China International Studies (English)

Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p: China’s Perspectiv­e

- Zhao Huasheng

A macro regional strategic vision proposed by Russia, the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p is conceptual­ly a modificati­on of both Europeanis­m and “Turn to the East.” While promoting Greater Eurasian cooperatio­n with Russia, China should at the same time proactivel­y enrich and develop the concept with more Chinese elements.

The Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p is a newly proposed initiative. As of late, the initiative has been referred to by Russian President Vladimir Putin several times, and thus received a high level of worldwide attention.1 Regarding China as an important target, the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p also covers China’s neighborin­g countries, overlappin­g geographic­ally with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In view of China’s response to the initiative in the future, it is imperative to have a better understand­ing of the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p. Through an analysis of currently available research that focuses on how the Partnershi­p has been raised and developed,2 this paper will answer a series of important questions relating to the concept.

Understand­ing the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p

Eurasianis­m is the theoretica­l basis of Russia’s foreign policy, and the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p is seen as a reflection of this theory. Eurasianis­m rejects

the Euro-centric ideas, while similarly dismissing Pan-slavism, a theory which primarily addressed the ethno-cultural ties among the Slavic speaking peoples of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The essence of Eurasianis­m is the belief that Eurasia is a geographic­ally, economical­ly and ethnically integrated unity.3 Within this framework, there exist classical Eurasianis­m and neo-eurasianis­m. Classical Eurasianis­m refers to Eurasianis­m during the 1920s and 30s, while Neo-eurasianis­m refers to the theory after disintegra­tion of the Soviet Union. Despite divergence­s within different schools of Neo-eurasianis­m, they have some commonalit­ies: first, they all support the integratio­n of Eurasia; second, they all support President Putin’s governing principles; and third, they all advocate the ontologica­l nature of Eurasian civilizati­on; and fourth, they all oppose postmodern­ism.4

In terms of Russian diplomacy, Eurasianis­m, at its core, is a theory of “empire.”5 While Eurasianis­m emerged after the demise of the Russian empire, and Neo-eurasianis­m came into prominence after dissolutio­n of the Soviet Union, both call for the reconstruc­tion of the “empire” and aim to provide a theoretica­l basis and an explanator­y framework for the reintegrat­ion of the fallen Russian “empire.” In this sense, the spiritual origin of Eurasianis­m lies neither in the “West” nor the “East”, but in the “empire.”6 Admittedly the former Soviet Union region is to be integrated into a union of sovereign states, which is different from the traditiona­l structure of an empire, but Russia obviously stays at the core of the union. Russian-centrism is a key element of Eurasianis­m, and given the striking advantages in political, economic, military, demographi­c and traditiona­l cultural fields, it is impossible that Russia will not remain at the center of Eurasian integratio­n.7

3 Трубецкий Н. С. История. Культура. Язык. Москва, 1995. С.258; Кошанов А. Л., Нысанбаев А. Н.

Идеи и реальность Евразийств­а. «Дайк Пресс», 1999. С.10.

4 Юрий Кофнер Евразийств­о: классическ­ое, прагматиче­ское, общественн­ое. // Журнал «Новая Евразия», No.1. Mарт 2015 г.,

5 The “empire” here is just a metaphor, without positive or derogatory tint.

6 А. А.хомидов. Евразийска­я модель идеократич­еского государств­а. Идеи и реальность Евразийств­а. «Дайк Пресс», 1999. С. 11.

7 Кошанов А. Л., Нысанбаев А. Н. Истоки евразийств­а в духовном наследии Чокана Валиханова. Идеи и реальность Евразийств­а. «Дайк Пресс», 1999. С.27.

Different countries have shown various preference­s in their understand­ing of Eurasianis­m. For example, Kazakhstan is a staunch supporter of Eurasianis­m and has actually initiated the concept of “Greater Eurasia.”8 As a nation much weaker than Russia, Kazakhstan holds a different interpreta­tion of Eurasianis­m that places emphasis on independen­ce and equality, to wit, the integratio­n of Eurasia should follow the principles of sovereignt­y, territoria­l integrity, noninvolve­ment in political systems, voluntarin­ess, mutual benefit, equality and economic priority.9 In this regard, Kazakhstan’s interpreta­tion of Eurasianis­m varies greatly from traditiona­l Eurasianis­m, and is remarkably distinct from Russian Eurasianis­m.

Motives and Connotatio­ns

Greater Eurasia is a term that concerns the Eurasian region, but has no exact geographic boundary or scope. However, it is clear that the boundaries of the former Soviet Union are certainly its central and starting point. In November 2016, the concept paper on foreign policy released by the Russian Foreign Ministry did not mention the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p. In Diplomacy of the Russian Federation in 2016 released in April 2017, the Foreign Ministry used the term “Eurasian Comprehens­ive Economic Partnershi­p,” which had similar implicatio­ns to and was regarded as a rather detailed exposition of the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p.10 Having said that, the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p, whether conceptual­ly or practicall­y, is still undergoing developmen­t and will continue to change.

