Friday, July 31, 2015

Chasing the dragon: Russia's courtship of China

Russian leaders talk of a pivot to Asia and a strategic partnership with China partly to frighten the West. But behind the warm rhetoric, many Russians worry about China dominating their bilateral relationship, and China worries that Russia’s confrontation with the West will get out of hand. What China wants from Russia is an open road to Europe; but that is not part of Russia’s plan.

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.

Chart 1:

Chart 2: