For The Diplomat, I explored differences between Russia and China’s respective approaches to building influence abroad:
There is a fundamental difference in the goals that push Russia and China to pursue grandiose projects. Moscow frames its project in terms of an exclusionary sphere of influence, which would confirm Russia’s status as a global great power. It is less interested in genuine economic integration than in the acknowledgement of its privileged status in the post-Soviet space by what it perceives as its peers – the West and China. As long as Moscow can gain prestige and keep up the appearance of great-power posturing, the nuances of the implementation process do not matter much. China’s aims related to the New Silk Road are at the opposite end of the logical spectrum. Beijing is first and foremost interested in continuing its economic expansion abroad. The ideas of renewing the Silk Road were framed in a non-exclusionary way. The concept remains open for all possible participants, from Asia through Africa to Europe. China makes no pretenses towards having a sphere of influence – Chinese scholars have even been reminded by officials not to compare the New Silk Road to the Marshall Plan, as the latter allegedly demonstrates “hegemonic features.”
Russia focuses on the form of its influence – Moscow insisted on the establishment of a legal foundation for the integration process and its institutionalization. China cares much more about the substance. The New Silk Road is therefore better understood as an umbrella for what remains bilateral economic engagement. These differences help explain why Russia and China can be expected to reconcile their respective interests in Central Asia.
Read the whole article at The Diplomat