Collective associations and networks

Multilateral and multilayered dimension of Sino-Russian cooperation.

Besides the bilateral relations, China and Russia have an extensive and expanding common network of multilateral and multilayered political, economic and military connections, in addition to their country-specific own relations network.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) 

SCO was announced on June 15, 2001 and its charter was entered into force on September 19, 2003. The present member states of SCO account for 40 percent of the world’s total population, for over 60 percent of the Eurasian landmass and over 20 percent of global GDP.

The original members included:

  • the People’s Republic of China, Kazakhstan,
  • the Kyrgyz Republic,
  • the Republic of Tajikistan,
  • the Republic of Uzbekistan and
  • the Russian Federation.  

In 2017, both India and Pakistan were granted status as full members.  

There are also four observer states: Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia.  

There are six dialogue partners: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization has the following goals:

1.) strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states

 2.) promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, economy, research, technology and culture as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection and other areas

 3.) making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region

 4.) moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.

The supreme decision-making body in the organization is the Heads of State Council or HSC.  The HSC meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on important matters of the organization. At the two-day meeting, the member nations signed a key political document, the Joint Communique of the Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on Simplifying Trade Procedures.  

The SCO also seeks to cooperate with other international and regional organizations including the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the United Nations among others.

A strategic partnership of China and Russia has enabled the two countries to facilitate and advance various measures within the SCO. The two leading countries as the twin engines of the SCO have led efforts to safeguard regional security and advance economic development within the framework of the SCO.

On May 22, 2019, Foreign ministers of the SCO member states made a prominent official announcement to advocate a multipolar world and oppose unilateralism and trade protectionism. They acknowledged the efforts of relevant parties to cooperate under the BRI and align the BRI with the Eurasian Economic Union.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) – A Multilateral Economic Forum

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is the premier Asia-Pacific economic forum, established in November 1989 in Australia. Its primary goal is to support sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. APEC has 21 members. The word ‘economies’ is used to describe APEC members because the APEC cooperative process is predominantly concerned with trade and economic issues, with members engaging with one another as economic entities. The members (economies) are: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, The Philippines, Russian Federation, Singapore, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Thailand, The United States, Viet Nam

Between 1989 and 1992, APEC met as an informal senior official- and ministerial-level dialogue. In 1993, former US President Bill Clinton established the practice of an annual APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting to provide greater strategic vision and direction for cooperation in the region.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

ASEAN was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the Founding Fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. The present members in 2018: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.

According to the ASEAN Declaration, the aims and purposes of ASEAN are: To accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development as well as to promote regional peace and stability.

ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations commenced when the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China, attended the opening session of the 24th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in July 1991 in Kuala Lumpur as a guest of the Malaysian Government.  Subsequently, China was accorded full Dialogue Partner status at the 29th AMM in July 1996 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Partnership is back to July 1991 when the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation attended the Opening Session of the 24th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) in Kuala Lumpur as a guest of the Malaysian Government. Russia was subsequently elevated to a full Dialogue Partner of ASEAN at the 29th AMM in July 1996 in Jakarta. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin made his first-ever state visit to Singapore on 13 November 2018. Coinciding with the 33rd ASEAN summit, 3rd ASEAN–Russia summit, 13th East Asia Summit (EAS), and 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Singapore, the visit marks an important step in Russia’s efforts to broaden its pivot to the East.

The East Asia Summit (EAS) is a regional forum held annually by leaders of, initially, 16 countries in the East Asian, Southeast Asian and South Asian regions, based on the ASEAN Plus Six mechanism. Membership expanded to 18 countries including Russia and the United States at the 2011 meeting. EAS meetings are held after the annual ASEAN leaders’ meetings and EAS plays an important role in the regional architecture of Asia-Pacific.

East Asia Forum is a platform for analysis and research on politics, economics, business, law, security, international relations and society relevant to the Asia Pacific region. It consists of an online publication and a quarterly magazine, East Asia Forum Quarterly, which aim to provide analysis from the leading minds in the region and beyond. Main partner countries are: Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, North and South Korea, the US + other Pacific island countries and East Asian countries

The Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) is an inter-governmental organization created on 18 June 2002 to promote Asian cooperation at a continental level and to help integrate separate regional organizations such as ASEAN, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation SAARC, the Gulf Cooperation Council GCC, and the Eurasian Economic Union. The ACD was founded by 18 members. Since March 2016, the organization consists of 34 states as listed below (including all current members of ASEAN and the GCC). Currently, the ACD comprises 34 countries: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Turkey.

The Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) is an inter-governmental and multinational forum for enhancing cooperation towards promoting peace, security and stability in Asia. It is a forum based on the recognition that there is close link between peace, security and stability in Asia and in the rest of the world. The idea of convening the CICA was first proposed by Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev, in 1992. The present member states: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russia, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam.

The Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM)

ASEM is an Asian–European political dialogue forum to enhance relations and various forms of cooperation between its partners. It was officially established on March 1, 1996 at the first summit in Thailand, by the then 15 members of the EU and the European Commission, the then 7 members of the ASEAN and the individual countries of China, Japan and South Korea. A series of enlargements saw additional EU members join as well as India, Mongolia, Pakistan and the ASEAN Sectariat in 2008, Australia, New Zealand and Russia in 2010, Bangladesh, Norway, and Switzerland in 2012, as well as Croatia and Kazakhstan in 2014. ASEM currently has 53 partners: 51 countries and 2 regional organizations. The main components of the ASEM process rest on the following 3 pillars:

  • Political & Security Pillar
  • Economic & Financial Pillar
  • Social, Cultural & Educational Pillar

In general, the process is considered by the partners involved to be a way of deepening the relations between Asia and Europe at all levels, which is deemed necessary to achieve a more balanced political and economic world order. The process is enhanced by the biennial meetings of Heads of State and Government, alternately in Europe and Asia, and biennial meetings of Foreign Ministers as well as other Ministerial Meetings, and other political, economic, and socio-cultural events at various levels.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank AIIB

The Chinese initiative, which was announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to boost connectivity and cooperation between East Asia, Europe and East Africa. China will expand the use of the Chinese currency (renminbi / yuan) in countries and regions related to the Belt and Road Initiative by improving cross-border payment and settlement facilities for the currency.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative project is often described as a 21st century’s Silk Road made up of a “belt” of overland corridors and a maritime “road” of shipping lanes.

The Guardian, July 30, 2018

Since 2013, the initiative has transformed to describe almost all aspects of Chinese engagement abroad, from Asia to Europe and Africa, Belt and Road includes 71 countries that account for half the world’s population and a quarter of global GDP. At the centre of the plan are two physical routes. The Silk Road Economic Belt, stretching from Asia to Europe and the Maritime Silk Road that begins in China and passes along the Indian Ocean littoral to East Africa and then Europe.

The Belt and Road Initiative is expected to cost well over $ 1 trillion, although there are differing estimates as to how much money has been spent to date. According to analysis, China alone has invested so far more than $210bn, the majority in Asia and the total sum may amount up to several hundred billion US dollars. Some most affected nations so far, Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tajikistan, are among the poorest in their respective regions and will owe more than half of all their foreign debt to China. Critics, regarding BRI, worry that China could use “debt-trap diplomacy” to extract strategic concessions, such as over territorial disputes in the South China Sea or silence on human rights violations.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

Bank is a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region. The bank currently has 87 member states from around the world. The bank started operation after the agreement entered into force on 25 December 2015. The bank has received the highest ratings from the three biggest rating agencies (Moody’s, Fitch, S&P) in the world and is seen as a potential rival to the World Bank and IMF. China, with the greatest voting power, was naturally one of the founding partners in the bank, Russia became a member partner in April 2015 having a second biggest voting power.

The founding of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is closely tied with the Chinese BRI. The initial context was to make better use of Chinese foreign currency reserves in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and Putin’s initiative of Great Eurasian Partnership

The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is a political and economic organization of states located in central and northern Eurasia aiming for regional economic integration. The treaty for the establishment of the EAEU was signed on 29 May 2014 by the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia and came into force on 1 January 2015. Treaties aiming for Armenia’s and Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union were signed on 9 October and 23 December 2014, respectively. Armenia’s accession treaty came into force on 2 January 2015. Kyrgyzstan’s accession treaty came into effect on 6 August 2015.

The Eurasian Economic Union has an integrated single market of 183 million people and a GDP of over 4 trillion US dollars (PPP). The EAEU introduces the free movement of goods, capital, services and people and provides for common policies in the macroeconomic sphere, transport, industry and agriculture, energy, foreign trade and investment, customs, technical regulation, competition and antitrust regulation.  The union operates through supranational and intergovernmental institutions. The Supreme Eurasian Economic Council is the “Supreme Body” of the Union, consisting of the Heads of the Member States. The second level of intergovernmental institutions is represented by the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council (consisting of the Prime Ministers of member states). The day-to-day work of the EAEU is done through the Eurasian Economic Commission (the executive body), which is a supranational body similar to European Commission.

