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Rethinking Russo-Chinese relations in Asia: beyond Russia's Chinese dilemma.


Bandwagoning with China against the United States and simultaneously covertly trying to restrain China have been the dominant motives of Russia's Asian policy in Northeast and Southeast Asia. Throughout the 2000s, due to this dual-track policy, Russia had resigned itself to its growing economic dependence on China and its role as an energy source to China. Between 2009 and 2011, Russia made a conscious effort to portray itself as an Asian player. However, Russia's failure to develop the Russian Far East (RFE) has forced it to "turn to China for help", and this has allowed China to begin building a new economic and security order in Asia at Russia's expense. The nature and direction of the Russo-Chinese "strategic partnership" under Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin is again becoming a subject of intense debate. The major assumption of this article is that it is unlikely that Russia would simply acquiesce in subordination to China without reacting to situations with negativity. Since 2012, to avoid overdependence on China, Russia has oriented itself not only towards China, but towards the whole spectrum of interests and opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region, spanning from Japan, South Korea and the United States, to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Russia is tapping into ChinaJapan tensions to encourage greater Japanese investments and commitment to the development of Siberia and the RFE, which would offset China's presence in the region and diminish Russia's current overdependence on Chinese investment and trade. Moscow prefers more Japanese presence, which also serves as a counterweight to China. Russia's energy cooperation with Japan has increased Moscow's negotiating space vis-a-vis China as well as the European countries. The permission granted by Vietnam to use Cam Ranh Bay means that Russia gains a foothold to expand its influence in Southeast Asia. The South China Sea is important for not only its abundant resources but also its strategic significance.

The objective of this article is to analyse the changing Russo-Chinese relations under Xi and Putin in the context of shifting Asia-Pacific international relations. The first section analyses the nature of Russo-Chinese relations. The second examines the impact of the US pivot to Asia on Russo-Chinese relations. The third section explains the Japanese factor in the Russo-Chinese relations and the final section examines the impact of Russia's renewed ties with Vietnam on Russo-Chinese relations.


Every official statement on Russo-Chinese relations from Moscow or Beijing reiterates that relations have never been better and postulates virtually identical interests shared by the two governments regarding Asian security. This relationship is a strategic partnership or even quasi-alliance, though both sides normally use the former term. The scale of cooperation between Russia and China is reflected in the extensive infrastructure of dialogue between the two states where regular contact is maintained at nearly all levels of central authority. (1)

The basis for China's strategic partnership with Russia lies in countering the global export of America's liberal values. Russia's professed political values (i.e., sovereign democracy) comport with the so-called "Asian values" much more than with the European ones. (2) To be sure, a higher degree of congruence exists in Russo-Chinese views of Asian issues, particularly when it comes to opposing US interests and values. The greatest significance of the China-Russia partnership may be that it creates an obstacle to the Western monopoly and protects the basic rights of the non-Western world, such as no external intervention in national interests and an acceptance of diverse political systems. Russia and China have frequently collaborated on the basis of a shared antipathy to US-led democracy promotion efforts and Washington's willingness to use force without the sanction of the UN Security Council. (3) The two states' "normative convergence", their virtually identical positions on North Korea, and demands for a new international financial, political and economic order, not to mention their critique of US democracy promotion and other policies--like NATO's Libya operation and Syrian policies--suggest even closer convergence in the future, often at the expense of the US and its allies, especially Japan.

In fact, Russo-Chinese closeness cannot be questioned and was openly proclaimed in the September 2010 Russo-Chinese joint proposal on Asia-Pacific security. This proposal for a new security order in Asia is based on "mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation". All states should respect each other's sovereignty (i.e., no criticism of their domestic politics), integrity (i.e., support for Russian and Chinese postures on outstanding territorial issues, the Kurile Islands, the Senkakus, Taiwan and possibly even China's claims on the Spratly Islands), non-alliance principles (i.e., directed against the US alliance system), equal and transparent security frameworks, equal and indivisible security, etc. (4) Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stated that China topped Russia's diplomatic priorities at the time, while relations are developing in all fields. (5)

