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CWA # 16, 5 June 2018

Global Politics
China and Russia: The New Alignments

  Divyabharathi E

The Russian development in the Asia-Pacific has happened with the benevolent help of China. This mutual interpenetration in the two countries' territories of geopolitical impact, on an apparently common basis, appears to point at a relationship set apart by symmetricity, complementarity, and reciprocity

Research Scholar, MA International Studies,
Stella Maris College, Chennai
 
In the late 1950s the decay of Sino-Russian relations paved way for the noteworthy meeting between U.S. President Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong in 1972. The posterity of that meeting was the Shanghai Communiqué, and the beginning of the Sino-American détente on one side and that Soviet control in the Asia-Pacific on the other, a divide that would characterize the relations between the two socialist nations for a considerable length of time to come.
 
It was only at the end of the Cold War that, despite remaining challenges like territorial disputes and illegal immigration in the Russian Far East, Sino-Russian relations began to thaw. The two countries left ideological divisions behind for a more pragmatic approach based on the pursuit of shared interests and countering common threats as the guiding leitmotif of their renewed cooperation. This process of rapprochement, despite the more pessimistic expectations, has steadily improved over time.
In 1992, President Boris Yeltsin visited China. In 1993 the two nations consented to a military arrangement, followed in 1996 by their first Strategic Partnership Agreement, and by various other agreements: the 2001 Treaty of Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation; the establishing of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization; and the 2012 Strategic Partnership, additionally redesigned in 2014. Meanwhile, a close personal relationship has created between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 
 
The closer ties set apart by this growing and complex system of agreements and personal relationships have worked out as intended, specifically, in the regions of arms deals, military technology exchanges, and energy deals. Vital advance was made additionally in the region of military relations where, regardless of the need to keep a credible level of deterrence, China and Russia have demonstrated an uncommon level of shared trust, as affirmed by China's ambassador to Russia, Li Hu, and by the developing number of joint military activities between the two countries. 
 
But what truly epitomizes the expanding trust the two countries have towards each other was the signing of an arrangement for the integration of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Putin's pet project, and the China-drove Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In the event that fruitful, the BRI-EEU in Central Asia will stamp one more advance toward the solidification of Sino-Russian relations, with essential ramifications for both Asia and the West.
 
The BRI and the EEU: Integration
When Xi declared the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, both Russia and the West were surprised. Specifically, a sanction stricken Russia appeared to have a justifiable reason to stress that the BRI could additionally debilitate its situation in Central Asia, Russia's backyard. Different assessments have pointed the same sceptical way, particularly in the light of the way that the two initiatives seem to contrast surprisingly as far as institutional setup and strategic goals. The two initiatives are altogether different. The BRI is a worldwide open trade centred venture, exemplifying the substance of the Chinese "going out" strategy and a messenger of globalized exchange and multipolarism with Chinese attributes. The EEU rather is an "inward-looking" trade coordination project conceived to enable Russia to keep hold of its Central Asian neighbours, and contain the extension of the EU or the United States in those areas. Notwithstanding the sceptical viewpoint, the connection amongst China and Russia has, in any case, kept on flourishing, thus have their plans to make a territory of co-prosperity under Sino-Russian control in Central Asia.
 
Politics of Sino-Indian Cooperation
The nature of the Sino-Russian entente seems to lay on an abnormal state of complementarity, correspondence, shared interests, and common threats. In this relationship, China and its BRI assume the part of the global enabler, with China propelling its model while likewise giving a genuinely necessary help to Russian economy and the EEU. The part of Russia, rather, is apparently forming to be that of a regional security provider, to the common advantage of the two countries.
 
What is in it for China?
Firstly, Russian impact and knowledge of provincial dynamics can convert into a substantial mitigation of risks and the expulsion of several hindrances for BRI project, diminishing expenses and expanding benefits. China would likewise appreciate direct access to Central Asia, giving a novel chance to grow new markets, fabricating centers, and even new urban communities along the way of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB). 
Secondly, Russian acknowledgement of Chinese intervention in Central Asia will enable the Middle Kingdom to assume an immediate part in the securitization and regime formation of the area, particularly concerning counter-insurgency activities aimed at keeping Uyghur from setting up places of safe havens in the region.
 
At last, this model of relationship can possibly establish the frameworks for the foundation of a center geopolitical space under exclusive Sino-Russian control in Eurasia, beyond the control of EU and American influence, in an area strategically situated between the developing markets of South, East, and Southeast Asia and the wealthy European markets.
 
What is in it for Russia?
The sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and the European Union as an outcome of its annexation of Crimea, and the progressing activities against Ukraine, joined with a downturn of oil prices, have made colossal damages to Russian trade and to its relations with Europe and the United States. The subsequent descending spiral is driving Russia down the way of a political-financial confinement. This has constrained Russia to move far from the West and discover alternative markets in different regions of the world, to bypass the sanctions and find new outlets for the Russian economy. 

Therefore, Russia has begun to take a look at the Asia-Pacific as a reasonable method to extend its business sectors and those of the EEU. In this point of view, reconciliation with the BRI can offer the EEU an advantaged trade channel to the business sectors of Asia-Pacific, furnishing Russia with an extraordinary chance to support its "going east" strategy. Aided by a relative deterioration of the United States, whose vacuum is being filled by developing Chinese influence in the region, Russia's shift toward the Asia-Pacific has brought about a line of successful deals. That includes the signing of various important agreements with the Philippines and Indonesia; an important Free Trade agreement between the EEU and Vietnam; and also closer trade relations with South Korea, one of the countries that has declined to authorize sanctions against Russia, a decision that has given a lift to South Korean-Russian exchange relations. 

The Russian development in the Asia-Pacific has happened with the benevolent help of China. This mutual interpenetration in the two countries' territories of geopolitical impact, on an apparently common basis, appears to point at a relationship set apart by symmetricity, complementarity, and reciprocity.
 
To conclude, despite all odds, Sino-Russian relations have evolved into increasingly closer cooperation underpinning the existence of a complex multidimensional geopolitical project driven by mutual interests and common threats. The two countries seem to have learned from the past that divisions don’t play well in face of common threats, in particular when it comes to their major competitor, the United States.

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