In the late spring and early summer of 2021, Russians intensely discussed China even as they reaffirmed negative assessments of Biden’s foreign policy. Some pressed for a formal alliance with China, while others cautiously drew attention to problematic aspects of Sino-Russian relations. More details about what is troubling this relationship came to the surface and even warnings that things could get worse with an appeal for Russia to rethink ties to Japan and South Korea. “Wolf warrior” diplomacy, which is even directed at Russia, was blamed for a worsening image of China and China’s worst move against India. The Korean Peninsula drew Russian interest as well. Articles assessed both the way Russia should view North Korea and the Moon-Biden summit in May. Above all, a divergence in viewpoints was more evident than at any point in recent years, but it is not clear that warnings are taken seriously by Putin.
In Kommersant on May 27, Biden’s approach to North Korea was treated positively. He was seen as seeking a solution to the Korean problem in cooperation with regional players, which includes Russia, and as preparing to discuss the DPRK problem with Putin in Geneva. Approval for Seoul to begin production of its own ballistic missiles (it has technologies for creating missiles of any range, up to intercontinental ones) and for the first time to achieve “missile sovereignty” is explained as a response to North Korean threats. Especially of value is the rejection of the idea of concluding a bilateral “big deal” between Washington and Pyongyang, which does not require participation of other states previously involved in the Six-Party talks on a Korean settlement. This theme is reinforced through mention of the head of the National Assembly of South Korea Pak Byung-suk’s visit to Moscow that week, appealing to Russia to play a more active role in such a settlement. This article offers hope for multilateral diplomacy.
Andrei Lankov in Valdai Club wrote that North Korea has gone back to a planned economy. The reforms are over, as punctuated at the 8th Congress in January 2021. After actively studying in 2012-15 the Chinese experience, notably with its early reforms under Deng, the current crisis was prompted, readers are told, by risky behavior by the North Koreans, incorrectly assessing Trump and calculating that provocations in 2017 would lead him to make serious concessions. The DPRK sought recognition as a de facto nuclear power in return for partial concessions, only to face severe sanctions and China’s enforcement of them apart from periodic local violations. After all, China emphasizes the sanctity of the UN and international law. The pandemic further isolates North Korea, worsening the economic situation, and leading a sharp turn toward state takeover of the economy, repeating the 2005-09 reversals of economic reform, Lankov argues.
Konstantin Batanov on June 2 in Zavtra wrote that the US dreams that South Korea’s missiles will target China as well as North Korea, but Seoul strives to keep its distance from the obvious anti-Chinese steps of the Americans. In response to such “peaceful” actions, one can expect that North Korea will conduct another missile test. In Russia, many media outlets like to demonize North Korea, as articles point to its famines, dictatorship, stagnation, and a complete lack of prospects. However, the situation is gradually changing. Batanov explains that the Chinese and North Koreans are doomed to be friends for both political and economic reasons, although sometimes there are short-term periods of cooling in relations. The DPRK needs the support and protection of China, and China needs a buffer between it and the US ally, South Korea. For the DPRK, China is the main trading partner that supplies all the necessary goods and is also the main market. It is showing amazing resilience in the face of international sanctions, and it is monitoring the progress of economic reforms in China and Vietnam and is gradually introducing some elements of “openness.” New trends in the economic development of the DPRK are gaining momentum. A couple of years ago, North Korean supermarkets mainly contained Chinese and Japanese goods, now the range of locally produced goods is steadily increasing, which is taken as a positive development.
The authorities turn a blind eye to the growth of the private sector, Batanov adds, arguing that.
international sanctions have been imposed in order to “weaken the regime” and cause a change in political power. However, North Korea focuses on economic development and has good prospects to become one of the Asian dragons—three prerequisites for which are rich natural resources, an educated, “high quality,” hardworking population, and close relations with China (thus, access to Chinese investment). It can be expected that in order to attract foreign investment, the country’s leadership will pay serious attention to the construction and modernization of infrastructure, both on its own and by attracting Chinese investors and contractors. The solution of the Korean problem will make the presence of the American military on the peninsula unnecessary, and this does not fit into the US plans to contain China.