Yet, the Chinese and Russian approaches to a range of important topics are still largely uncoordinated and at times conflicting. The two countries are unlikely to form a true alliance due to several factors. (6) The most noteworthy development in their bilateral defence relationship has been the sharp decrease of Russian arms sales to China in recent years. (7) The Russian government has declined to sell China weapons-- such as advanced land warfare weapons or tactical air support aircraft--that could assist the People's Liberation Army in a ground war with Russia. (8) Instead, Russia has transferred advanced weapons, mostly for naval warfare and air defence. The Russian military has begun to cite China's growing military potential as the reason why Russia needs to acquire more warships and retain tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) despite US pressure to negotiate their elimination in strategic arms talks. (9) In addition, Russia has ever more overt misgivings about China's growing military power, as evidenced in difficulties over arms sales, Chinese interests in the Arctic, and China's Great Stride exercises in 2009. (10)

The trade imbalance between Russia and China is another source of tension. The terms of trade have shifted markedly in China's favour due to a decline in Chinese purchase of weapons systems and other high-technology items. Now, Russian exports to the PRC consist overwhelmingly of raw materials. (11) Throughout the 2000s and even today, it is widely known that Russia is nervous about a "rising China", the risk of becoming China's raw material appendage, demographic imbalance in Siberia and the Far East, etc. (12) We see this concern in bilateral trade trends. Sino-Russian trade hit almost USD80 billion in 2012, a 42.7 per cent jump year-on-year. In 2012, the two countries signed 27 trade contracts worth USD15 billion. However, since 2008, Russia has run a USD13.5 billion trade deficit with China. Russia is eager to reduce its dependence on volatile raw material exports by reviving the PRC's purchase of high-value industrial goods and services. (13) Meanwhile, both sides have pledged to increase trade from USD80 billion in 2012 to USD200 billion in 2020.

Putin has described the development of the RFE as "the most important geopolitical task" facing Russia. (14) Russia also has a long-standing desire to be seen as a player in the Asia-Pacific region. Moscow believes that Russia has a role cut out for it in the Asia-Pacific: that of an honest and impartial broker of the region's territorial disputes. Russia, in all seriousness, believes that its influence carries sufficient weight in Asia to make a difference in this regard. (15) But there is still a disparity between Moscow's expectations for Russia's role in the Asia Pacific region and how the region perceives Russia. (16) "Energy has long been Russia's calling card in Asia and the key to the large-scale task of rebuilding Siberia and the RFE, and ensuring Russia's recognition as a great Asian power." (17) Yet Russia faces the challenges of Chinese economic dominance and thus political influence in the Far East. The prevailing or conventional wisdom is that China is broadening or at least attempting to extend its sway in Asia, particularly in the RFE and South China Sea, and that Moscow has failed to bring its immense "European experience" in conflict resolution and energy geopolitics to bear on the Asia-Pacific situation. (18) Apparently, Russia's record as a mediator in conflict resolution on its periphery has not enhanced its international clout. In addition, Russia has not been able to draw foreign investment from major economic powers and integrate with the dynamic Asia-Pacific market. The signs of growing Russian dependence on China in economics and energy are palpable, as are the signs of China successfully subordinating Russia to its Asian economic agenda. The deadlock in the negotiations over Russia's gas supply to China persists even at the time of writing. The Kurile Islands dispute and the North Korean nuclear conundrum continue to stymie the prospects of a Russia-Japan and/or a Russia-Korea energy partnership. Japan remains lukewarm pending the resolution of the Kurile Islands dispute and South Korea itself faces limitations to being the locomotive of growth for Siberia or the Russian Far East. (19)


Russia realised that it is tremendously difficult to balance against China in Asia or even materialise its ambition of becoming an independent great power in Asia. Moscow's strategy of leveraging its regional position to force Washington into accepting it as an equal interlocutor had failed in Asia as a result of Russia's estrangement from Japan, marginalisation in the Six-Party process, and growing economic dependence on China. Neither US scholarship nor policy took Russia seriously as an Asian actor. (20) This frustrated Moscow, especially since 2008 when it took determined steps to portray itself as an Asian player. So long as Washington neglects it as an Asian actor, Moscow would turn primarily to Beijing to enhance its global standing and capacity to thwart US policy, and then use that leverage at the regional level to enhance its own standing in Asia's power balance. Therefore it is within the US power to redress this balance. A US initiative that treats Russia as a serious East Asian partner, by engaging it in a real dialogue on regional security threats, and by pledging to invest in the RFE in return for real guarantees of that investment, might well elicit a favourable Russian response. Arguably, Russia benefits greatly by having a US option with which to counter China. (21)

