Sino Russia relations have evolved intriguingly, the growing convergences between the two countries bring attention to a very crucial question that whether the significance given to the relation by leaders on both sides of their common goals is a reality of just an illusion. Where China is tagged as an emerging superpower, Russia also has a strong foothold in an international milieu. The relation between the two states has bettered quite dramatically.
Orthodox rivals are now seen as strategically connected to each other. However, this relationship can merely be just as good in the terms of rhetoric and not reality. This can also be seen when any of the two powers see the other one hurting its interests. In the delusion of commonalities, it is imperative to bring into light the various points of non-congruity between the two states that can take an ugly turn. So whether this relationship has its own standing or is just merely driven by power politics at the global level is interesting to study.
With the growing economic cooperation between the two giants, China is supposedly expected to exert more influence on Russian domestic, economic and foreign policies. This is not highlighted or talked about much, however, there is latent Sino-phobia observed in Russian political elite. This relates closely to the Russian insecurities in Russian Far East region. This latent fear has the potential to be manifested in an active conflict.
In Asia-Pacific region, both countries have contrasting views also. Russia where acts like a status-quo power in the area China, on the other hand, is seen as a revisionist power. Russia is interested in keeping peace in the region has suffered from great losses in the past and is more economically driven in the region not welcoming any problems. However, China wants to counter and compete with the United States and Japan in the region. So where Russia wants to maintain strategic deterrence, China wants to assert itself in the Asia Pacific that too my relative military strength.
In the economic terms as highlighted earlier both the states have seen a reversal. Russia once used to be a superpower but after its fall its economy shrunk poorly almost to the half of what it used to be previously while China which once was among poorest countries not only doubled its GDP but is also seen as an emerging Super Power and is world’s second largest economy after the United States. This divergence in their economies needs a complementary economic model to be placed in order by both states which can mutually benefit them. Right now it’s largely based on an exchange between Russian raw material and energy with Chinese light industry’s products. Therefore a more worked out economic model is needed for the states to have an economic relationship based on long-term mutual benefits.
With respect to Russian Far East, Russia has reservations in the region. Besides direct Chinese involvement, which China too cannot afford to do, there is another aspect that might disturb the relation. Demography of the region is not suitable as the capital investment has declined in RFE the population has also been alleviated however on the Chinese side population is getting denser thus Russians are also wary of Chinese penetration in the region.
Both states have diverging views and insecurities in the Central Asian region as well. Russia is very sensitive with respect to Central Asian region and any foreign involvement alarms Russia. China is increasing its influence in the region rapidly, this may not now be been seen as a threat but the moment China surpasses the space given by Russia things can go in the wrong direction.
The relationship between the two powers is not a new one rather states make smart choices for their national interests in the light of changing geopolitical scenarios. However, this relationship does not seemingly have its own standing rather it is largely driven by the external dynamics. Both the states have reactionary involvement in global affairs, they tend to oppose rather than promote any agenda. Both are strategically bound right now but due to the assessment of having a relationship that has no self-standing, the aforementioned divergences can come into interplay very conveniently as soon as the outside dynamics change.
The rupture of 1969 depicted that relationship between China and Russia can deteriorate very quickly and if so ever happened then it would also take its allies in the radar. It can be another region intertwined with enormous conflicts. Therefore the relation, for now, is largely driven by convergent views containing the United States must look towards to ensure a more firm partnership based on constructive engagements. This will, however, require better perseverance and will from both sides.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.
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Ms Namra Awan is an Islamabad-based researcher and a PhD Scholar in International Relations. She has her MPhil in Peace and Conflict Studies. Her areas of interest include Foreign Policy of Major Powers and Contemporary Security Environment of South Asia with a focus on Pakistan and India