Also, Batanov regrets that many Russians began to treat the Soviet period of their history with disdain (with the help of Western propaganda and liberals), and this attitude was projected to other socialist countries, including China and the DPRK. But if the attitude towards China among the majority of Russians has changed, that towards North Korea remains the same. Given the strategic location of North Korea and its economic potential, Russia should be more actively involved, politically and economically. There are not enough workers in Russia, so the Russian leadership recently made a statement that it plans to attract migrants from Central Asia. At the same time, North Koreans work in Korean restaurants in Beijing and Moscow, at a forestry complex in the Russian Far East, and at some other facilities in Russia and China. It might make sense to use the North Korean labor force more widely in the Russian economy. At least there would be fewer issues with discipline and violation of the law than when attracting Central Asian residents. It may be advisable to invite the DPRK to join the EEC and the SCO, he concludes, presenting the case that Russia should ignore global sanctions and woo the North.
Rossiiskaya Gazeta on May 23 carried Oleg Kiryanov’s article on the ROK-US summit, where Washington received a promise from Seoul to invest $40 billion in high-tech facilities badly needed by the United States, as well as guarantees that the ROK will continue to pursue the foreign policy of the US. In exchange, the US lifted all restrictions on the development of missile technologies by South Korea, and it also agreed to cooperate in the field of nuclear energy, space, and vaccine production, as well as solving the North Korean problem. The Americans also showed the South Korean leader a number of signs of special attention, thus giving the South Korean media the opportunity to note with pleasure that the Korean leader was received better than the Japanese leader had been. Judging by the publications of the South Korean media, they managed to “beat” the Japanese. Compared with the Biden-Suga dinner on April 16—when due to the coronavirus, the leaders sat at a considerable distance—Biden and Moon Jae-in sat much closer, without masks. Biden and Suga had dinner for only 20 minutes, and the US president sat with Moon almost twice as long, at 37 minutes.
Moon wants inter-Korean dialogue, trying to persuade Washington (completely unsuccessfully) to soften its approach. Sources in the White House also did not hide the fact that they did not like many of the statements of people from Moon’s inner circle, expressing “zeal” in inter-Korean cooperation. There was veiled refusal of the South Koreans to join various United States initiatives to contain China in both the political and economic and technological spheres. In addition, South Korea was in no hurry to follow the US calls to improve relations with Tokyo, both at the bilateral level and within the framework of the trilateral quasi-union. Judging by the final statement and other documents, Seoul and Washington really tried to dodge “sharp corners” as the US committed to the spirit of the inter-Korean Panmunjom Declaration and the US-North Korean Joint Statement in Singapore. Biden pledged support for efforts to promote inter-Korean dialogue—important for the South Korean government, which in response signed on to the importance of trilateral coordination in the US-ROK-Japan format. The South Koreans significantly conceded on the “Chinese question.” Although the word “China” was never mentioned in the joint statement, it was seen in the coordination of the “New Southern Policy in Southeast Asia” and the vision of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” region. At US insistence, the statement expressed support of multilateral regional initiatives, including the Quad—clearly anti-Chinese, it is asserted.
South Korea promised to invest almost $40 billion in the development of production in the US in the coming years, which will affect computer chips, semiconductors, batteries for electric vehicles, new vehicle manufacturing facilities, and others. For the US, this is a very serious gift. South Korea covertly made it clear that on the most important issues it will be on the side of the United States. It can be assumed that the ROK will soon join the Quad in one form or another. South Korea will be able to create long-range ballistic missiles “to respond to threats other than North Korean threats”—that is, from China, Russia, and Japan. It is unlikely that this will be welcomed in Beijing, where the results of the summit have already been quite critically characterized. It is highly likely that, given the planned visit of Xi Jinping to Seoul this year, China will puzzle over how to neutralize the US achievements. Now Russia will face a new competitor for missile launches and Rosatom for nuclear reactors.
