Cooperation between Russia and China has deepened across nearly every dimension of their relationship, from diplomacy and defense to economics and technology. This growing cooperation threatens to challenge America’s national security interests and poses serious risks for liberal democracies. CNAS experts are sharpening the conversation about how the United States can respond to increased collaboration between China and Russia. Continue reading this edition of Sharper to explore their ideas and recommendations.
Navigating the Deepening Russia-China Partnership
Increased cooperation between Russia and China threatens to erode U.S. military advantages, strain an already stressed U.S. defense budget, and undermine America’s ability to uphold its commitment to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific. Moscow and Beijing’s growing alignment also poses serious risks for liberal democracies as Russia and China popularize authoritarian governance, water down human rights norms, and export their illiberal models of technology use. In a new CNAS report, experts Andrea Kendall-Taylor and David Shullman provide an in-depth examination of the deepening ties between Moscow and Beijing, the United States’ two most consequential adversaries.
Cooperation between China and Russia also extends to the information space. In a report released last May, CNAS experts argued that there is growing evidence of strategic convergence in Beijing and Moscow’s digital influence campaigns. Russian and Chinese efforts—underpinned by deepening diplomatic coordination and shared interests—have already proven mutually beneficial on issues ranging from 5G development to countering pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Partners, Competitors, or a Little of Both?
Moscow and Beijing have also stepped up their activities and cooperation in the Arctic, most visibly around resource extraction, the expansion of the Northern Sea Route, and the enhancement of operational awareness and security cooperation. In a new CNAS policy brief, experts Jim Townsend and Andrea Kendall-Taylor examine Russia-China relations in the region, the drivers of and constraints on future cooperation, and opportunities for navigating the nations’ partnership in the Arctic.
The Resilience of Sino-Russian High-Tech Cooperation
"For the United States, and for its allies and partners, a closer Russian-Chinese partnership could threaten national interests and security," argue Samuel Bendett and Elsa B. Kania in War on the Rocks. "U.S. attempts to isolate and constrain the progress of China and Russia in dual-use and military-relevant technologies, through measures such as export controls and sanctions, could be undermined by this partnership. This trend of authoritarian innovation has involved parallels in the use of emerging technologies, such as AI, for purposes of coercion and censorship."
Navigating the China-Russia Partnership
The United States faces a period of prolonged competition with China and Russia. As Beijing and Moscow continue to pursue military, technological, and political cooperation to the strategic detriment of the United States, how can Washington answer the challenge? In a CNAS video, experts Andrea Kendall-Taylor and David O. Shullman explain how America can navigate the China-Russia partnership by coordinating with allies and bolstering democracies around the world.
Mendacious Mixture: The Growing Convergence of Russian and Chinese Information Operations
"Moscow and Beijing’s alignment in the information space is amplifying the challenges that their individual tactics pose," writes Andrea Kendall-Taylor for the National Endowment for Democracy. "For example, both governments are now advancing the same or overlapping narratives, increasing the dose of their toxic messaging on a range of issues from the origins of the novel coronavirus to the CCP’s human rights violations in Xinjiang Province and the crackdown on democratic systems in Hong Kong. Such alignment has even been evident in the traditional media space, where both are building news and information networks outside their borders."
How the United States Can Protect Democracy From China and Russia
David Shullman and Patrick Quirk argue in The Hill that "Beijing and Moscow present distinct challenges and use different tactics to pursue their goals. But both contest democracy as the best model for governance and undermine its practice. China exploits and exacerbates governance holes in vulnerable countries, using corruption and a lack of transparency to conduct deals that undermine political trust. Russia has similar strategic corruption tactics to back its allies within countries and undermine actors with ties to the United States and Europe."
The Russia-China Defense Relationship
In June 2020, experts Mike Kofman and Alexander Gabuev joined hosts Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend on an episode of Brussels Sprouts to explain the defense relationship between Moscow and Beijing.
How Harsh U.S. Sanctions Are Advancing Chinese and Russian Interests Abroad
"Over the last four years, harsh U.S. sanctions have pushed Venezuela and Iran further into the arms of traditional U.S. adversaries," write Jason Bartlett and Emily Jin in The National Interest. "China and Russia seek to exploit this collective enmity toward the United States through offering economic lifelines, advanced technology, and military training programs to Caracas and Tehran in defiance of U.S. sanctions."
In the News
Featuring commentary and analysis by Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Carisa Nietsche, and Jim Townsend.
About the Sharper Series
The CNAS Sharper series features curated analysis and commentary from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges in U.S. foreign policy. From the future of America's relationship with China to the state of U.S. sanctions policy and more, each collection draws on the reports, interviews, and other commentaries produced by experts across the Center to explore how America can strengthen its competitive edge.
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