New forms of competition

In last five years or so, the great power competition has reached more and more new areas and forms. Currently the analysts are talking about “weaponizing key non-military tools”.

Here below, there are some of those new forms, jointly proceeded by China and Russia.

Sino-Russian joint scheme: De-dollarization

De-dollarization is the key common aim of China- Russia joint strategic scheme in economic cooperation, which means to dethrone the status of US dollar as a reserve currency.

The reserve currency status has enabled the US to pile up a towering mountain of federal debt of over $27 trillion (in 2020) — without having to worry about its own financial stability or repayment, at least until now. This “limitless running into debt” has enabled the US nearly “limitless military spending” as well as setting different politically-motivated sanctions worldwide. The weaponization of dollar and other economic means have been the key arguments for China and Russia to organize the counter- weapons, that is the de-dollarization process. In recent years, this process has evolved as worldwide movement covering large number of countries, measures and processes.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Politicians and the military leadership of great powers have become aware of AI’s transformational, even revolutionary impacts on military capabilities. This realization is turning to such concepts as AI nationalism and AI nationalization. Leadingcountries are now placing an emphasis on AI nationalism, which proclaims the priority of the economic and military interests of one’s own country as the principal objective of its national AI strategy. Instead of the separation of state and business that is traditional for many Western national democratic countries, the course has been set for AI nationalization, i.e. integrating governmental and private resources, aligning the pace of introducing AI innovations and refocusing strategic objectives on the state gaining economic, geopolitical and military advantages in the international arena.

The strengthening of these trends promotes the shift of state priorities in developed countries away from the globalized, private economy and business towards geopolitics by nation states. If these trends continue, as it clearly seems to do, the world will undergo major changes in the near future.

Carl von Clausewitz said that “war is but the continuation of politics by different means” which obviously portends that Sino-Russian military cooperation looks like a natural extension of the political rapprochement of the countries involved.  Being one of the leaders in artificial intelligence technology, China has vowed to build an “intelligent military” and the road map of the PLA, as laid out in the report of the 19th party congress, is clear – to become mechanized by 2020, modernized by 2035 and world-class by 2050. In Russia, the focus on military AI is as strongly confirmed by Putin. Together these two players may pose as a superior player in the great power game – even in the 2020s.

Hybrid operations

The increasing use of different cyber measures, media & internet and other informatics measures, camouflaged proxy operations etc. in recent years have caused much attention of new ways to impact, other than “traditional” use of force.

The US group of top general and admirals recently released a report where they stated that China and Russia are outmaneuvering the US, using aggressive actions that fall short of war. To counter them, the US needs new ways to use its military without shooting, in other words new thinking of broadening “Multi-domain Battle” to “Multi-domain Operations”.

According to the US report, operations of China and Russia vary

  • from Little Green Men in Crimea to fortified artificial islands in the South China Sea,
  • from online meddling with US elections to global information operations in media and internet
  • as well as to various industrial-scale cyber espionage acts.

America’s adversaries have found ways to achieve their objectives and undermine the West without triggering a US military response, operating in what’s come to be called “the grey zone.” 

As the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Joseph Dunford, has publicly warned

“I do think that the US military recognizes that dilemma, but I’m not sure they know how to respond to it yet”.

“This idea that states like China and Russia are engaged in a persistent campaign to undermine US and allied interests over time, employing methods that fall well short of conventional military conflict…at the national level, we’re still coming to grips with that.”

“Chinese Juggernaut” BRI – “Russian Grandeur” Greater Eurasian Partnership

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the largest undertaking in the country’s modern history connecting 65 countries and costing worth of over $1 trillion. The economic and political consequences and ramifications of BRI are already visible and concrete in many ways worldwide. Obviously, BRI will have many military and geopolitical consequences as well.

Eurasian integration outlook is tightening now after the US withdrawal from JCPOA. Iran’s top trading partner is China, while Tehran and Moscow have been improving ties as the three countries move closer to cementing a solid “practical alliance”. From Beijing’s view, Iran is absolutely a key hub of BRI, where the nearly 1000 km high-speed railway from Tehran to China is a key BRI project. Chinese companies are developing oil refineries, massive oil and natural gas fields in Iran. China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and other companies have acquired significant stakes in different energy development projects.

Russia mirrors the Chinese business offensive in Iran having made large volume trades in aviation, both civil and military, as well as in energy business. Both Iran and Russia are fighting US sanctions. Despite historical frictions, Iran and Russia are getting closer in their business and political relations.

Tehran provides crucial strategic depth to Moscow’s Southwest Asia presence and Moscow unequivocally supports the JCPOA. Iran will become a formal member of the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) before the end of 2019 and with solid Russian backing Iran will be accepted as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) by 2019.

American prominent foreign policymaker, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said that having lost the competition in Central Asia, means losing the competition of world power. Now it seems that such a destiny is facing the US.

China and Russia are playing skillfully together realizing their common interests in the region. The future great power quadrate in Eurasia: Russia – India – China – Pakistan, all nuclear powers have already entered in multidimensional and complex cooperative network and the US is slowly pushed aside.

Two great initiatives, China’s BRI and Russia’s Great Eurasian Partnership are “walking hand in hand” in Central Asian Region, covering step-by-step more countries and regions and including more economic and political activities. The pairing of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Russia’s supported Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in recent years has turned into an important part of the whole complex of Russia-China interaction.

Both Presidents Xi Jinping and 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 economic bloc where China and Russia may play as leading powers in geopolitical and military matters as well.