The case for a Russia-China alliance
Yuri Tavrovsky in Zavtra on May 20 continued his string of presentations arguing for an alliance. He credits China with taking up the “red banner of socialism,” which Moscow had dropped, and with successfully passing the tests of COVID-19 and the Cold War unleashed by the US, which saw a sharp increase in tariffs on Chinese exports and tightened sanctions against high-tech companies, under the pretext of technical espionage, and “adding fuel to the fire” in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, while instigating separatists in Taiwan. The Communist Party is essential for repelling the US attacks, by mobilizing the forces and intelligence of 1.4 billion Chinese, and primarily, 92 million communists. In this situation, the role of the ruling party is to be the brain of the nation and its nervous system.
According to Tavrovsky, few doubt that by 2049 the “second centenary goal” of overtaking the US will be achieved. Looking back, he blames the gap between word and deed played a fatal role in the fiasco of the CPSU and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moscow let go of the red banner, which only seemed to have been defeated forever. But the triumph of the anti-communists turned out to be premature. Before our very eyes, the Chinese Communist Party is raising the red banner ever higher, inspiring optimism in the supporters of the socialist path of development around the world. “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” beats “capitalism with American characteristics.” Successes are by no means accidental; they are the result of the application of a socio-political system called “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” It becomes obvious that this system is superior. Pointing to the genetic relationship of the CPSU and the CCP, he says the CCP has proved its right to fulfill its historic mission. Tavrovsky adds that Xi Jinping clearly did not want to get involved in the Cold War started by Trump and is trying to avoid escalation under Biden, who inherited from Obama the ideology of neoconservatism and is resuming a “crusade” in the name of the American “shining castle on the hill” by “neocons” who consider themselves the guardians of the “holy grail” of the American way of life, the ideas of American exceptionalism, and global hegemony.
On June 8 in Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Tavrovsky warned against any new split with China, recalling that the ideological spat of the 60s and 80s ignored national interests and led only to tragic consequences. Moscow was forced to wage a confrontation “on two fronts,.” one of the reasons for the weakening of the Soviet Union. Lately, diplomats have begun to add new definitions to the “strategic partnership”: the “new era” appeared during the meeting between Putin and Xi in June 2019. Since 2010, the PRC has held first place among the trading partners of Russia, which is increasing the share of non-primary goods in exports, and supplies of agricultural products and foodstuffs are growing especially rapidly. The growing prosperity of the Chinese and Beijing’s emphasis on imports from friendly countries open up endless prospects for Russian manufacturers. After his March meeting with Sergei Lavrov, Wang Yi announced the need to fill the existing relations with new content. The main topic of possible negotiations will be the achievement of synergy between the two countries in the face of the “onslaught to the East” of the collective West, Tavrovsky predicted.
In Politika on July 10, Tavrovsky responded to Xi Jinping’s speech on July 1 by saying China has completed a large chapter of its history and opens a new chapter. Xi Jinping fulfilled his promise in 2012 to create a Xiaokang society by 2021 with a doubling of per capita income and the complete elimination of absolute poverty. The new program, called “socialist modernization,” is the second phase of his “China Dream,” which runs until 2049, by which time China will become the most powerful power in the world. Xi Jinping in his speech voiced the important idea that China has created a new world economic order, combining the best aspects of a market economy with the best features of a socialist planned economy—all under the leadership of the Communist Party. Its members are “personal computers” and party organizations are computer “hubs,” which are credited with working extremely efficiently.
