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The China-Russia ‘Alliance’: Double the Danger or Limited Partnership?

China and Russia have a long history of strained relations, but in recent years, they have formed a closer partnership. The two countries have deepened their ties through agreements and joint military exercises.

This essay will explore the challenges of the China-Russia relationship and assess if the developing partnership is a ‘double the danger’ or a ‘limited partnership’.

Definition of the China-Russia relationship

The relationship between China and Russia is complex. Both countries served as members of the Soviet Union before it was dissolved in 1991, but since then they have developed a unique interdependence. Despite their recent history, China and Russia have often stood on opposite sides of various international issues, particularly concerning security and the global economy.

China and Russia have historically had a strategic partnership based on a shared commitment to promote economic stability, combat terror threats, and maintain relative peace in the face of rival global powers. Together they form an important part of the Eurasian continents’ foreign policy landscape.

At present, however, both countries are facing significant geopolitical challenges from other powers such as the United States, Japan, and certain European states as well as from within their borders. In many cases these competing interests have caused tension between the two states while also driving them closer together in search of common solutions to their collective problems. This dynamic has resulted in a complicated relationship characterised by cooperation and competition at different levels.

Historical Context

The relationship between China and Russia is complicated, rife with competing interests and often fraught with tension. To fully understand the depth of this relationship, it is important to discuss the two countries’ long-standing historical connections and the more recent events that have further shaped their intertwined destinies.

From their common roots in the Soviet Union, to their modern relationship as powerful independent nations, this section explores the historical context of the China-Russia ‘Alliance’.

Historical overview of the China-Russia relationship

The relationship between Russia and China can be traced back to 1644, when a faction of Chinese rebels conquered Beijing and the Qing Dynasty was established. This period of turmoil marked the beginning of a long, complex relationship between the two nations that initially was characterised by war, tensions and mistrust.

In 1956, then Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev famously visited Beijing as part of his “peaceful coexistence” policy towards international relations. This unique diplomatic breakthrough marked a new stage in Chinese-Russian relations, as both nations increased trade volume and cooperation in areas such as politics, economy and energy.

Despite the end of Cold War tensions in the early 1990s slowing down economic interaction between both countries, Russian president Vladimir Putin revived bilateral relationships after coming to power in 1999 with policies designed to increase bilateral trade ties. In 2003 he even formed an “energy partnership” with Hu Jintao to strengthen energy security for both countries.

Today, some characterise the cooperative relationship between both countries as one based on shared distrust towards western hegemony in global affairs – a fact made evident by sanctions imposed on Russia by NATO members due to conflicts in Ukraine and President Trump’s aggressive tariffs on imports from China. However, the traditional geopolitical rivalry between these two nations has recently shifted into a faithful partnership, arguably having one of the greatest impacts on international diplomacy within modern geopolitics.

Causes of the current tensions

The current tensions between China and Russia have only recently become apparent, but their roots date back several decades. In the 1950s, the two countries were united by a common ideology and close friendship, with each state supporting the other in times of need. However, in the past few decades, this relationship has frayed considerably.

One of the primary causes of this strain is their diverging economic interests. Russia relies heavily on its energy exports to China and other regions, while China has been working hard to develop its energy resources. Furthermore, Russia’s stagnating economy has made it reluctant to invest into Chinese projects.

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Another cause for tension is their shifting outlooks on regional balance of power dynamics. For example, in recent years both countries have openly butted heads over issues such as regional security alliances and international affairs in Europe and Asia. Moreover, the increasing complexity of some disputes has also led to disagreements along geopolitical lines between Beijing and Moscow.

Finally, a range of domestic political issues within each nation further complicates matters – including immigration policies and government corruption levels – which could exacerbate existing divisions between China and Russia’s leadership teams over matters such as trade deals or diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries.

Current Challenges

The relationship between China and Russia is complex, and the idea of an ‘alliance’ between the two countries has been a topic of much debate. The two countries have come closer together in recent years and signed several high-profile agreements. However, there are still many issues that must be overcome to make their partnership truly successful.

In this article, we will look at the current challenges facing the China-Russia ‘alliance’, and try to assess whether or not it is a genuine or limited partnership.

Economic and trade relations

Economic and trade relations between Russia and China are now at their highest level in history, with bilateral trade reaching $100 billion in 2018. In the past 40 years, there has been an increase from just $2 billion in 1979 to the current level, indicating that both countries have benefited greatly from mutually beneficial cooperation.

Despite impressive growth, however, underlying issues and challenges still face the present-day relationship between Russia and China. Chief among them is that Moscow can now only depend heavily upon Beijing as a source of hard currency trade due to economic sanctions by Western governments targeting its oil companies. This means not only the vulnerability of the Russian economy dependent on Chinese investors, but also limits its available sources of foreign investment.

Regarding energy supplies, China is increasingly interested in accessing alternative sources outside Russia, which would give it greater energy security and flexibility in pricing negotiations with Russian suppliers. Additionally, the two countries are currently negotiating over gas reserves along their common border which may become a source of economic tension going forward if agreement cannot be reached soon.

More broadly, some debate has been about whether Russia-China political unity will last. Both approaches to foreign policy and interests vary significantly across multiple international issues such as North Korea or Syria. Moreover, it remains to be seen if bilateral ties based mostly on cultural factors such as tradition can withstand countervailing pressures from external actors like the United States or European Union.

