The misunderstood side of China-Russia ties
Some Chinese have long held criticism of Russia and emotional, irrational and unrealistic arguments about Beijing’s ties with Moscow. Such views are an impediment to Beijing’s strategic global plans.
Russia remains an influential global power with a vast territory, rich resources and immense potential for development. Although no longer among the world’s top 10 economies, it beats China in per capita GDP.
Economic power is not the only factor determining a country’s national strength, which includes military might, national integrity, strategic strength and international standing. Yet if we focus only on the economy, GDP is not the only parameter. Other determinants including endowment of resources, technological potential, educational achievements and the degree of self-sufficiency are also important.
Granted, today’s Russia is no longer a superpower, but it still harbors ambition and behaves like a major power.
That being said, Moscow is still a genuine world-class player in the global arena. Ties among China, Russia and the US form the most important strategic triangle in the world. Former US president Barack Obama once called Russia no more than a “regional power,” but that was not Washington’s real opinion. Otherwise, it would not treat Moscow like a dangerous strategic opponent or try to suppress the Kremlin with so much effort.
Some people from China have been highlighting territorial disputes between Beijing and Moscow, arguing that before the two talk about friendship, Russia must give back Chinese territory. They say so either out of ignorance or an intention to mislead the Chinese people about Russia.
In fact, the territorial disputes have been completely resolved through negotiations. A 2001 treaty articulating good neighborly relations between China and Russia says there remain no territorial claims toward each other. The two have completely gotten rid of their historical disputes and have been gradually moving toward comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination.
Russia’s irreplaceable strategic value for China must be recognized. The country is expected to become a major strategic partner of China in terms of the latter’s peripheral diplomacy, maintaining world peace and stability, promoting a new type of international concept, supporting multilateral governance, balancing
the pattern of global powers and building a new international order. Sino-Russian relations also have a role in counterbalancing ties with the US.
Both China and Russia are emerging nations, non-Western powers, permanent members of the UN Security Council and the US’ main target for containment. It means the two share similar strategic needs, interests and ideas. This can be seen as the basis of their strategic bilateral relations.
China and Russia are each other’s biggest neighbors. They are of great significance to each other’s security and development. As an old Chinese saying goes, close neighbors are dearer than distant relatives. Nurturing solid ties between Beijing and Moscow will contribute to China’s rise and help Beijing avoid getting into conflicts both at sea and land at the same time, as well as cope with turmoil and chaos stirred up by other major countries in Asia.
Compared with other major world powers, Russia has better complementary advantages with China, including diplomacy, security and development opportunities. In energy and resources, the transformation and upgrade of traditional industries in China and re-industrialization in Russia, the two sides can integrate and interact with each other.
Therefore, developing Sino-Russian relations is not a measure of expediency, but a long-term strategy. It is not for utilitarian purposes, but based on mutual benefits. Overlooking or even bad-mouthing their ties is hence unwise.
As the two nations have diverging strategic cultures and historical issues, the bilateral relationship must be taken good care of. In a complex international environment in which they intend to rejuvenate ties, China and Russia must jointly form a more effective community of common interests, destiny