The US is building a kind of “anti-Chinese International,” but the West is so connected with China that this will fail. Tavrovsky cites the case of Australia, which picked a quarrel with China by demanding to find out the source of COVID-19, leading China to reduce imports to a minimum, leaving the Australians to simply squeal in pain. One can hinder the flow of technology, painful for the Chinese, but countermeasures work. The US does not care about the fate of the Taiwanese and will abandon them. It is only trying to weaken China, as it is doing in the hotbeds of separatism—Hong Kong, Tibet, or Xinjiang—but the Chinese realize that they are living in a cold war and tighten controls since no “color revolutions” are permissible. Pressuring Russia and China, probing their determination to retaliate, only pushes them towards each other, it is asserted.
In Perspektivy 1, 2, Tavrovsky put the 2001 treaty with China—on July 16 celebrating its 20th anniversary—in historical perspective, recalling prior treaties the “zigzag” of history. Of all issues during the nadir of the 70s-80s, the territorial one was especially consequential in the psychological war, but around 1989 Beijing turned its attention to threats leading to unrest and Moscow to the halting pace of perestroika. The 2001 treaty could not extinguish all clashing stereotypes or trade difficulties, but the strategic component mattered far more. From the summer of 2019 serious discussion in expert circles began on a treaty of alliance in response to the Cold War unleashed by Trump and the reality that both US political parties now indulge in Russophobia and Sinophobia. Groups of experts in Moscow and Beijing have, thus, proposed transforming de-facto alliance ties into actual ones. Yet others with influence categorically reject a new alliance or respond with skepticism. As the West has acted with more hostility, the polemics have intensified. Putin’s October 22, 2020 did not rule out what appeared to be an alliance, leading Beijing to respond that there are no limits or forbidden zones for broadening bilateral relations. The first hundred days of the Biden administration have further dispelled illusions in Moscow and Beijing. If in China there continue to be qualms about entering into any alliance, the rise of anti-Chinese feelings linked to COVID-19 and the consolidation of a pool against China makes it fully possible that this approach will create a mutual protagonist. In late May, talks were held between Nikolai Patrushev and Yang Jiechi on new contents for the renewal of the 2001 treaty. Even after the 2004 supplementary agreement on the border, mass media and blogs in China repeat pretenses for Russian territory. Even Chinese tourists visiting the Russian Far East make statements in this spirit, leaving notes in books for visitors to museums and arousing tensions among Russians. The border issue must be fixed and finalized in a single document, putting an end to speculation about history, Tavrovsky added, seeking new talks.
On June 20, Nezavisimaya Gazeta carried Vladiimir Skosyrev’s article explaining that Putin will go to Beijing to tell Xi that the enemy did not make an inch of progress toward its goal of weakening Russia-Chinese ties. After all, the visit was planned to mark the 20th anniversary, not to reassure after the Putin-Biden summit, with talk of raising them to the level of a military alliance. Russia and China are already working together to create advanced fighters, hypersonic technology, highly effective radars, inter-service communications systems in combat, nuclear power plants for submarines, and night vision devices. If China was hesitant just months ago to speak favorably of an alliance, recently it has come under unprecedented collective pressure from the United States and its allies, as in the G7 and NATO statements in June. The article asks whether China is ready to defend itself if it is threatened, and it cites various Chinese analyses to indicate it is moving toward approval of an alliance. Yet it cautions about Chinese thinking on Russian territory and calls for a separate border agreement in a renewed bilateral treaty.
