The strategic coupling of Sino-Russian relations

By Cui Heng
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 25, 2014
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Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) speaks during the fourth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), in Shanghai, east China, May 21, 2014. [Xinhua]

Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) speaks during the fourth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), in Shanghai, east China, May 21, 2014. [Xinhua]

Through hosting the CICA summit, China hopes that Central Asian countries will see Beijing's sincerity in deepening ties. The New Silk Road Economic Belt is a priority in the Chinese new leadership's deployment of peripheral diplomacy. Participating countries are all to some extent connected with the New Silk Road. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Beijing has showcased its determination in consolidating the ties with these countries for win-win outcomes, through the New Silk Road.

Apart from economic issues, the worsening security condition in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of coalition forces is a challenge for all the other countries in the region. The CICA remains the only mechanism so far to bring these countries together.

Although the CICA is currently only a dialogue mechanism, having the heads of these states sit down to talk is already progress. It will develop into a routine mechanism before long, as driven by all member states' wish to solve major issues in the region.

Russia, a major player in the CICA, will shift its strategic focus to the east, while trying to maintain the strategic stability in the west, with regard to its worsening relations with Western powers, as a result of the Crimea crisis. Russia will likely participate in more Asian affairs to seek development.

Russia's Minister for Development of the Russian Far East Alexander Galushka has said the Kremlin is reconsidering plans to develop Russia's far eastern regions. According to him, the plan, which will be unveiled next month at the earliest , is unlike its predecessors, in that the Russian government and the elite are seeking to integrate into Asia, ditching the traditional thinking of having major industrial projects lead the development.

In the preliminary stage, the plan will center on exporting industrial products oriented to Asia-Pacific market, given Moscow's contention with Western countries on the Ukrainian crisis has narrowed down its choices.

Sergei Karaganov, a prestigious Russian scholar, wrote in a report that the political and academic elite in Russia are changing their attitude to Moscow's Asia diplomacy and the development of Siberia.

There is a tendency in Russia to view the eastward shift in strategy as "unnatural," and a representation of centralized power, with regard to the country's political and cultural traditions. But Russian policymakers have generally understood that rapid growth in Asia will boost the development of the country's east regions.

The Far East is no longer the former Soviet Union's backyard in the era of Cold War, nor is it still the frontline, after Moscow snapped all links with China in the 1960s. The Far East is a source of momentum for Russia, not a colony.

Under these circumstances, the present China-Russia bilateral ties have transcended beyond being a relation between two ordinary major powers, and should be regarded as a relation that connects the two sides in a strategic coupling.

Enhancing bilateral trade and mutual investment will be very important in making the coupling happen, since the economic ties will facilitate growth in both countries, which in turn, will contribute to the stability of the global market. More importantly, the cooperation will prevent the two sides from being isolated in the international arena.

Putin's China visit has been fruitful. The two countries have signed a natural gas supply deal, and China's National Development Bank has agreed to provide a US$5 billion loan to Russia for the long-term development of its far eastern regions.

As we are hailing the best ever period in China-Russia relations, we must also recognize that the bilateral ties lack a solid foundation. The development of Russia's far eastern regions will provide an opportunity to upgrade relations.

China-Russia relations will enter a period of strategic coupling. Despite the benefit it will bring, China should not rule out the possibility that a strategic clash with Russia will occur. It will require wisdom to handle the process.

This author is a student working on his doctorate at the Russia Study Centre of East China Normal University.

This article was translated by Chen Boyuan. Its original unabridged version was published in Chinese.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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