The Russian authorities like to claim that they have a lot in common with China: both emerging economic powers, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, but above all both non-Western and perhaps even anti-Western powers. A recent report by the influential and well-connected Russian International Affairs Council argues that “the bond between Moscow and Beijing…will serve as basis for creating a ‘non-American’ world”. As Russia’s relationship with the West has deteriorated as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, Russian officials have talked more about a Russian ‘pivot to Asia’.
Economically, the countries are a good fit: China imports raw materials and exports finished goods; Russia mostly exports raw materials (especially oil and gas, which made up over 70 per cent of its exports in 2013) and imports finished goods (Chart 1 and 2). The Chinese economy dwarfs the Russian, however: $10.3 trillion versus $1.8 trillion in 2014.