Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Commission’s deliberations regarding the important relationship between China and Russia.
Since the end of the Cold War, the improved political and economic relationship between Beijing and Moscow has affected a range of international security issues. China and Russia have expanded their bilateral economic and security cooperation. In addition, they have pursued distinct, yet parallel, policies regarding many global and regional issues. Yet, Chinese and Russian approaches to a range of significant subjects are still largely uncoordinated and at times in conflict. Economic exchanges between China and Russia remain minimal compared to those found between most friendly countries, let alone allies. Although stronger Chinese-Russian ties could present greater challenges to other countries (e.g., the establishment of a Moscow-Beijing condominium over Central Asia), several factors make it unlikely that the two countries will form such a bloc.
“Best Ever” Relations
The relationship between the Chinese and Russian governments is perhaps the best it has ever been. The leaders of both countries engage in numerous high-level exchanges, make many mutually supportive statements, and manifest other displays of Russian-Chinese cooperation in what both governments refer to as their developing strategic partnership.
The current benign situation is due less to common values and shared interests than to the fact that Chinese and Russian security concerns are predominately directed elsewhere. Although both countries have experienced a geopolitical resurgence during the past two decades, Chinese and Russian security concerns are not directed at each other but rather focus on different areas and issues, with the notable exceptions of maintaining stability in Central Asia and constraining North Korea’s nuclear activities.
Most Chinese policy makers worry about the rise of separatist movements and Islamist terrorism in western China and about a potential military clash with the United States in the Asia-Pacific region, especially regarding Taiwan and the contested maritime regions of the South China and East China Seas. In contrast, most Russian analysts see terrorism in the North Caucasus, maintaining influence in Europe, and managing security relations with Washington as the main security challenges to their country. Neither Chinese nor Russian military experts perceive a near-term military threat from the other’s country. The Russian government has even provided sophisticated navy, air, and air defense platforms to the Chinese military, confident that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would only employ these systems, if at all, against other countries. In addition, China and Russia have resolved their longstanding border disputes as well as contained their rivalries in Central Asia, the Korean Peninsula, and other regions.
To read the full testimony, download the PDF.
More from CNAS
Congressional TestimonyHearing on the Crisis in Hong Kong: A Review of U.S. Policy Tools
Submitted Written Testimony Chairman Crapo, Ranking Member Brown, Honorable Members of the Committee— It is an honor to be asked to testify to you today on an issue of critica...
By Peter Harrell
CommentaryChina's post-Covid 19 'techno-nationalist' industrial policy
While Covid-19 brings China one step closer to technology-perfected authoritarianism through improvised health apps and real-time surveillance, Europe is busy looking inward. ...
By Rebecca Arcesati & Martijn Rasser
PodcastHong Kong Crisis
China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong to deter and punish what it calls “acts of secession or subversion.” Daniel Kliman, Senior Fellow and Director of the Asia-P...
By Daniel Kliman
CommentaryConverging Chinese and Russian Disinformation Compounds Threat to Democracy
In recent weeks the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) propaganda and disinformation blitz around COVID-19 has drawn increasing attention, and with good reason. In addition to pr...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor & David Shullman