Journal of Eurasian Studies (2017-07-01)

Russia and China in the 21st century. Moving towards cooperative behaviour

  • Silvana Malle

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 8, no. 2
pp. 136 – 150


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Political and economic rapprochement is taking place between Russia and China in a number of fields: energy, arms production, trade in national currencies and strategic projects in transport and supporting infrastructure. This development, fostered by Western policies and actions, including sanctions related to Ukraine, appears to be strengthening despite reservations related to uneasy precedents, contrasting visions and uncertain economic projections. Chinese policies aiming at European markets via the revival of the Silk Road assist this development. The One Belt-One Road is projected as an alternative, or supplement, to the maritime routes made unsafe by contiguous countries' unrest, criminality and the assertive control of the seas by the United States. While Russia, promoting friendly investment structures, moves eastwards to develop the Russian Far East bordering China, the latter expands westwards engaging in laborious negotiations with Central Asian countries and costly investments in infrastructure and logistics. In each area, the article maintains that both countries, despite economic and political competition and fear of losing control, have interest in cooperation and discusses the areas where this is taking place, albeit slowly and with difficulty. Whether economic cooperation can develop into a strategic alliance including defence is discussed in the light of joint military exercises, arms trade and plans to broaden the scope of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (of which India and Pakistan have recently become members), and the Common ASEAN Community. This path is difficult and marred by members' conflicting interests. But some positive outcomes should not be ruled out.