Thursday, August 17, 2017

Russia, China and the West

Russia-China relations have been attracting growing attention among scholars and analysts for the last two years. A central question is whether an alliance between the two is possible. In a report for the Center for Transatlantic Relations of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, I discuss prospects for a closer Sino-Russian relationship.

Two long-term factors are particularly drawing Moscow and Beijing  together:

  • shared opposition to political values and norms promoted by the West. Both states reject the U.S. claim to primacy and Western domination in the world. They jealously guard their sovereignty understood as noninterference in their domestic affairs. Both also suspect the West of plotting regime change under the banner of spreading democracy and/or human rights; 
  • strong confidence that the other side would neither subvert the ruling regime nor criticize the other’s domestic political system.
At the same time, there are three major obstacles to a fully-fledged alliance:
  • the absence of mutual support in pursuing territorial claims. This is specifically visible with respect to: Crimea, South China Sea and East China Sea and contrasts strongly with the 1990s and 2000s when both states did lend support to one another with respect to territorial integrity;
  • differing approaches towards economic globalization (China is a strong supporter while Russia is a contestant) and diverging assessments of anti-globalization trends;
  • different perceptions concerning their contribution to global security and economic governance. China appears to be genuinely interested in contributing to political and economic stability. Russia aims first and foremost at a symbolic confirmation of its great-power status and does not mind the role of an occasional spoiler.
My paper that elaborates these arguments can be found here.

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