Optimists Have the Lead, for Now: Russia's China Debate   [open pdf - 111KB]

"Despite their differing approaches to post communist transition, Russia and China have established close political, military and economic relations. The two countries basically share the same views on principles governing international relations, emphasizing in particular their preference for a multipolar world.However, for Russia, China represents not only an opportunity for retaining global and regional influence but also a potential security threat as a rising great power, undergoing impressive military modernization and economic expansion, overpopulated and sitting astride the wide expanses of Russia's underpopulated Far East,where energy and other natural resources abound. The dissonance between the positive that has been achieved between Moscow and Beijing and the unpredictability of what lies ahead in the relationship between the two has triggered a lively debate in Russia's political, diplomatic, military and academic circles. There are several schools of thought in Russia regarding its relations with China. The optimists see China as a strategic ally against the West, while the pessimists believe China is Russia's largest threat. The differences of opinion on China can be drawn along ideological lines, strategic perspectives, geographic location or practical gains or losses of particular actors. The most controversial areas of Russo-Chinese relations are border issues, migration, arms sales, and energy cooperation. The intensity of Russia's China debate depends on the evolving correlation of national power between Russia and China, the fluctuating level of understanding between Moscow and the Russian Far East but also on the state of Russia's and China's uneasy relations with the United States. At the moment, the optimists prevail in the debate, which can be explained by the huge commercial benefits of cooperation with China as well as Beijing's reluctance to challenge Russia's global and regional interests, in contrast to the United States' more ambitious role in the world including the former Soviet republics."

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