The US administration's "Asia pivot" policy in 2011 has prompted a renewed debate on the nature of Russo-Chinese relations. (22) Beijing has gone all out to strengthen its comprehensive strategic partnership with Moscow while this American policy has grated on Sino-American ties. The US shares an interest in involving Russia more in East Asian economic and security affairs. For example, the US Pacific Command (USPACOM) invited the Russian military to take part in its annual Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in 2012, much to China's discomfiture. (23) Such actions, along with vigorous Russian diplomacy, have led Russia to believe that its standing in Asia is visibly improving. Russia perceives its growing acceptance in North and Southeast Asia as a major regional, if not international, actor. (24)

China's relations with Russia, as well as that with the US, Japan and the ASEAN countries are inextricably intertwined. Russian security in the Asia-Pacific depends on the maintenance of an equilibrium between the US and China, not on Russia's "leaning to one side". The rise of Chinese power in the Far East has provoked considerable debate in Russia. Many Russian commentators are of the opinion that as Russia increasingly feels the threat from a rising China, it will have no choice but to move closer to the US and the European Union. (25) There has been speculation that Russia will eventually abandon China and choose to align itself with the US-led West. (26) According to Igor Zevelev, Russia is likely to become a "swing state" (i.e., a country that has minor power relative to the two leading powers) that is still capable of choosing one or the other alternately as a partner. (27) Zevelev argues that forging diversified and multi-tiered partnerships with both the US and China would be the best strategy for Russia--that is, forming temporary coalitions with the US on some issues, and with China on others. (28)

The participation of the Russian Pacific Fleet in the American RIMPAC exercise in the summer of 2012 testifies to this Russian posturing, causing concern in China. Beijing has evaluated Moscow's response to the rising tensions in the Far East on territorial disputes and found that Russian support fell short of Chinese expectations. The Russo-Chinese naval exercises in April 2012 reflected Moscow's delicate balancing act in Asia. (29) Russia and China conducted their first official bilateral naval exercise from 22 to 27 April 2012 in the Yellow Sea near Qingdao, China--at the same time as a US amphibious exercise with the Philippines involving nearly 7,000 troops, which included high-profile island landings a few days before the Sino-Russian drill was scheduled to start. Contingents from Australia, Japan and South Korea also participated in the American-Filipino exercises. (30) Of the Yellow Sea exercise, the Chinese military media in particular emphasised Sino-Russian unity and its implicitly anti-American aspect. Indeed, the Chinese Press reported Chief of the General Staff Chen Bingde's statements that bilateral military cooperation was an important aspect of the overall cooperation between Russia and China. These exercises portrayed the two governments' "unshakable determination" to establish strategic partnership and mutual trust between the two militaries, and strengthen their naval capacity to deal with new threats (i.e., the US) and willingness to work together to safeguard regional peace and security. (31)

Such remarks suggest the greater willingness of the Chinese military to take a hard line on the US. But the Russian military remained more circumspect with regard to naval issues and its public response was political in nature instead. On 3 May 2012, Russian Chief of the General Staff General Nikolai Makarov proposed a new argument, long contended by Beijing, that the US missile defences, which also target China's nuclear potential, were objectionable. Moscow rarely made public its discourse against those missile defences, but its display of solicitude for China's nuclear capacity is undoubtedly politically mandated given what has been widely known of Russian defence thinking. (32) Nothing, however, was said or implied about Asian territorial issues or conventional war-fighting scenarios. This was Putin's way of sending a discreet but unmistakable signal as opposed to the more blustery tone of the Chinese military. Russian generals do not make such statements and announcements without strict political guidance. Thus, Moscow is signalling to both Beijing and Washington that too much US pressure on missile defences, checking China in Asia, and exporting democracy will lead Moscow closer to Beijing. But Moscow also implicitly reserved its stance on the territorial disputes between China and Vietnam as well as those between China and Japan. Thus, an article dated 28 April 2012 by Vasily Kashin of the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies explicitly warned against China's growing economic, political and military power and influence, highlighting a Chinese debate in the mass media and expert sources over the switch to forming military-political alliances and stronger opposition against the West. (33) Kashin also confirmed earlier reports that there are some in Beijing interested in building a closer military-political alliance with Moscow and presumably vice versa, even though that would, in his view, place Russian politics in the shadow of bilateral Beijing-Washington competition. Kashin certainly implied that this outcome would do no good to Russia. (34) However, it is clear that these naval exercises were signals to Asia and the US about the state of China's improved naval capabilities such as naval replenishment at sea. But the enhanced capabilities could also conceivably threaten Russian equities and interests. Putin's recent remarks that Russia hopes to catch the wind of China's sails may yet come through in ways that he certainly did not mean or intend. (35)


The expansion of Russian-Japanese cooperation can only add to Russia's influence in the Asia-Pacific region. Notably, recent US deployment of radar systems in northern Japan does not seem to deter Moscow from expanding cooperation in security and defence, despite US concern over the two sides' cooperation in missile defence.

