A Shift in the Sino-Russian Relationship?

News | March 28, 2013

On March 27, Dr. Marcel de Haas presented a new report on security relations between China and Russia at EWI’s Brussels center. Dr. de Haas is a Senior Research Associate at the Netherlands-based Clingendael Institute, which facilitated the event in cooperation with EWI.

There is, according to the paper, a “new order in the relationship between Moscow and Beijing, in which China is no longer the junior partner.”

Titled “Russian–Chinese Security Relations: Moscow’s Threat from the East?” the report reviews positive and negative aspects of the relationship. It also considers the role of Western nations in the future of Sino-Russian relations.

The paper, released in the wake of Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Russia (his first as China’s President), maintains that China’s rapid growth has shifted the nature of this bilateral relationship, which has largely been based on energy and arms transactions.

 “When China has reached enough independence from Russia in military technology and has created sufficient alternative ways of gaining energy,” it argues, “Beijing might well ‘dump’ Russia as a ‘strategic’ partner.”

That raises the possibility of a more positive relationship between Moscow and the West. De Haas maintains that recent Sino-Russian political cooperation was mostly due to opposition towards Western policies, not the result of a “genuine desire for country-to-country political cooperation.” Following China’s so-called “dumping,” Russia may find itself resorting to an alignment with Europe and the United States on security issues.

In attendance were 32 Brussels-based academics, NGO officials and diplomats. Representatives from Russia and China voiced objections to the report’s claims of a fracturing relationship, maintained that although Sino-Russian relations consist of different approaches and interests, China and Russia’s roles are complementary, not confrontational.