Russia and China Are Closer Than Ever Before, Beijing Says as It Launches Trade War With Trump

China's relationship with Russia is the best it's ever been, a high-level Chinese official boasted this week as Beijing prepared to launch a trade war with the U.S.

Visiting Moscow on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said his country's relationship with Russia is at "the best level in history." The announcement was made as both China and Russia pass through a rough patch in their relationship with the U.S.

Also on Thursday, President Donald Trump threatened to hit China with an additional $100 billion in trade tariffs, a potential escalation in the ongoing trade war with Beijing that already saw the U.S. announce plans to target around 1,300 Chinese products. A day earlier, China had revealed its plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on U.S. products, including soybeans, in retaliation. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said it will use any measure necessary to fight back against Trump's tariffs, and that it is uninterested in entering into negotiations with U.S. trade officials.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is also getting increasingly tough on Russia. Washington recently decided to expel 60 Russian diplomats and close the Russian consulate in Seattle, in response to the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, who was living in England and whom British authorities say was targeted by Moscow. Then on Friday, the Treasury Department released a new list of Russian oligarchs subject to U.S. sanctions.

Amid all of this, both the Chinese foreign and defense ministers paid a visit to Moscow. On Tuesday, China's defense minister was quoted in Russia's state media warning that the U.S. should pay close attention to the bolstered military ties between Russia and China. Some experts said that Beijing and Moscow are preparing to forge a strategic alliance that could sideline the U.S.

"The simultaneous visits of the Chinese foreign and defense ministers to Moscow amid the ever-widening Skripal affair suggest that something is afoot in the Moscow-Beijing axis. While China expressed limited support to Russia in the international fora on the alleged chemical weapons attack in the United Kingdom, Beijing is seeking coordination with Moscow on the North Korea issue, which is strategic for China, as well as in the escalating trade war between the two largest economies in the world," Ariel Cohen, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Newsweek.

"In the retrospect, April 2018 may yet turn out to be the pivotal point in Strengthening of the Russian-Chinese strategic axis, if not a de-facto alliance," Cohen said.

China's relationship with Russia has undoubtedly grown closer over recent years, particularly after Russia was ostracized by Western allies in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine in 2014. But the two countries are not without their rivalries, experts note.

"Relations have become increasingly close since 2014 when Russia, as a result of its isolation from the West following the annexation of Crimea, moved to accelerate its own pivot to Asia. This has involved energy deals, increased arms sales, enhanced joint military exercises, and intensified political dialogue," James Brown, an expert on Russia and Asia at Temple University's Japan campus, told Newsweek.

"Russia, however, remains disappointed by the level of bilateral trade and investment.... China's flagship Belt and Road Initiative seems set to largely bypass Russia, while some in Russia fear that China is increasingly displacing Russian influence in Central Asia," Brown continued.

Still, these rivalries may be pushed aside if the relationship with the U.S. doesn't improve for either country. In a statement aimed at Trump, Foreign Minister Wang said that Moscow and Beijing should work together "to bring some common sense to those who think they can do anything they like."