Although Russia has infuriated Japan by strengthening its claims to the Kurile Islands and even reinforcing them militarily, Moscow and Tokyo have been trying to initiate a new rapprochement. Russia's key motive for approaching Japan is to counterbalance China in Asia, not necessarily because it values Japan's intrinsic capabilities and assets. (36) Despite the missteps over disputed territory, there are several factors that make such a renewal of friendly relations likely.

First, China's pressure on Japan since 2010 may certainly be driving Tokyo to look for new support, particularly as Russia is regarded as one of the countries with a large supply of rare earth minerals, which China has attempted to block Japan from buying. Second, China's growing propensity to attempt to intimidate its neighbours over maritime boundaries and other issues has drawn quiet but visible Russian resistance in Southeast Asia; Moscow certainly would not view a Sino-Japanese clash with equanimity. Third, Russian elites still believe that Japan and Russia are complementary economies and that Japan seeks greater access to Russian energy despite both Russia's weak commercial record and the Kurile Islands obstacle. The strong demand for Russian energy that Moscow imputes to Tokyo is only partially true. However, Russia realises it must sell energy to multiple Asian partners, not just China, to be taken seriously in its high-priority quest for great power status in Asia. (37)

Both sides have accordingly indicated their desire to negotiate on outstanding issues. In 2011, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Russia was prepared to discuss a peace treaty with Japan on the basis of the UN Charter. Lavrov also simultaneously indicated Russia's willingness to discuss "any matters" that are of interest to Japan (i.e., the Kurile Islands and China) and to seek a mutually acceptable agreement on the disputed islands. (38)

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Vladivostok in September 2012, Japan and Russia signed a series of agreements at a meeting between former Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko and President Vladimir Putin. These accords deal with fish and seafood poaching in territorial waters, a locally important issue; a memorandum of understanding between Russia's gas company Gazprom and Japan's Ministry for Natural Resources and Energy; as well as a contract to build a large timber complex in the Krasnoyarsk area. (39)

The biggest economic issue where agreement could be reached is the provision of Russian gas to Japan. Moscow harbours large-scale ambitions to provide gas to several of its Asian neighbours, but these plans have remained suspended due to longstanding differences with China and the difficulties surrounding the realisation of Moscow's long-held dream of a trans-Korean gas pipeline. That leaves Japan as the only major Asian player with whom progress might be possible in the immediate future. The MOU signed between Gazprom and Japan's Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy appears to create an opportunity whereby Japan could participate in the construction of a natural gas liquefaction plant in Vladivostok.

While that could add to Japan's receipt of more liquefied natural gas from Russia beyond what it already gets from Sakhalin, it would also greatly increase Russia's capability to compete in the global gas market. For Russia, the Gazprom-led Eastern Gas Program--of which LNG (liquefied natural gas) production is an important element--is vital to its larger goal of becoming a major energy provider to East Asia and concurrently a major Asian power in its own right.

Furthermore, acceptance of Japanese assistance is part of the larger programme of "modernisation partnerships". Russia hopes to solicit foreign investment from areas such as the RFE and other countries including Japan to achieve Moscow's geopolitical goals. Russian officials do not hide the fact that they seek Japanese investment, as Moscow certainly does not want to be exclusively dependent on Chinese investment in its Asian provinces and energy facilities--this explains Moscow's extensive discussions with Tokyo about investment projects that took place at the APEC summit. At the same time, Japan does not want resource-hungry China, which seeks to obtain reliable sources of energy in general and LNG in particular, to have unconstrained access to the RFE.