Military and security relations

The nature of China and Russia’s military and security relationship is complex. Throughout its history, the two countries often had tense relations in this field as both sought to subsume their geopolitical differences. In recent years, however, military and security cooperation between the two countries has increased with efforts to build a collective security system in the region. This has included joint naval exercises, new arms sales deals, intelligence sharing, and discussions about future cyber defence arrangements.

Currently, the main areas of military and security cooperation focus on regional stability issues such as Afghanistan, Central Asia’s “Great Game” activities, resolving counterterrorism threats, maintaining naval power in East Asia’s sensitive waters and improving border management. In addition, on a bilateral level there have been projects like joint peacekeeping exercises with global implications undertaken by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Russia’s armed forces. China is also keen to deepen mutual trust by integrating Chinese military operations into Russia’s national security framework under a “unified military strategy” framework that includes operational coordination on antiterrorism operations such as those in Chechnya. Moreover, Beijing has increased arms sales between China and Russia while buying Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 jet fighters for its arsenal in 2017.

However, these initiatives are limited by geopolitical disputes over regional dominance, which means that China and Russia must navigate through some delicate diplomatic terrain when jointly intervening in markets or resolving bilateral issues. Nevertheless both sides recognize that closer collaboration between their respective armed forces could significantly enhance both nations’ capacity for international interventions without resorting to confrontation – for example as seen recently with shuttle diplomacy regarding North Korea’s nuclear program or in their joint UN veto of US sanctions against Syria – representing a major milestone for Sino-Russian ties after years of distrust lingering from World War II era divisions along ideological lines.

Political relations

Political relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation remain complex, although improving in recent decades. The two countries continue striving for a mutually beneficial economic relationship, but distrust and political difficulties often hinder progress. Several significant aspects of the current Sino-Russian relationship can be explored in depth.

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One key issue is the territorial dispute between China and Russia over parts of the Far East. In 1991, following numerous discussions on disputed borders, Russia and China finally signed an agreement providing a framework for resolving this long-term dispute. However, disagreements remain regarding which parts of these territories belong to each country. Despite some attempts by Russia to improve ties with its eastern neighbour, it has been difficult for them to agree on these border issues due to strong nationalist sentiments in both countries. Despite this, both sides have managed to maintain cooperative relations through diplomatic talks and confidence-building initiatives.

The two countries’ second important area of focus is their militaries’ cooperation. Over the last few years China and Russia have conducted several joint military exercises such as launching satellites together in 2017 or operating various intelligence operations as part of their Friendship Program treaty from 2019-2020. Military ties are further strengthened through regular naval patrols conducted along China’s strategic waterway – the South China Sea – with ships from both sides representing each country’s interests equally in those areas.

Overall, both countries face various challenges ⁠in maintaining strong political relations due to their different socio-economic circumstances; however, they still exhibit great collaboration over collaboration when dealing with mutual interests such as shared security threats or naval patrols in South East Asia’s waters others.

Future Prospects

The current China-Russia partnership has seen an increase in bilateral cooperation, including trade and security. This has raised some questions in the international arena such as: is this partnership just a tactical convenience for both countries or a more long-term step towards a more formal alliance?

In this article, we will explore the prospects of the China-Russia relationship and try to answer these questions.

Possible solutions to current challenges

Despite the growing number of challenges in the China-Russia relationship, there are potential solutions which, if implemented, could help strengthen the partnership and enable it to flourish. Both countries have access to resources in terms of natural assets and human capital which, if exploited and channelled properly, could ensure mutually beneficial development for both nations.

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Firstly, both countries should look to open up more avenues of communication and share best practices on economic and social governance. This will enable them to find common interests and build an understanding of each other’s political and cultural systems. Furthermore, both countries should also work towards a common ground on regional security issues such as the Uighur issue or territorial disputes like those between China and Japan in East Asia.

At the economic level, increased mutual investments would drive innovation while allowing businesses from both countries to tap into each other’s markets. For this reason, bilateral investment facilitation agreements should be drawn up with incentives that encourage companies from China and Russia to set up joint ventures in one another’s markets. Additionally, both countries should strive for sustainable business practices that consider environmental protection standards to achieve development without harming the environment.

Finally, governments from both sides should facilitate official exchanges between students, executives and scholars for them to gain an insight into the cultures of one another’s societies; such learning experiences have helped bridge divides in many cases throughout history.

Potential for a stronger partnership

The potential for a stronger partnership between China and Russia is high. Numerous areas of collaboration have been identified, including multilateral governance of global issues such as trade, migration, climate change, security and energy. The two countries can also benefit from increased economic cooperation in infrastructure, transport and energy. Moreover, global powers with significant influence in the international system have a unique opportunity to develop a robust relationship that can concurrently address long-term challenges.

Multilaterally enhanced global rule-making initiatives provide an opportunity to develop better policy around key economic, geo-political and security issues such as regional stability, energy security and promotion of regional economic development. Bilateral currency convertibility frameworks will allow Chinese companies to organise investments more effectively across regions while maintaining the stability of capital flow in the region. Consolidation of transport infrastructure will further facilitate such investments while improving connectivity between both countries.

In addition to this more traditional form of engagement there have been increasing instances where China and Russia have worked together on technological initiatives such as high speed internet access for students in remote areas as well as space exploration projects that involve both countries’ space agencies collaborating on mission control systems for rockets It is clear that there is significant potential for the two great nations to leverage their respective forces towards shared interests and mutual growth which has only begun to be tapped into.

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