Webcast: Sino-Russian Relations – An Increasingly Asymmetric Partnership
Alexander Gabuev on the Geopolitical Partnership Between Two Superpowers
How is Russia's relation with China evolving? Does the response to the coronavirus influence the relationship? Is the partnership between Russia and China a threat for Europe? Or did the cooperation between China and Russia reach its limits? Alexander Gabuev, senior fellow and the chair of the Russia in the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, on the geopolitical partnership between two superpowers.
Our Key Takeaways
The trend of China and Russia moving closer together predates the Crimea annexation in 2014. Gabuev mentions three reasons. First, it’s the second longest boarder Russia shares with another country. Both countries share an interest securing this boarder and started the demilitarization in the late 1980s under Gorbachev. Second, the nature of their economies is complementary. Russia exports a lot of commodities, particularly oil and gas, China is a big consumer. Third, both countries say they are democracies, but in reality, neither is – a good basis for talking comfortably. The Crimea annexation, followed by sanctions from the west, only intensified Russia’s pivot to China.
The Sino-Russian relationship is asymmetric, and both countries are aware of this. Unlike Russia, China’s power is continuing to increase. China’s economy is growing much faster and they are improving their military technologies. Nevertheless, in some areas, such as aircraft and missiles, Russia remains superior to China. China needs those capabilities right now because of the conflict in the South China Sea and Russia is willing to share technologies with China.
The economic recovery from the pandemic will be slow in Europe. With large state-driven investments, China’s demand for Russian commodities will probably pick up sooner. In the first quarter of 2020 China was the only country without a reduction in oil imports from Russia, 20% of Russia’s export went to China. That number will only grow. This creates a lot of dependency and a leverage for China to pressure Russia.
Although China and Russia share many perspectives – such as the fight against the west – there is a limit to the relationship as both countries share an ideology based on the notion of sovereignty.
Alexander Gabuev is a senior fellow and the chair of the Russia in the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center. His research is focused on Russia’s policy toward East and Southeast Asia, political and ideological trends in China, and China’s relations with its neighbors—especially those in Central Asia. Prior to joining Carnegie, Gabuev was a member of the editorial board of Kommersant publishing house and served as deputy editor in chief of Kommersant-Vlast, one of Russia’s most influential newsweeklies. Gabuev started his career at Kommersant in 2007 working as a senior diplomatic reporter, as a member of then president Dmitry Medvedev’s press corps, and as deputy foreign editor for Kommersant. His reporting covered Russia’s relations with Asian powers and the connection between Russian business interests and foreign policy. Gabuev has previously worked as a nonresident visiting research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and taught courses on Chinese energy policy and political culture at Moscow State University. In April-June 2018, Gabuev was a visiting scholar at Fudan University (Shanghai, China), and was teaching courses on Sino-Russian relations. Gabuev is a Munich Young Leader of Munich International Security Conference and a member of Council on Foreign and Defense Policy (Russia).