Thus Japan, too, has proposed energy and investment initiatives with Russia. Specifically, it has revived the idea of inviting Gazprom to take part in a project to build a gas pipeline from southern Sakhalin to Japan's east coast. The pipeline would run from Prigorodnye on Sakhalin, across the island of Hokkaido, and southwards along Japan's east coast via the prefectures of Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. Estimated to cost between USD550 million and USD700 million, it would be 1,300 to 1,500 kilometres long and would carry 16 to 20 billion cubic metres of gas.

For Japanese officials, the proposal is advantageous as this pipeline could supply non-liquefied gas to Japan, which currently lacks re-gasification terminals but has a guaranteed demand for gas. The pipeline could also be integrated with other projects like natural gas power plants. Russia could thus gain a role in gas processing and sales as well as preferential entry into various projects. Japan's returns on investment could be repaid by tariffs for pumping gas, and Japanese officials are ready to begin the pipeline construction. Gazprom however still believes that the Vladivostok LNG plant is the main priority. Thus, for now, despite much talk about rapprochement and investments, nothing tangible has yet come out of the rhetoric. If the near future sees China exerting pressure on either Japan or Russia or on both countries, or Russia and China agreeing on how to resolve their long-standing gas disputes, positive developments in energy issues or in the broader geopolitical settlement between Russia and Japan are to be anticipated.


The compromise reached at the 2011 Bali ASEAN ministerial Summit among ASEAN members, China and the US has averted further tensions for now. China's repeated efforts to encroach upon ASEAN in the South China Sea issues and extend its influence over Southeast Asia suggest that the calm will not last for long. Southeast Asia and the South China Sea are now clearly the major theatres of rivalry between the US and China. ASEAN members are squarely in the middle of this rivalry and seek to leverage any assistance extended to them from major powers (e.g., India and Russia). Obviously, Russia is trying, though unpretentiously, to put on a deceptive front as a major power in front of China, and this only serves to incur mistrust from China and Asia though the various parties share common mutual interests. China's growing clout eclipses that of Russia, and China is perceived as attempting to convert the RFE into its economic hinterland.

Nonetheless, bandwagoning with China against the US and simultaneously covertly trying to restrain China will continue to be the dominant motives of Russia's Asian policy in Northeast and Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia, once again, becomes the cockpit of major international rivalries. Russia's continued efforts to develop progressive approaches to security, like ASEAN's, will be a test of its ability to navigate through those shoals, which will likely deepen in the foreseeable future.

Unsurprisingly, Moscow is playing the same game in Southeast Asia with ASEAN, as evidenced at the recent ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. Russia's standing in Southeast Asia is also boosted by its arms sales to Southeast Asian governments, cooperation and assistance offered to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines in energy infrastructure construction, collaboration in developing innovative technologies and people-to-people exchanges. The most important success by far is the institutionalisation of Russia's relationship with ASEAN as a dialogue partner of ASEAN, as observed at the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Consultation held in Bali in July 2011. (40) These policy trends have clearly improved Russia's relationships with individual members of ASEAN and the organisation as a whole.

The arms sales and energy projects are clearly Russia's foreign policy priorities on a bilateral basis. They also reflect Moscow's desire to have its cake and eat it in regard to China. Indeed, Vietnam was Moscow's largest customer for weapons in 2009 and continues to be a major customer for Russian weapons. The ASEAN members have misgivings that the systems Russia sold to China could be used against them (e.g., in the South China Seas over the contested Spratly Islands). This places Moscow in the position of selling arms to both sides in potential conflicts. This is a problem Moscow faces in even greater degree in the Middle East but is a perpetual dilemma. Indeed, Russian arms sales to Myanmar, and perhaps its alleged nuclear cooperation with Myanmar as well, have raised anxiety in other neighbouring countries, leading them to buy more weapons. Nevertheless, Moscow denies responsibility for any regional arms race even though the evidence has suggested a regional action-reaction pattern. (41)

However, beyond that, Russian arms sales elsewhere have raised questions and concerns. As in Iran's case, Russian officials claim that if they did not sell arms, others would do so, depriving them of access. While this may be true, the arms sales that prominently characterised Russian ties to Southeast Asia underscore Russia's weak economic engagement and lack of competition as an economic actor in the region. For example, Russia was not invited to join the East Asia Summit and Singapore rejected Moscow's proposal to regularise its relations with ASEAN through regular summits on the grounds that Russian economic relations with ASEAN were insubstantial. (42) Lastly, there is the possibility for arms sales deals in Southeast Asia to corrupt not only individuals but also the overall Russian policy process. In Myanmar, for example, Moscow's penetration of the local arms market was reportedly effected not by the state or its arms seller, Rosoboroneksport (ROE), but by Russia's intelligence agencies, giving rise to questions of whether the government has complete control over its arms sales to Myanmar.

