Reflections of Russia - China Relations on Global Politics: New Cold War and Interdependence

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After the end of the Cold War, relations between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation (RF) have developed dynamically, albeit seemingly unevenly. The possibility of a genuine strategic partnership between Russia and China seemed to be downplayed....

After the end of the Cold War, relations between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation (RF) have developed dynamically, albeit seemingly unevenly. The possibility of a genuine strategic partnership between Russia and China seemed to be downplayed. This perception began to reshape shortly before the pandemic, when China and Russia significantly increased their military cooperation. The actions of both countries during the pandemic have subsequently made the cooperation between Putin's Russia and Xi's China more visible.[1] The Asia-centered vision of the international system has become more evident in recent years, with a reading of the main motivations for the development of relations and a learning-learning progression in the context of Eastern actors in both domestic and foreign relations. China and Russia signed partnership agreements in 1994 and 1996 (the last being the Strategic Partnership). In 2001, the two countries signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, which stipulates that "when a situation arises in which one of the States Parties believes that peace is threatened, that its security interests are at stake, or that it faces the threat of attack, the Allies shall immediately contact and meet and confer."[2] With the 2001 RF-PRC agreement, China was given access to Russian military technology. This is an important multiplier against China's military alliances and armaments in the South China Sea. To this day, cooperation on military technology has been an important and symbolic element of Sino-Russian relations. Politically, Russian military aid and arms sales have helped support the broader diplomatic relationship. Within the military relationship, arms sales, equipment and logistics that the PRC has difficulty producing on its own, such as advanced aircraft, engines, and air defense systems for the PRC Air Force, are provided by Russia. However, China has repeatedly reverse engineered Russian technology to develop its own variant weapons and systems. While this has caused friction between Beijing and Moscow, going forward, arms sales may become a less important area of the relationship, or even a point of contention as the PRC advances in the production of defense systems and competes with Russia in the global arms industry.[3]

Multipolar System Envisioning

At the end of the Cold War, the theory of a "new world order" was very popular. It was first proposed in 1988 by Mikhail Gorbachev and then by US President George H.W. Bush. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and until the beginning of the new century, the world order debate seemed to have lost its meaning because the new world order had already taken shape. The main reason for this is that the dynamics of the system changed in a western-centered way as the US and its allies filled the vacuum left by the elimination of one of the actors in the bipolar Cold War order. Thus, in addition to the actors with effective and large capacities in the International Relations System, with the weaknesses taking on a central role, Russia and China's search for a new quest based on multipolarity or a quest to protect and advance their capacities within the framework of cooperation, which will not be undertaken by a sovereign actor or alliance, has been accepted.[4]

In the 1990s, there were some attempts by some Russian researchers (notably S.M. Rogov, K.E. Sorokin) to develop the theoretical basis of the multipolar world and clarify the concepts of polarity, in line with Russia's official profile under Foreign Minister E.M. Primakov. Subsequently, the concept of multipolarity moved from political discourse to a series of official documents. In this context, the 1997 China-Russia Joint Declaration is a central document. Its title is the Joint Declaration of the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation on the Establishment of a Multipolar World and a New International Order. Russian Foreign policy doctrines and the National Security Strategy also speak of multipolarity or the polycentric model. US doctrinal documents, for obvious reasons, do not directly mention the concept of a unipolar world, but use euphemisms associated with American global leadership. Thus, for a long time, Western actors did not pay enough attention to the multipolar non-Western discourse. However, the phase of "acceptance" of the inevitable took place approximately in 2007-2009. Indeed, the New York Times editorial "The New Consensus is a Multipolar World" (2007) described the emergence of a new reality in which China had "a parallel seat at the table with other power centers like Brussels or Tokyo". In November 2008, the US National Intelligence Council published its Global Trends 2025 report, which stated that within two decades a "global multipolar system" would emerge as one of the world's "relative certainties".[5] Although the multipolar system is seen as a militarized power competition between actors, it has an important place for the power dynamics within the system through the effective use of economic and commercial capacities. For example, with the rise of the EU, BRICS and G7 alliances, it is seen that a level of competition is tried to be established through organizations instead of states. Therefore, multipolarity can be understood as a way of structuring the global international system in which the main constituent parts are no longer individual states, but economic interest clusters united around the strongest centers of attraction and economic growth.


[1] Kuo, M. A. (2022, Ağustos 22). Russia-China Relations: Emerging Alliance or Eternal Rivals? The Diplomat: https://thediplomat.com/2022/08/russia-china-relations-emerging-alliance-or-eternal-rivals/
[2] IV, J. M. (2020)). Sino‑Russian Cooperation Against Liberal Hegemony. International Politics(57), 809–833. doi:https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-020-00213-z
[3] Hart, B., Lin, B., Funaiole, M., Lu, S., Price, H., Kaufman, N., & Torrijos, G. (2022). How Deep Are China-Russia Military Ties? Retrieved from China Power: https://chinapower.csis.org/china-russia-military-cooperation-arms-sales-exercises/
[4] Lukyanov, F. (2010). Russian Dilemmas in a Multipolar World. Journal of International Affairs(63), 19-32. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24384332
[5] Andreevich, D. D. (2019). Multipolar World Order: Old Myths and New Realities. Вестник РУДН. Серия: МЕЖДУНАРОДНЫЕ ОТНОШЕНИЯ, 404—419.

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