The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is seeking effective mechanisms of protection from anti-Russian sanctions that affect other member states of the association, the share of transactions in national currencies between EAEU member countries reached 70% in the first half of 2018. Most transactions in national currencies occur in trade with Russia, with Russian ruble being the most popular currency in use. Other issues under preparatory work are the common oil and gas market, the financial market concept and the implementation of the digital agenda. Expanding the Union is not a priority but to deepen and strengthen integration, particularly when it comes to removing existing hurdles and restrictions on the common market. The focus is on those practical benefits that parties receive from deepening economic integration.

Moldova became the first observer state in EAEU in May 2018. Signature of a temporary free trade zone agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and Iran will contribute to transition to mutual settlements in national currencies. The formation of a free trade zone between the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and Indonesia in late 2018 is set to become a pivotal step in establishing a full-fledged trade zone with the Association of Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN).

Usefulness of multilayered relationship between China and Russia emerges particularly well in the Eurasian context.

While the bilateral trade between China and Russia is increasing strongly, the growing trade potential between the two countries has been motivated by four factors:

  • the sanctions imposed by the EU and the US upon Russia,
  • the relative weakness of the Russian currency ruble,
  • China’s BRI project combined with EAEU and
  • mutual investments in integrated IT technologies.

Russia is factually a key part of China’s BRI plans. The free trade agreement between China and the Eurasian Economic Union is opening extensive views the whole Eurasian region and beyond.

Beijing is now working with Moscow in building a high-speed freight rail link between the two cities, which should be operational by 2020. China and Russia are also exploring the development of the Northern Sea Passage, an Arctic route that, when feasible, will considerably reduce maritime transit times between China and Europe. As part of its Russian strategy, China has also been busy in assisting Eastern European nations to speed with technological developments and in particular with the coming launch of 5G and related e-commerce technologies. China has been making overtures to Europe’s 16 eastern nations to examine better collaboration and cooperation between them, Russia, and China itself.

China and Russia are jointly organizing standardization over logistics and transportation issues such as rail containerization. Chinese consumers are purchasing far more online than in Russia or in the EU. This is why the two countries are synchronizing IT based e-commerce technologies and increasingly requesting the EU do the same, purely in order to facilitate such trade.

The China-Russia plans may go still further. Both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have openly discussed the possibility of uniting Eurasia and developing something wholly new entity, known as the Great Eurasian Partnership.

This concept brings together the members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and ASEAN as a huge free trade bloc (Picture 1 below).

Although it will take decades to achieve, such initiatives do mean that China and Russia are going to be collaborating on trade, economy, security and overall development in deeper and more complex ways in the coming years. Russia will be China’s trade corridor to and from Europe as well as a trade, cargo and transportation facilitator between the two, not to mention the multi-aspect security issue. Both countries are prepared to fund this huge project to make this happen and both can be expected to see their respective trade figures increase dramatically.

BRICS-cooperation (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa)

BRICS is the acronym coined for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Originally the first four were grouped as “BRIC” before the induction of South Africa in 2010.

The BRICS members are known for their significant influence on regional affairs, all are members of G-20. Since 2009, the BRICS nations have met annually at formal summits. The five BRICS countries represent over 3,2 billion people or about 41% of the world population. As of 2018, these five nations have a combined nominal GDP of US$18.6 trillion, about 23% of the gross world product, combined GDP.

The New Development Bank (NDB) is a multilateral development bank operated by the BRICS states. The bank’s primary focus of lending is infrastructure projects with authorized lending of up to $34 billion annually. The bank will have starting capital of $50 billion, with capital increased to $100 billion over time. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will initially contribute $10 billion each to bring the total to $50 billion.

The BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) is a framework for providing protection against global liquidity pressures. This includes currency issues where members’ national currencies are being adversely affected by global financial pressures. Emerging economies like BRICS countries that experienced rapid economic liberalization went through increased economic volatility, bringing uncertain macroeconomic environment. The CRA is generally seen as a competitor to the (IMF) and along with the NDB is viewed as an example of increasing South-South cooperation. It was established in 2015 by the BRICS countries. In last couple of years, more discussions between member countries have been made regarding the use of national currencies in mutual trade and investments.