The same phenomenon is apparent in energy collaboration. During the recent rising tensions over Chinese efforts to declare the South China Sea its core interest and its mare nostrum (our sea), Russia openly sided with Vietnam. Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov cited economic reasons for supporting Vietnam. Unsurprisingly, Chinese media reports denounced Russia's action as "unrighteous" and warned Russia that it had consciously showed preference to cooperate with "ill-doers" over China with whom it professed to share identical interests. The Chinese media also stressed that Russo-Vietnamese military and energy cooperation have empowered Vietnam to extend its energy exploration into contested areas. Vietnam depends on Russia in this cooperation, so in a sense Russia is culpable. China also correctly accused Russia of seeking a return to Cam Ranh Bay. (43) Indeed, quite recently, Russia announced its interest in returning to a naval base there, a move probably connected to Russo-Vietnamese joint energy projects off Vietnam's coast, and as a means of checking on China. (44) Gazprom announced on 6 April 2012 that it had signed a deal to take a minority stake in the development of two gas projects off the coast of Vietnam. It will explore two licenced blocks in the Vietnamese continental shelf in the South China Sea, taking a 49 per cent stake in the offshore blocks, which hold an estimated 1.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and more than 25 million tons of gas condensate. (45)


On 8 January 2013, China's incoming President Xi Jinping said that strengthening relations with Russia was a priority for China. He also told Secretary of Russia's Security Council Nikolai Patrushev that China would push to effect a comprehensive bilateral programme of strategic partnership of coordination and stronger mutual political support; this partnership was a top priority for them. (46) Since China and Russia agree on issues surrounding Syria, North Africa, Korea and other hot spots, and both discern a rising threat from US missile defences, this outcome is hardly a surprise. Thus Patrushev noted that both sides are concerned about US missile defences, including in the Asia-Pacific region, presumably referring to the US-Japanese decision to field a second X-band radar in Japan, and that both sides have agreed to coordinate their actions in this respect. (47) On 28 January 2013, China's senior legislator Wu Bangguo also told Russian officials that China would prioritise the development of a comprehensive strategic partnership with Russia. (48)

Despite both the Russian and Chinese governments claiming to share common interests, the reality is quite different. On global issues like intervention in third world countries, non-proliferation, democracy promotion and Central Asia, Sino-Russian views manifest congruence mainly in their opposition to US notions of a liberal world order dominated by its power. However, in regard to the regional security agenda in Asia, rivalry between China and Russia is apparent and even potentially serious. These tensions not only manifest themselves in regard to Japan and Southeast Asia but are increasingly visible in Central Asia where China is clearly supplanting Russia as a major economic-political partner of the Arctic, and even Korea. (49) Thus, Russia is trying to do two contradictory things at the same time, namely bandwagon with China on the global and anti-American agenda, while attempting to pull off a balancing act to constrain China at the regional level. As maintaining the delicate balance requires substantial resources, Russia needs to find partners without estranging itself from China. First, Russia risks not being able to compete with China; and second, Russia's move will increase Beijing's suspicion toward Russia. Strains are already visible in East Asia and Central Asia but for now, a shared apprehension about the US missile defence system and China's apprehensions about the US "pivot" to Asia have brought both parties closer together.

The deep-seated regional divergences in Asia between Moscow and Beijing have not been resolved and may not be possible to resolve given the dynamic forces at play in the region. Moreover, it is increasingly apparent that the lack of serious reforms in Russia implies that the country will continue to fall behind China. Taking all dynamics into account, it remains an open question whether, and for how long, Russia will continue to identify with China or whether it will seek new partners in Asia.


This work was supported by a research fund of Hanyang University (2012-000-0000-0706).

(1) Marcin Kaczmarski, "An Asian Alternative? Russia's Chances of Making Asia an Alternative to Relations with the West", Centre for Eastern Studies, Warsaw, Poland, 2008, at <> [5 Jan. 2013].

(2) Russell Ong, "China's Strategic Convergence With Russia", Korean Journal of Defense Analysis XXI, no. 3 (2009): 320.

