomberg took an even bolder view in November 2018, saying Russia and China are now “as close as at any time in their 400 years of shared history.”
Most analysts recognize the deepening relationship between the two most powerful nations in the world’s largest and most populous continent. But few realize that this new reality has major implications for every person alive.
The new Russia-China axis gives urgent cause for each of us to be sobered and take stock of our lives. Yet this new reality also points to a far greater development on the horizon that can fill us with profound hope!
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and China were often at odds. But the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and for the next decade Russia was a defeated, depleted power outside the mainstream of world affairs. During this time, much of the Western world looked down on Russia to a degree.
But not China. The Chinese recognized that they had much to learn from the Russians about armaments and warfare. And they understood that to stand up to the West in the future, they would need a partner. So during those years of Russian weakness and instability, China treated Russia with what Jeanne Wilson, author of Strategic Partners: Russian-Chinese Relations in the Post-Soviet Era, calls “scrupulous respect.”
In January 1992, when dust from the Soviet collapse was only starting to settle, Chinese Premier Li Peng met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in New York, where they agreed to boost relations. That December, Yeltsin accepted an invitation to visit Beijing, an event both sides said signaled a new phase in Russia-China ties. Intensive diplomatic activity over the next few years resulted in a massive reduction of troops on the former China-Soviet border and the formation of a “constructive partnership.” Wilson says China’s outreaches to Russia during this time went “a long way to assuage Russia’s wounded ego.”
Throughout the Vladimir Putin era, starting in 2000, China’s esteem for Russia has only increased. When Hu Jintao became China’s leader in 2003, his first trip abroad was to visit Putin. For the next decade, the relationship flourished. By the time Xi Jinping took the reins from Hu in 2013, China had become the world’s second-largest economy. And though Russia’s economy was smaller than that of New York, Xi’s first presidential trip abroad was also to Russia. He and Putin became fast friends, and have met dozens of times since.
On the foundation of China treating Russia as if it were still a superpower, and with a common goal of dismantling the United States-led international order, both China and Russia grew stronger. And their camaraderie deepened.
Marching in Lockstep
In international politics, Russia-China cooperation is accomplishing nothing short of reshaping the world. Whether allying to oppose Western interests in the Middle East, the Korean Peninsula and Venezuela, or supporting each others’ growing territorial appetites in the former Soviet nations and South China Sea, Russia and China are reshaping international politics.
Economic developments tell the same story. In 2010, China overtook Germany to become Russia’s largest trading partner. Five years later, Russia became China’s top supplier of crude. In 2018, Russia and China exceeded $100 billion in mutual trade for the first time, part of which was China buying advanced Russian weaponry such as fighter jets and the S-400 anti-aircraft system.
The most meaningful manifestation of the Russia-China axis is in military cooperation. In 2003, the two started holding joint military drills. Beginning as low-level drills involving a handful of soldiers, the Russia-China exercises evolved over the years into complex maneuvers with thousands of military personnel on each side.
As these military exercises expanded in scope and complexity, references to the Russia-China relationship upgraded from “strategic cooperation” to a “comprehensive strategic partnership,” and upgraded again to a “privileged strategic partnership.” Yet the two still kept their most important military secrets from each other.
But then came the joint air and missile exercise in 2017.
Showing Each Other Their Cards
Stephen Blank, a senior fellow with the American Foreign Policy Council, has called attention to this particular drill, saying it “suggests an alliance” between Russia and China. That’s because the exercise required both nations to “put their cards on the table and display their c4isr,” he wrote. This term refers to command, control, communications and computer, as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance—among the most sensitive aspects of a military. The fact that Russia and China shared this information during the 2017 drills indicates a new and rare level of trust.
Vasily Kashin, a senior research fellow at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, told the Trumpet on February 11 that this exercise was “a step forward.” But he said the Vostok-2018 exercise was still “more important.”
With more than 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 1,000 aircraft and 80 naval vessels taking part, Vostok-2018 is believed to have been the largest military exercise ever held. China’s People’s Liberation Army contributed 3,200 troops, 900 combat vehicles and 30 aircraft, making it China’s largest-ever dispatch of forces abroad for military exercises.
Kashin told the Trumpet that the gargantuan drills show how closely the militaries of Russia and China have become, especially as both nations’ ties to the U.S. are increasingly strained.
Russia and China have now held more than 30 sets of military drills as they iron out the details of how to join their forces for potential conflicts. “If at some point Russia and China decide to jointly intervene in a local conflict,” Kashin wrote in a 2018 report for the Center for Naval Analyses, “their militaries would act as a very strong force multiplier for each other.”
Kashin wrote, “China’s superior surface navy, and its logistical and uav [unmanned aerial vehicle] capabilities would be coupled with Russia’s battle-hardened ground and air forces as well as its air defense, submarine and long-range strike advantages.”
Some still believe Russia and China have too many differences to ever form a true military alliance. The skeptics say obstacles such as historical border disputes, current water scarcity issues, and conflicting interests in Central Asia are too contentious for Russia and China to unite.
On January 29, for example, Geopolitical Futures called the idea of a Russia-China alliance “a fantasy.” Kashin, too, wrote in his report that although Russia and China are laying the groundwork to be able to join forces, “currently there are no observable scenarios under which the two sides might undertake … a joint action.”
But Bible prophecy shows that just such a scenario will soon emerge.
‘Tidings Out of the East’
The Bible prophesies of a civilization-threatening war that will erupt in the near future. Matthew 24:21-22 record Jesus Christ as saying: “[T]here will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive” (New Living Translation).
This could only be describing a nuclear world war with enough detonations to cause nuclear winter. It will have the potential to end all human life.
Daniel 11 shows how this civilization-threatening war will ignite. Verse 40 discusses a power called “the king of the south.” This “king” is described as pushing—enacting an extremely provocative foreign policy. Today, analysts worldwide label Iran as the world’s primary state sponsor of terrorism. This is among the “pushiest” strategies a country could adopt, and helps identify the king of the south as radical Islam, led by Iran. You can prove this identity by reading Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry’s booklet The King of the South.
Verse 40 says this Islamic power will “push at” another power called “the king of the north.” This northern power will be a united Europe, led by Germany and guided by the Vatican. You can understand the scriptures proving this identity by reading our free book The Holy Roman Empire in Prophecy.
Daniel 11 shows that after the king of the south pushes at the king of the north, the latter will unleash a fury of devastation on Iran and its Islamist partners.
This clash will rattle the world! Russia and China—both of which have significant ties with Iran and desire to exert great influence in the Middle East—will perhaps be more jolted than other nations.
The clash between Europe and Iran-led radical Islam will help create exactly the “scenario” that Kashin says is presently absent on the world scene.
Russia and China will see how powerful Europe has become, and how effectively it wields its power. They will see that to challenge this mighty United Europe, they must ally. The Bible shows that is exactly what they will do.
Verses 40 through 43 say that after that attack against Iran, the Europeans will dominate more and more of the Middle East. These campaigns are abruptly interrupted: “But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him …” (verse 44). Any good map shows that to the east of the region where these campaigns will be occurring is China and its neighbors, and to the north lies Russia. The Europeans will hear “tidings” from these nations and be “troubled” by them. They will be disturbed to learn that Russia and China have expanded and merged their militaries to challenge Europe.
The Bible provides details about this Russo-Chinese force, showing why Europe will be so “troubled.” Ezekiel 38:1-6 show that this force will absorb other Asian nations (sidebar: “Mr. Armstrong Was Right”). Revelation 9:16 says that with the bloc combining several populous nations, it will field an army of 200 million soldiers—an order of magnitude larger than any force the world has ever seen. Revelation 16:12 reveals what may be the most troubling “tidings” for the European power: The Asian force, called “the kings of the east,” will mobilize toward the west! They will converge on the Euphrates and then cross its miraculously dried bed—en route to confront the Europeans.
‘Stunning Fulfillment of Prophecy’
In 2014, after Putin annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, most of the world condemned Russia. But one country supported Moscow’s dangerous expansionist moves: China.
In our May-June 2014 Trumpet issue, Mr. Flurry called this “a stunning fulfillment of a biblical prophecy!” He was referring to the Bible passages cited above.
He wrote: “When these Asian nations—extremely powerful nuclear-armed countries—begin to show solidarity with each other regarding moves like that, what does that portend for the world? I tell you it is woe to the world. It will cause many serious problems.”
Mr. Flurry said the Russia-China axis “is going to affect everyone.”
Scriptures in Ezekiel, Daniel, Matthew and Revelation show exactly how the Russian-led force will “cause many serious problems” that will “affect everyone” in the near future. The coming war will threaten to end all human life!
But the Bible’s prophecies do not end with nuclear war eradicating mankind.
A New Government—Positions Open
Continuing in Matthew 24:21-22, just after Christ said the end-time war will be so devastating that it could end all human life, He added a crucial detail: “But it will be shortened” (nlt).
What happens next will be stunning.
Jesus Christ will return—before the chaos obliterates all human life. Daniel 2:44 says after Christ returns, His Kingdom will “break in pieces and consume” all other world powers. Revelation 19:11-16 describe the scene as Christ returns to assume His office as King of kings, ruling the entire Earth.
Revelation 11:15 states, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” This describes the Kingdom of God on Earth.
Herbert W. Armstrong, editor in chief of the Trumpet’s forerunner magazine the Plain Truth, wrote of this future Kingdom. He said it will bring an end to present governments, including those in Moscow, Beijing and Tokyo, and also those in Washington, d.c., London and Paris. “The governments of Russia, China, Japan—yes, also of the United States, Britain and France—will be overthrown,” he wrote. “[T]here will be a different system of government. It will be God’s government” (Plain Truth, June 1964).
He continued: “Jesus Christ will return, having received the kingdom from God Almighty the Father. He will set up world government. It will be the government of God.”
Mr. Armstrong emphasized that Christ will not rule this Kingdom by Himself. He will enlist those who have learned to love God’s way of life to help Him. “Christ will assign some, who have learned and lived His way—the way of His government, during this life—to rule over one city, or perhaps five, ten or a hundred cities,” he wrote.
Mr. Armstrong went on to explain that as we see Russia and China rising and aligning, and as we see the world hurtling toward conflict, it should make us put our hope in this future righteous government. And it should make us take action now so we can help administer that future government of peace. “This life is the training period,” he wrote. “It is only those who are under and obedient to the authority of God’s government now—who learn its laws, who overcome every other (and false) way—whose real citizenship is now reserved in heaven, who then will be assigned a position of rule.”
Mr. Armstrong’s article concluded with these hope-filled words: “The real and true Christian life is, simply, the way of God’s government. It trains the true Christian to administer that government. It trains him to become a king! Yes, you were born to be a king!”