Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow and Beijing have converted their relationship from being Cold War rivals to become realistic partners with a common goal of pushing back at a Western-dominated international system.

Their relationship is strategic and opportunist but noticeable by progressively well-matched economic, political, and security interests.

Sharing a geopolitical worldview of multi-polarity, they mutually have firm desires to contain Western power and seek to accelerate what they see as the weakening of the United States.

With a collective desire to shift the focus of global power from the Euro-Atlantic space to the East, they aim to redraft at least some of the rules of global governance, signifying that their partnership is becoming progressively strategic. Yet the Chinese-Russian relationship is complex, with lasting uncertainty on both sides which is the common phenomenon in world politics.

Despite the grand drives for cooperation uttered by the two countries’ leaders, attaining applicable results often escapes them, predominantly in the Russian Far East and the Arctic, where understanding the overabundance of trade, investment, and infrastructure deals announced since 2014 has been challenging.

Regardless of the difficulties faced by both countries the level of engagement in these stages has tested Russia’s and China’s abilities to manage their differences and interpret the rhetoric of corporation into solid gains.

Russia China Bilateral Ties

China Russia relations, also known as Sino-Russian relations and this refers to international relations between the people’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. Diplomatic relations between China and Russia dramatically improved after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Russian Federation in 1991.

American Scholar Joseph Nye argues: With the collapse of the Soviet Union, that de facto US-China alliance ended, and a China-Russia rapprochement began. In 1992, the two countries declared that they were pursuing a “constructive partnership”; in 1996, they progressed toward a “strategic partnership”; and in 2001, they signed a treaty of “friendship and cooperation.”

All through at the end of the Cold War, few would have foreseen a full-bodied Russian-Chinese relationship in the twenty-first century, the two countries have had a long, complex, and touchy history dating back to the 1800s when Russia’s eastward expansion across Siberia and the Russian Far East led to China conceding over 1.5 million square kilometres of territory to imperial Russia.

Shocked by war and uprising in the twentieth century, both countries became brief allies after the Communist Party takeover in Beijing in 1949, as Moscow dispatched technical aid, financial assistance, and political advisers to China.

At the time, Moscow was firmly the leader of the global socialist movement and saw itself as by far the stronger partner in the Sino-Soviet relationship. However, the two countries divided ideologically during the Nikita Khrushchev era, becoming Cold War opponents by the 1960s with a highly armed and disputed border that pushed 4,380 kilometres. A series of border clashes in 1969 left scores of mostly Chinese soldiers dead.

Russia & China on a Multilateral Basis

On a Multilateral basis, China and Russia began harmonising their positions in the United Nations (UN) and other international bodies in the 1990s. In 1997, for example, they presented to the United Nations General Assembly a “Joint Declaration on a Multipolar World and the Establishment of a New World Order,” and the was an early signal of their shared antipathy of Western dominance in the international system and their desire to rebuild it to their benefit.

They both promote the United Nations as a key pillar of the international system, because of the authority and influence that their status as permanent Security Council members provides. They similarly have worked together in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, the East Asia Summit, G20 group of prominent economies, and the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) to support their interests.

In 2003, they both pushed back at the UN against the Iraq war, and they criticised (although neither vetoed) the West’s military intervention in Libya. Today, both frequently highlight the instability that Muammar Qaddafi’s overthrow brought to the region.

Conversely, since then, Moscow and Beijing have worked together to challenge principles of the U.S. led international system to which they share an aversion. They have collaborated to protect fellow authoritarian states from human rights criticisms and outside efforts to change their political trajectories. They branded Western democracy promotion as an example of destructive, unhelpful, and intolerable interference by strong powers in the internal affairs of sovereign states.

They also look to each other for models for ensuring regime stability and domestic governance. Beijing, for example, has passed legislation similar to Russia to limit the activities of non-governmental organisations and limit their ability to accept foreign funding.