(3) Jeffrey Mankoff, "Partnership in the Pacific? Russia between China and the United States in Asia", 12 June 2012, at < states-in-asia/> [5 Jan. 2013].

(4) "China, Russia Call for Efforts in Asia-Pacific Security", China Daily, 28 Sept. 2010.

(5) Moscow, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, in English, Moscow, 16 July 2011, Open Source Center, Foreign Broadcast Information Service Central Eurasia (henceforth FBIS SOV), 17 July 2011.

(6) Richard Weitz, "China-Russia Relations and the United States: At a Turning Point?", 14 Apr. 2011, at <> [6 Jan. 2013].

(7) Ibid.

(8) Ibid.

(9) Ibid.

(10) Linda Jakobson, Paul Holtom, Dean Knox and Jingchao Peng, "China's Energy and Security Relations with Russia: Hopes, Frustrations and Uncertainties", SIPRI Policy Paper no. 29 (Oct. 2011); Arkady Moshe and Matti Nojonen, ed., "Russia-China Relations: Current State, Alternative Futures, and Implications for the West", Finish Institute of International Affairs, Finland, FIIA Report 30 (2011).

(11) Ibid.

(12) Igor Danchenko, Erica Downs and Fiona Hill, "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? The Realities of a Rising China and Implications for Russia's Energy Ambitions", Brookings Policy Paper no. 22 (Aug. 2010): 2.

(13) Weitz, "China-Russia Relations and the United States: At a Turning Point?".

(14) Segei Blagov, "Russia Mulls Far Eastern Economic Revival", Eurasia Daily Monitor 9, no. 83 (3 May 2012).

(15) M.K. Bhadrakumar, "Calling the China-Russia Split Isn't Heresy", Asia Times, 5 Sept. 2012.

(16) Gaye Christoffersen, "Russia's Breakthrough into the Asia-Pacific: China's Role", International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 6, no. 1 (2010): 64.

(17) Stephen Blank and Younkyoo Kim, "Why is Russian Energy Policy Failing in East Asia?", Pacific Focus 26, no. 3 (2011): 409.

(18) See the reviews of literature on Russo-Chinese ties in Susan Turner, "China and Russia After the Russian-Georgian War", Comparative Strategy XXX, no. 1 (2011): 52; Paul J. Bolt and Sharyl N. Cross, "The Contemporary Sino-Russian Strategic Partnership: Challenges and Opportunities for the TwentyFirst Century", Asian Security 6, no. 3 (2010): 192-3; James Bellacqua, ed., The Future of China-Russia Relations (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 2009); Richard Weitz, China-Russia Security Relations: Strategic Parallelism Without Partnership Or Passion? (Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 2008); Richard Weitz, "Sino-Russian Security Relations: Constant and Changing", in Russia's Armed Forces Today and Tomorrow, ed., Stephen Blank (Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 2010); Bobo Lo, Axis of Convenience: Moscow, Beijing, and the New Geopolitics (Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2008).

(19) Bhadrakumar, "Calling the China-Russia Split Isn't Heresy".

(20) Younkyoo Kim and Stephen Blank, "Restarting the Six-Party Process: Russia's Dilemmas and Current Perspectives", Korea Observer 53, no. 2 (Summer 2012): 253-78.

(21) Ibid.

(22) Artyom Lukin, "Russia and America in the Asia-Pacific: A New Entente?", Asian Politics and Policy 4, no. 2 (2012): 153-71.

(23) Miles Yu, "Inside China: China Upset Over RIMPAC Snub", The Washington Times, 4 July 2012, at <> [29 Jan. 2013].

(24) Richard Weitz, "Putin's Grand Plan for Asia", The Diplomat, 13 Mar. 2012, at <http://thediplomat. com/2012/03/13/putin-grand-plan-for-asia/> [29 Jan. 2013].

(25) Artyom Lukin, "Russia between the US and China", East Asia Forum, 24 July 2012 at <www.> [7 Jan. 2013].

(26) Artyom Lukin, "Russia and the Balance of Power in Northeast Asia", Pacific Focus 27, no. 2 (Aug. 2012): 155-83; Rens Lee, "The Far East between Russia, China, and America", Foreign Policy Research Institute e-Notes (July 2012); Artyom Lukin, "Russia Looks to the Pacific in 2012", East Asia Forum, 6 Mar. 2012; Natasha Kuhrt, "The Russian Far East and Russia's Asia Policy--Dual Integration or Double Periphery", Europe-Asia Studies 64, no. 3 (May 2012): 471-93.