On July 1, Ivan Timofeev and Vasily Kasin in Rossiya v Global’noi Politike wrote that the US shift to containment of China in 2018 was, to a certain extent, a shock for the Chinese foreign policy community, both officials and experts. Over more than thirty years of peaceful development China had concentrated entirely on the interests of modernization and economic growth, while pursuing a passive foreign policy in all areas that did not affect its so-called “fundamental interests,” which meant independence, territorial integrity, and the political system, as well as the most important interests of economic development. A full-fledged economic war began, no longer waged for the sake of changing any aspects of Beijing’s behavior in the international arena, but with the aim of radically weakening China, or even changing the ruling regime in the country. Biden’s determination to rally allies on the anti-Chinese platform and other measures of pressure on Beijing exceeded forecasts. The CCP course towards other industrially developed Western countries is aimed at preventing Washington from forming a united front for the technological and economic isolation of the PRC. In the current conditions, China is striving to reduce political differences with Japan, South Korea, and the EU, creating incentives for them to pursue a line independent of the US in economic relations, which they were able to do despite US pressure until the US had success in attracting them onto an anti-China course in June. The PRC’s increasingly widespread use of measures of economic pressure on those who pursue a hostile policy saw in 2020 a new instrument for pursuing a formalized sanctions policy—a list of unreliable organizations, which acted against Beijing’s interests in any way. China is intensifying economic and technological cooperation with the BRICS countries, including Russia first of all, by sanctioned companies such as Huawei, which sharply increased the number of its Russian research units, expanded the network of partnerships, and works with high-tech companies.
From the spring 2020, “wolf warrior” foreign policy rhetoric was radicalized with an obsessive demonstration of China’s successes and the advantages of the Chinese political system led by the CCP over any foreign counterparts. This had negative consequences, among them the demarches of the foreign ministries of a number of countries and the fallout from India-China border clashes in June 2020, leading to an apparent drift of India towards partnership with the US and undermining Sino-Indian economic cooperation. The events of late 2020 – early 2021—destructive to the prestige of the United States, including discrediting of its electoral system, storming of the Capitol, and deepening split of American society—will apparently contribute to the consolidation of the trend towards more aggressive international behavior of China, and the Chinese strategy for a new confrontation between the superpowers may acquire its final shape by the end of this year. Nowhere is doubt cast on close Sino-Russian ties.
The case against a Sino-Russian alliance
For a different take on the 20th anniversary of the treaty, one need only look at Igor Denisov and Aleksandr Lukin on July 1 in Rossiya v Global’noi Politike. They noted that when Lavrov visited China in March there was agreement on extending it for five years, as stipulated in the text. They also credit Beijing with strategic patience and pragmatism. Given Russia’s size, they argue that both countries are too big for one of them to become a clear leader, while most modern alliances are held together by the authority and power of such a leader. They also add that the interests of the two do not completely coincide; therefore, any bilateral documents should allow some backlash so that actions to implement differing interests can proceed.
As for the territorial issue, the treaty had declared the “absence of reciprocal territorial claims,” which was followed in 2004 by the end of territorial disputes. However, the authors warn, this is not a guarantee; If radical nationalists come to power in one of the countries, they may demand to revise it, although, so far, this is unlikely. China does not have a clear position regarding the ownership of the South Kuril Islands, while Russia does not have a clear position on the islands and reefs of the South China Sea. After the Crimea became part of the Russian Federation, these discrepancies became even more obvious, since the PRC does not officially recognize it as part of Russia. Given this and other realities, the authors call for a flexible and practical mechanism of interaction within the framework of a close strategic partnership without fixed alliance commitments.
They also raise questions about what will happen as the overall balance of power between the two countries changes sharply in favor of the PRC, observing that the power accumulated by China has led to serious changes in foreign policy. If at the macrolevel Russia and China declare common views on the evolution of the international system, then in practical terms, with the growth of Chinese global coverage, it may be more difficult for Moscow to build relations with Beijing on the basis of the principles proclaimed in the Russian Foreign Policy Concept: independence and sovereignty, pragmatism, transparency, multi-vector, predictability, non-confrontational defense of national priorities.
Pointing to “wolf warrior” diplomacy as the new style of Chinese diplomacy and an assertive foreign policy, which mainly concerns countries considered opponents in Beijing and in which China is itself subjected to harsh and open criticism, they note that it has begun to touch upon Russia. The first sign may have been a July 2016 article in Global Times, which asserted: “The constant Russian accusations of the United States of hegemony and interference in the internal affairs of other countries are true, but overshadowed by hidden factors. Russia really wants to do what it accuses the United States of itself.” Russia’s charge d’affaires wrote a response in the paper. This new tone of Chinese assertiveness is not just for hostile states and is supported by a significant share of the elite, while the leadership does not appear to want to change this.
