Characteristics of relationship

Russia and China agree that there is no need to evolve from the strategic partnership into a formal military and/or political alliance right now.

At the same time, when prolonging the 2001 Treaty in 2020, the parties will most likely diversify and advance the articles pertaining to interaction (such as consultations) in the event that threats to the national security or territorial integrity of one of the parties, or to the Russia–China partnership in general, emerge.

Both parties preserve the freedom in their relations with third states, the positioning of Russia and China as an independent geopolitical force capable of containing potential adversaries and the rapid adaptation of the partnership to address to particular tasks in the Middle East, Latin America or in the Korean Peninsula.

The specific feature of Russia–China cooperation is related to the coordination of national development strategies and ensuring mutual security.

The question is of an established mechanism of complementarity, in which Russia has clear superiority in the military and strategic component and China has clear superiority in economy and technology. Acceptance of these positions means a new quality of the partnership and the strategic stability of the long-term interaction of the two countries. The internal balance in Russia–China relations is of fundamental importance for the two countries.

Improving the bilateral partnership is also related to setting up multilateral cooperation in Eurasia, including the linking of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), collaboration in the SCO, BRICS, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and deepening cooperation within the trilateral “Russia–Mongolia–China” and “Russia–India–China” (RIC) formats.

The opening of railroads, roads and bridges over the Amur River in 2019 and elsewhere in the Russian Far East and the launch of the Power of Siberia pipeline into China will obviously bring about both quantitative increases in bilateral trade turnover and a qualitative advancement of the Eurasian long-term agenda, which is the part of the Greater Eurasian Partnership initiative.

Confrontation on the world scene

Although an American legendary strategic theorist Zbigniew Brzezinski once warned of the danger of the “grand coalition of China and Russia”, the majority of Western analysts so far still take a skeptical attitude and notice that the West can afford to wait until a Russian president looks westwards again and the man or woman in the Oval Office should emulate Nixon – and go to Moscow”. However, the rapprochement between Beijing and Moscow is at an all-time high and the cooperation has reached an irreversible level.

Confrontation in world politics is mounting and the Western countries still grasp majority on international discourse and the overall supply of worldwide news media. In this context, China, Russia and other non-Western countries try to strengthen cooperation in politics and security, maintain domestic stability and political safety and take the initiative in the media and academic circles. 

The current external challenges both countries are facing indicate the significance of China-Russia relations. The political views of China and Russia underline diversity, whereas the political discourse of the Western countries has remained dominant over 30 years still considering their liberal ideology and social system as universal and denying the particularity of non-Western countries.

The world trade is seeking new dimensions among trade wars and increasing sanctions mainly set by the US, while the international industrial chains, the supply chain and the purchasing chain are experiencing a new round of reorganization. As the world’s largest consumption market, the second-largest economy and world factory, China has been acting as an engine of world trade and has led the recycling of the world’s supply chains and purchasing chains but the US-launched trade war against China has hastened the decoupling between Chinese and US markets and driven the core of the world trade circulation into confusion.

China and Russia share similar approaches

Russia and China demonstrate similar approaches to the development of the global economy amid the threats that protectionism and unilateralism posit for global economic development. Still, the process of globalization seems to be irreversible, as the world trade is growing steadily and international production chains are growing stronger. Such innovations as AI, Big Data, quantum IT and biotechnologies create new powerful potentials and generate new sectors, formats and models that lead to radical changes in global development processes.

Both China and Russia share the view that “the challenges to the multilateral trade order issued by the unilateralist and protectionist policies of the United States, anti-Russian sanctions and trade tensions between China and the US threaten the systems of international governance and multilateral trade, as well as the global economic order.

International organizations, particularly the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), need to implement reforms that would reflect the changes in the global economy. Multilateralism is required to overcome global risks and international organizations and systems need to speed up the process of implementing reforms.”

The increased pressure on Russia and China has failed to isolate the two states and served only to strengthen the Russia–China partnership. It also opened new opportunities for rapprochement and mutually advantageous projects implemented in cooperation but the Russia–China partnership is not only based on joint responses to the strategic threat posed by the US.

Even if the strategic threat of the US against Russia and China is scaled back, Moscow and Beijing will still adhere to similar views on the world order and the need to cooperate for maintaining international and regional security will remain. Russia and China have now “turbocharged” their relations all-time high and the US has nobody to blame but itself.

A Potential Synthesis – “SinoRusso Twins”, a co-living symbiosis

As a preliminary conclusion of the development of China-Russia cooperation in the post-Cold War era, some pertinent, even surprising characteristics can be found here:

  • it seems to be a birth of some new geopolitical form
  • it seems to be an entente-type informal alliance of two countries which goes much deeper than most regular alliances do
  • it seems to be historically something unprecedented and much more than just an “alliance”
  • it seems to be a mutual transformation process to establish a full-spectrum, strategic, geopolitical symbiosis between two civilizational realms
  • both Russia and China have been in the history as empires but which today can be called as “civilizational realms”: geographically large, multi-ethnic, multi-national and multi-religious ex-empires whose influence extends beyond their current national borders and whose international strategic weight makes them more akin to continents rather than to countries
  • it seems to be more akin to the birth of “SinoRusso twins” in a geopolitical tectonic shift