(27) Igor Zevelev, "A New Realism for the 21st Century: US-China Relations and Russia's Choice", Russia in Global Affairs, no. 4 (Oct.--Dec. 2012), at < 15817>.

(28) Ibid.

(29) Stephen Blank, "Russo-Chinese Naval Exercises Reflect Moscow's Delicate Balancing Act in Asia", Eurasia Daily Monitor 9, issue 95 (18 May 2012).

(30) Richard Weitz, "Assessing the Sino-Russian Naval Exercise 'Maritime Cooperation 2012' ", Second Line of Defense, at < 2012%E2%80%9D/> [7 Jan. 2013].

(31) Blank, "Russo-Chinese Naval Exercises Reflect Moscow's Delicate Balancing Act in Asia".

(32) Interfax-AVN Online, 3 May 2012.

(33) Vedomosti Online, 28 Apr. 2012.

(34) Ibid.

(35) Pavel Andreev, "Is Putin's Russia Keeping Up With a Changing World?", at < politics/39560.html>, 1 Mar. 2012 [29 Jan. 2013].

(36) M. Kaczmarski, An Asian Alternative? Russia's Chances of Making Asia an Alternative to Relations with the West, Centre for Eastern Studies, Warsaw, at <> [5 Jan. 2013].

(37) Kosuke Takahashi, "Pragmatism Warms Russo-Japanese Relations", Asia Times, 3 July 2012.

(38) "Russia Prepared For Dialog on Peace Treaty With Japan", Johnson's Russia List, 16 Mar. 2011.

(39) Yu Bin, "Tales of Different 'Pivots' ", Comparative Connections (Dec. 2012).

(40) Vyacheslav Amirov and Evgeny Kanaev, "Russia's Policy towards the Countries of Southeast Asia and ASEAN: Positive Developments, but an Uncertain Future?", Russian Analytical Digest, no. 76 (2011): 10-1, at <> [5 Jan. 2013].

(41) Paradorn Rangismaporn, "Russia's Search for Influence in Southeast Asia", Asian Survey 49, no. 5 (Sept.-Oct. 2009): 801-2.

(42) Ibid.

(43) Shih Chun-yu, "Political Talk: Russia Also Becomes Involved in South China Sea Dispute", Hong Kong, Ta Kung Pao Online, in Chinese, 20 July 2011, FBIS SOV, 26 July 2011.

(44) Vladimir Radyuhin, "Russia Renews Interest in Vietnam Base", The Hindu, 8 Oct. 2010.

(45) M.K. Bhadrakumar, "A Fly in China's Russian Ointment", Asia Times, 17 Apr. 2012.

(46) Beijing, Xinhua, in English, 8 Jan. 2013, FBIS CHI, 8 Jan. 2013; "Moscow, Beijing, Reconnect as Reset with US Fizzles", Russia Today, 9 Jan. 2013, at <> [29 Jan. 2013].

(47) "Russia, China Plan to Boost Cooperation on Missile Defense", RIA Novosti, 9 Jan. 2013, at <www.> [29 Jan. 2013]; "China, Russia Eye Enhanced Antimissile Collaboration", Global Security Newswire, 10 Jan. 2013, at <> [29 Jan. 2013].

(48) Zhu Zhe, "China to Prioritize Strategic Ties with Russia", Beijing, China Daily Online, in English, 28 Jan. 2013, FBIS CHI, 28 Jan. 2013.

(49) Alexander Cooley, Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); Stephen Blank and Younkyoo Kim, "The Arctic: A New Issue on Asia's Security Agenda", Korean Journal of Defense Analysis 33, no. 3 (Sept. 2011): 303--20; Kim and Blank, "Restarting the Six-Party Process".

Kim Younkyoo ( is Associate Professor of International Relations in the Division of International Studies at Hanyang University, Seoul. He obtained his PhD in Political Science from Purdue University. His research interests are focused on energy security and international relations issues in East Asia and Eurasia.

Stephen Blank ( is Professor of Russian National Security Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College in Pennsylvania. He received his PhD in History from the University of Chicago. His current research deals with proliferation and the revolution in military affairs, and energy and security in Eurasia.
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Title Annotation:COMMENTS & NOTES
Author:Kim, Younkyoo; Blank, Stephen
Publication:China: An International Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Dec 1, 2013
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