On June 17 in the same source, Lukin said the Putin-Biden summit in Geneva means Russia continues to be viewed as a major player in the field of nuclear weapons by the US and that Beijing traditionally views any agreement between Moscow and Washington with suspicion, including among those who see Moscow drawing closer to Beijing only to boost its position in the confrontation with the West and ready to quickly switch sides if conditions are favorable. Lukin proceeds to list problems in Sino-Russian relations. A March 2019 report claimed that an official at the Chinese embassy had threatened to blacklist Nezavisimaya Gazeta for an article he did not like. There is discrepancy between Chinese TV companies operating freely in Russia and Russian satellite TV being available only in expensive hotels, as publications of Rossiya Segodnya in Chinese social networks are often deleted or access to them is restricted. Further, exchanges through the media are becoming more and more asymmetrical: publication of Russian works on relevant topics in China is possible only if they do not contradict the official position of Beijing. The control has been significantly tightened recently in contrast to Russian publishing of a significant number of translated Chinese materials on history, politics, and international relations, many reflecting Beijing’s official approaches, which are not shared by most Russian researchers. The complex of “lost territories” is constantly being fed in China, as in the summer of 2020 criticism of the celebration of the 160th anniversary of Vladivostok in Russia supported by some scholars and journalists, including Hu Xijin of Global Times. A Chinese museum near Moscow offers a Chinese version of the CCP while Russians are not even allowed to enter many museums in China that are dedicated to the history of Russian-Chinese relations.
As a result, Lukin finds, in Russia, among the heads of enterprises and in the special services, fears about the new “assertiveness” of the Chinese partners are growing. It is hard to cooperate in natural sciences, where, more and more often, Russian scientists are convicted for the transfer of classified information, while in the social sciences, cooperation is increasingly hampered by ideologization and censorship. Chinese students and teachers even interfere with educational activities in Russian universities in order to bring them in line with official Chinese ideology. Russian authorities are taking measures to contain the emergence of new Confucius Institutes. An agreement was reached that the number of Russian centers in China and Confucius Institutes in Russia should be equal. In some cases, law enforcement agencies even tried but failed to suspend the work of some Confucius Institutes for allegedly illegal activities.
There has also been a shift in Russia’s attitude to BRI. In 2017 and 2019, Putin was the main guest at the BRI forums, and Moscow continues to express full support; however, at a June 2020 international videoconference at the level of foreign ministers, the ambassador-at-large spoke from Russia and the minister sent only a written greeting. The practical effect for Moscow from the pompous events of Beijing is proving insignificant. Moscow explains that it only signs bilateral documents on cooperation with Beijing within the framework of the BRI initiative as a member of the EEU, interacting with just the Silk Road Economic Belt. In turn, Beijing prefers to do business with smaller members of the EEU on a bilateral basis. For the first time in January 2021, Russia’s representative to BRI publicly noted risks for Russia in this cooperation. Lukin calls for diversification to Japan and South Korea, which have refrained from escalating sanctions along with the US, as well as with India and the states of ASEAN.
All previous definitions of the nature of Russian-Chinese relations were formulated by Moscow, but China now insists on formulating the narrative in bilateral documents with terms such as a “community of a common destiny” or “a new era of Russian-Chinese relations,” the source of which is Xi’s theory of a new era of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, or the definition of democracy in the March 2021 Lavrov-Wang Yi statement. Lukin concludes, “Going over to the side of China is neither in the interests of Russia as a country trying to become an independent center of influence in Eurasia, nor in the historical self-identification of its population, whose dependence on anyone is hardly possible. Therefore, the most reasonable option is to hedge risks, insuring against excessive dependence.