Trilateral cooperation Russia – India – China (RIC)  

The idea of an institutional forum bringing together India, China and Russia has been contemplated since the end of the Cold War. This proposal was first mooted in 1998 by the Russian Premier Yevgeny Primakov. According to Primakov, countries like Russia-India-China need a multpolar world in order to get their national interest across and have autonomy of decision-making. To construct a multipolar world, the Russia-India-China triangle would be indispensable. The Chinese, who were initially cool about the proposal, revived it in 2000. India’s strategic reasoning also called for cooperation with China and Russia and in July 2006, the heads of India, China and Russia met on the sidelines of the G-8 meeting at St. Petersburg, Russia.

The three countries have affirmed the merits of democratization and multipolarity in international relations but made it clear that the forum is not directed against any country. In the political front, terrorism and Asian security issues have been important as well as current topics like North Korea, Iran and various cooperative issues. In economic cooperation the energy security is a key issue.

The United States is the major external factor in the formation of Russia-India-China axis, as each of the three countries is a major political actor of the world. Relation between Russian-Chinese-Indian community and the United States is one of the most important aspects of the global policy. Russia-India-China has signaled to the US that its unilateralism is breeding serious concern among other big international players. This is clear manifestation of new trends in Russia-India-China tripartite cooperation and US factor. All of them have indicated that developing relations with the US is not directed against other countries. These three states are opposed to the US hegemony and stressed the need for enhanced cooperation between China, Russia and India to ensure a multipolar world and a new international political and economic order.

Russia & CIS, CSTO

Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), free association of sovereign states that was formed in 1991 by Russia and 11 other republics that were formerly part of the Soviet Union. The CIS had its origins in early December 1991, when Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus signed an agreement forming a new association to replace the crumbling U.S.S.R. These three republics were subsequently joined by the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, by the Transcaucasian republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, and by Moldova. The CIS formally came into being on December 21, 1991, and began operations the following month, with the city of Minsk in Belarus designated as its administrative centre.

In August 2008, following an escalation of hostilities between Russia and Georgia over the separatist region of South Ossetia, Georgia announced its intention to withdraw from the CIS. The withdrawal was finalized in August 2009. A similar proxy war broke out in eastern Ukraine in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian autonomous republic of Crimea. In May of that year, Ukraine officially withdrew from the CIS.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is an intergovernmental military alliance that was signed on 15 May 1992. The present members (the year of entry in parenthesis): Armenia (1994), Belarus (1994), Kazakhstan (1994), Kyrgyzstan (1994), Russia (1994), Tajikistan (1994). In addition, there are two non-member observer states: Afghanistan (2013) and Serbia (2013). Three former member states have been withdrawn from the treaty: Azerbaijan (1999), Georgia (1999) and Uzbekistan (2012).

These organizations were closely studied in the military section of the present alliances.

G-20, Group of Twenty

The G-20 or Group of Twenty is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Founded in 1999, the G-20 aims to discuss policy pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability. It seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organization. The G-20 heads of government or heads of state have periodically conferred at summits since their initial meeting in 2008, and the group also hosts separate meetings of finance ministers and foreign ministers due to the expansion of its agenda in recent years.

Membership of the G-20 consists of 19 individual countries plus the European Union (EU). The EU is represented by the European Commission and by the European Central Bank. Collectively, the G-20 economies account for around 85% of the gross world product (GWP), 80% of world trade (or, if excluding EU intra-trade, 75%), two-thirds of the world population, and approximately half of the world land area. With the G-20 growing in stature after its inaugural leaders’ summit in 2008, its leaders announced on 25 September 2009 that the group would replace the G-8 as the main economic council of wealthy nations. Since its inception, the G-20’s membership policies have been criticized by numerous intellectuals and its summits have been a focus for major protests. The heads of the G-20 nations met semi-annually between 2009 and 2010. Since the November 2011 Cannes summit, all G-20 summits have been held annually.

The United Nations & United Nations Security Council (UN and UNSC), World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB)

China and Russia are the two out of five permanent members of UNSC, the so called P5 (the US, France, United Kingdom, China, Russia). Russia’s position has been such since the foundation of the UN. Taiwan was substituted by People’s Republic of China in UNSC in 1971.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that regulates international trade. The WTO officially commenced on 1 January 1995. China became a member in 2001 and Russia in 2012.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), founded in 1945, is an organization of 189 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world. China has been a member since 1945 and Russia 1992.

The World Bank Group (WB) is a major source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. It is not the bank in the ordinary sense but the unique partnership to reduce poverty and support development. The World Bank Group is established in 1944 and comprises five institutions managed by their member countries. China has been a member since 1945 and Russia 1992.