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Research Report

China and Russia:: an Eastern partnership in the making?

Michal Makocki
Nicu Popescu
Copyright Date: Dec. 1, 2016
Pages: 52
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 5-6)
    Antonio Missiroli

    Since US President Barack Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched it almost a decade ago, America’s ‘pivot to Asia’ has struggled to materialise – in part also due to mounting crises and conflicts breaking out in the old Eurasian space, from the Middle East to Ukraine. Moreover, Clinton’s and Obama’s ‘reset’ initiative towards Russia has basically failed – not unlike similar moves attempted also by the previous US administration led by George W. Bush. This is only to underline that any planned strategic reorientation – no matter who intends to pursue it – is inevitably confronted with...

  2. (pp. 7-8)

    Following the annexation of Crimea, the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine and the imposition of Western sanctions against Russia in 2014, Russia loudly proclaimed its ‘turn to the East’: a reorientation of its foreign and economic policies away from the West. For Russia, a closer partnership with China was supposed to offer a viable alternative to the West and allow it to offset the sanctions regime. China seemed eager to reciprocate, if only because the partnership would strengthen its objective of building a multipolar world. Since then, China and Russia have enjoyed what many have described as ‘a diplomatic...

  3. (pp. 9-18)

    China has some 50 strategic partnerships with countries and organisations ranging from the EU as a whole to Angola, Belarus and Venezuela. As a matter of good will, Beijing tends to accept most requests for such partnerships. Naturally, not all of them carry the same weight, and China has around half a dozen categories of strategic partnerships of different intensity, depth and value. Of these, the highest forms are the ‘comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination’ reserved for Russia, and the ‘all-weather strategic partnership’ with Pakistan.¹ Russia is certainly far from being China’s closest international partner, but the relationship has become...

  4. (pp. 19-26)

    At a major Russian-Chinese forum in a luxury hotel in central Moscow in June 2016, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov announced to an audience of several hundred businessmen, diplomats, military personnel, scholars and journalists that Russian-Chinese relations were at the best point ever in the history of the two countries, and a model of cooperation in the twenty-first century. But as is often the case, lofty rhetoric hides choppy waters.

    For now, the mainstream view in both Moscow and Beijing is that the two countries need not and will not build an alliance. Rather, they should build a relationship that...

  5. (pp. 27-38)

    In one of the luckiest accidents of geographical fortune, the world’s biggest consumer of energy, China, finds itself sharing a border with one of the largest producers of fossil fuels: Russia. But the two countries have been very reluctant to grasp the gift that geography bestowed upon them, and despite apparent progress in recent years, there is less to their new alliance in this domain than meets the eye.

    After ten long years of negotiations, it was not until the West imposed sanctions on Russia over the annexation of Crimea that the two countries agreed in May 2014 on a...

  6. (pp. 39-46)

    Central Asia is in many ways at the heart of Russian-Chinese relations. Russia clearly wants to retain influence in Central Asia, and it is equally clear that the only real challenge to its dominance is China. Both sides compete for influence over the region with their respective regional integration projects, each of them with their own set of rules. China is promoting its Belt and Road Initiative, a Sino-centric economic project based on improvements in inter-connectivity, mainly between China and Europe. Russia’s response has been the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), an integration project with Russia at its centre and covering...

  7. (pp. 47-49)

    In recent years Moscow and Beijing have been engaged in a highly publicised rapprochement. Official statements have been dominated by upbeat rhetoric about the Russia-China entente. Political links – from summits and military parades to bilateral working-level contacts – have intensified exponentially. Joint military drills have become more frequent, and their geographical range expanded. Russia has also upgraded the quality of the weapons it makes available for sale to China. New business deals have been signed. The relationship has, therefore, widened in significant ways. Yet this widening of contacts and contracts has not necessarily led to a strategic deepening of...