Moscow similarly is trying to join aspects of China’s internet firewall to gain greater control over information flows on the Russian-language internet. Moscow’s new laws banning virtual private networks (VPNs) appear to be following the Chinese model of fastening down on VPNs and other internet proxy services that allow users access to websites that are restricted by the state.

They likewise have collaborated in numerous international settings to increase the power of states over the internet, challenging the free flow and access of information, and seek to reduce the power of the West over decisions concerning global governance.

However the Russian Chinese political, economic, and international ties Developments have led Beijing and Moscow to promote their “strategic partnership,” claims that have only strengthened since Putin’s “pivot to Asia” in 2013 and Russia’s break with the West after the Ukraine crisis the following year.

Both countries see the other as a useful counterbalance to U.S. influence. Besides, with its traditional sources of capital now restricted due to sanctions, Russia sees China as a provider of funds to support its struggling economy.

China, meanwhile, benefits from Moscow’s efforts to prevent Western military and economic power internationally, conceding leadership to Russia in opposing Western policies abroad, while benefiting by receiving minimal blame.

Yet when Russia and China have come together in Central Asia, the Russian Far East, and the Arctic, their interests and realities on the ground have tested their ability to manage differences and sustain this strategic alignment.

Central Asia Race

Central Asia is witnessing a key rebalancing of power with Russia declining and China emerging as one of the region’s most influential players. China’s rise in Central Asia is due to its wide-ranging vision for regional connectivity, an appetite for Central Asian energy resources, and generous reserves, which it distributes to Central Asia through commercial investments, loans, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and several other entities.

Unlike the West, China makes no demands for political reform from Central Asian governments. Unlike Russia, Beijing does not use political pressure to keep the region in its general orientation.

The lack of an obvious political agenda other than regional stability, which Beijing believes can be guaranteed through economic development, makes China particularly attractive to local governments.

Although China’s presence is mounting across all of post-Soviet Eurasia, its increasing geopolitical and geo-economics influence is most outstanding in Central Asia, which is where China has learned how to manage Russian concerns over its growing regional influence.

Through the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) predictable to increase Chinese influence throughout Eurasia, including Russia, sustaining positive dynamics with Moscow in Central Asia will remain one of the most important tests of Chinese political and economic diplomacy; so far, Beijing appears up to that test.

China is smart in managing Russia because Beijing engages with Central Asia primarily on economic issues; it has made no explicit push into political or military concerns.

While Beijing’s soft power is growing in Central Asia, it still cannot compete with Russia’s media presence in the region or the fact that Russian universities, particularly those in Siberia, remain more widespread than Chinese ones, although the number of Central Asian students studying in Chinese universities often with heavy earnings from the Chinese government is on the rise.

From 2005 to 2015, the number of Kazakhs studying in China increased from 781 to 13,198, while the Chinese government now offers twenty-three academic scholarships to Kyrgyz citizens wishing to study at Chinese higher education institutions.

Conclusion

In conclusion ,Russia and China have become increasingly close partners on the global scene, motivated to work together both to pushback at what they consider the United States’ pursuit of repression and to change a Western-dominated international system that they observe as disadvantageous to them.

They have resented Western efforts to promote human rights and good governance, seeing the West’s push to create more open political or economic systems as part of a comprehensive and corresponding attempt by the United States and Europe to promote regime change for geopolitical advantage.

These collective views have pushed the strengthening of their bilateral relations, efforts that have only enhanced since the start of the Ukraine conflict in 2014. The utmost hazard to Western interests from the increasing strategic partnership between Russia and China does not come from any of any country in the region.

But it instead emanates from the two countries’ common efforts to adjust the international system to their advantage. Furthermore, in this regard, Washington should support economic cooperation.

On the other hand, the degree to which the Sino-Russian alliance may become anti-American and anti-Western in the future depends on how deeply the two Eurasian powers feel that the United States threatens their interests. While it values friendly relations with both countries.

Authro: David Ceasar Wani
Editor’s note: The article reflects the author’s opinion only, and not necessarily the views of editorial opinion of Belt & Road News.