In the face of the PRC’s confrontation with the West, Moscow’s importance also increases for Beijing. The shift in Beijing’s mood is visible. For instance, in an interview with Wang Yi in January 2021, he does not repeat the traditional Chinese approach “not to join an alliance, not to arrange confrontation and not to target third countries,” but advances three new principles in relations between the two countries in which there is no upper limit. Despite the declared cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, however, China did not respond to Russia’s request to provide strains of the virus. Such competitive contradictions, especially when it comes to the role of the two countries in the provision of global public goods, are likely to become more common, Lukin warns. In the coming struggle between techno-economic blocs, the assumption that Russia is ready to form an “authoritarian digital alliance” with Beijing is a myth. After all, national security interests make it equally distrust both Western and Chinese 5G technologies. Perhaps sensing these sentiments, Beijing will try to further test Moscow’s willingness to go for something more than a strategic partnership, Lukin warns.
Yet the new realities do not allow Russia to speak of the possibility of a fundamental change, e.g., a reorientation towards rapprochement with the West: the confrontation has reached an extreme degree, and history has shown that such a rapprochement is acceptable to the West only if it is carried out at the expense of infringing on the national interests of Moscow. Close interaction with China, perhaps forever, will remain a political and economic necessity for Russia. At the same time, the new Chinese interest in Russia creates an opportunity to correct the bias that has developed in recent years towards Beijing, which threatens to move from hedging to bandwagoning. Lukin opposes drawing closer, but he rejects pulling away as well.
Timofei Bordachev on April 15 in Rossiya v Global’noi Politike argued that in addition to the fact that Moscow and Beijing adhere to common views on the most important issues of the international order, many of the practical problems facing them can be more effectively solved by combining their efforts. However, it is equally important that relations remain stable as a new global balance of power is formed. To do this, it is necessary to imagine now what problems real multipolarity—the most desirable state of international politics—can bring. The two have many objective reasons for compromise, as seen in the absence of any fundamental split in the eight years since China began its turn to Central Asia—not because of the actions of the SCO, but from flexibility in concrete decisions about foreign policy and security not limited by the commonality of principles. Yet closer relations inevitably make this a larger problem, as antagonisms with other powers grow, as seen in the case of India, which does not at all seek to become part of the order led by the United States, but by its actions already deprives Moscow and Beijing of certain opportunities, and creates tactical advantages for Washington.
In Mezhdunarodnye Protsessy April-June, Andrey Vinogradov wrote about China’s project for greater Eurasia, explaining that the concept of a “community of the common destiny of mankind” does not mean universalization and unification, but, on the contrary, the right of countries and regions to a variety of development paths and forms of international interaction between small, medium, and large powers. The ongoing rivalry between China and the United States in Asia means not only a struggle for leadership in the region, but also a clash of two concepts of international order based on different approaches and values. The BRI has merged into China’s first global foreign policy strategy. China was not struggling actively against hegemony although it treated Russia as its main ally on international questions. It sought to turn the SCO into an all-around regional unit, especially with economic ties, but Russia blocked that and from 2005 sought India as a counterweight to widen the SCO not deepen it. In reality, China used this multilateral cooperation to penetrate Central Asia with bilateral ties.
China was forced to use a different strategy toward informal leadership in Southeast Asia and pulled back with promises of “peaceful development” until it saw the US retreat in 2008. The US “pivot to Asia” led to increased attention to the area with strategic goals. To institutionalize its new status, China found both the SCO and ASEAN centrality unsuitable; it launched its own regional mechanisms, building into an alternative platform to US-centrism. If the article insists that, unlike the US, China is not ideological or hegemonic, it also warns that BRI can threaten Russia’s plans for the post-Soviet space more than China’s economic plans for the SCO did. Russia has no choice but to openly accept China’s initiatives even if its integrations plans are blocked. After all, the BRI has no universal ideas behind it and Chinese civilization is not spreading. Russia’s military suffices to keep it in a good position despite its many economic shortcomings and the obvious pull of China’s economy, one reads in this mixed message.