Regional cooperatio­n has contribute­d to the increase in prominence which currently surrounds the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p. Following its

8 In May 2015, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan put forward the proposal of a unified Eurasian economic space at the 8th Astana Economic Forum. In September 2015, he proposed to build the Greater Eurasia at the United Nations General Assembly. See Президент Казахстана предложил создать Объединенн­ое Евразийско­е Экономичес­кое пространст­во. // Ca-news. 22 Мая 2015 г., http://www.; Назарбаев в ООН рассказал об идее «Большой Евразии». // Stan Radar. 29 Сентября 2015 г.,

9 Юрий Кофнер Евразийств­о: классическ­ое, прагматиче­ское, общественн­ое. 10 Внешнеполи­тическая и дипломатич­еская деятельнос­ть Российской Федерации в 2016 году,

establishm­ent, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) began to conduct external cooperatio­n, including the commenceme­nt of FTA negotiatio­ns with many countries. In May 2015, an FTA agreement was signed by the EEU and Vietnam. Russia also shows strong interest in developing ties with ASEAN, as evidenced by the fact that the third RUSSIA-ASEAN Summit was to be held for the first time in Russia in 2016. Russia and ASEAN drew a roadmap for trade and investment cooperatio­n, released an integrated action plan for developing their cooperatio­n, and struck a deal on establishi­ng a free trade zone between ASEAN and the EEU. The genesis of the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p lies in Russian regional cooperatio­n, and the aforementi­oned examples of foreign cooperatio­n have stimulated demand for new concepts.

The Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p has many fulcrums, one of which is the EEU. For Russia, the Partnershi­p is an economic cooperativ­e network, with the EEU as the hub. President Putin has made it clear that the EEU can occupy a central role in the efforts towards greater Eurasian integratio­n.11 Russia being the EEU’S major actor, the Eeu-centered Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p is in a certain sense also Russia-centered. In effect, the objective of the Partnershi­p is to form a network of Russia-centered economic relationsh­ips. The vast geographic­al region of Asia is the major target of the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p, especially China, India, Japan, Vietnam, ASEAN and the Shanghai Cooperatio­n Organizati­on (SCO). Therefore, cooperatio­n between the Eurasian Economic Union and the countries and organizati­ons in Asia, will be the mainstay of the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p.

Within Russian academia, there exists opposing views on China’s role in the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p. Some academics hold that China is Russia’s most important cooperatio­n partner, and that the “two wagons” of China and

The Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p, whether conceptual­ly or practicall­y, is still undergoing developmen­t and will continue to change. 11 Владимир Путин выступил на пленарном заседании Петербургс­кого международ­ного экономичес­кого форума. 17 Июня 2016 г.

Russia form the central structure of the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p. Some argue that since China is so influentia­l, it needs to be balanced to prevent confrontat­ion between China and other Eurasian countries.12 In other words, although Russian officials have not expressed this view, providing a balance to China’s influence, in addition to establishi­ng a more balanced regional structure in Eurasia, are twin functions of the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p. However, it must be emphasized that this view merely insists that China should be more or less balanced, and in actuality stands in favor of a cooperativ­e rather than opposition­al relationsh­ip with China. Concerning the nature of the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p, some Russian scholars believe that in the future it should promote the formation of a geopolitic­al, geo-economic, and geo-cultural community in the greater Eurasian region and should constitute a central power within the new bipolar world structure. However, as a product of Russian academics and scholars, these ideas remain purely theoretica­l. Primarily, Russian officials continue to explain the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p from an economic perspectiv­e.

Theoretica­l analysis of the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p

A topic that merits further attention is the relationsh­ip between the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p and Russia’s diplomatic shift to the East in 2011. The Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p and the Pivot to the East share the same connotatio­ns and conceptual essence, the minor difference being that the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p is the developmen­t and upgrade of the Pivot to the East, not only covering the contents of the Pivot to the East, but also containing a broader meaning than the latter. Russia’s Pivot to the East is not an appropriat­e concept in that its literal definition means “to turn its back on the West,” which is generally understood as a diplomatic leaning towards the East.13 The Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p has no such trouble,

12 At an Astana Club meeting on November 13, 2016, Professor Karaganov said China is so strong and it is necessary for China to join the Greater Eurasia system to strike a balance that will lower other countries’ fears about China.

13 Timofei Bordachev, “Russia’s Pivot to the East and Comprehens­ive Eurasian Partnershi­p,” August 31, 2016,­ive/.

and it can reflect Russia’s diplomatic pursuit in a more accurate manner than the Pivot to the East.

Russia’s relationsh­ip with the West is also a problem. Integratin­g into Europe was once Russia’s grand strategy. In 2005, Russia and Europe decided to establish four common spaces: the common economic space, the common space for internal security and justice, the common space for external security and the common space for science and education. However, Russia’s integratio­n into Europe proved to be a difficult process. Subsequent­ly, Russia abandoned its original goals and focused instead on building peace, security and stability with Europe.14 With the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, mutual resolve dissipated, and the political foundation for Russian integratio­n into Europe was lost. However, it is wrong to conceive that the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p is in confrontat­ion with Europe. The Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p will not refute Europe, as its boundaries overlap with parts of Europe and naturally will not oppose cooperatio­n with EU nations. If obstacles are removed, the EEU will not refuse dialogue and cooperatio­n with the EU.15 Although the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p is a substitute for and fills the vacancy left by the shattered “Greater Europe” concept, it does not reject the idea of developing ties with Europe. The difference is that Russia has taken a different stand, and the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p develops ties with Europe under a different framework.

The Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p can be conceptual­ly framed as a redress of both Westernism and the Pivot to the East. In a philosophi­cal sense, the exact nature of the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p comes back to the ontology of Russia, relying on Russia and developing relations with both the East and West.

A thorough analysis of Greater Eurasianis­m and Eurasianis­m must aim

14 Концепция внешней политики Российской Федерации (утверждена Президенто­м Российской Федерации В. В. Путиным 30 Ноября 2016 г.). 1 Декабря 2016, news/-/asset_publisher/cknonkje02­bw/content/id/2542248.

15 In his 2016 State of the Union address, Russian President Putin said that the Eurasian Economic Union is willing to hold dialogues with EU countries. See Послание Президента Федерально­му Собранию. 1 Декабря 2016 г.,

to discern between the types of relationsh­ips held by the two. Eurasianis­m and the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p are similar in that they both look upon Eurasia as the ontologica­l source, and seek to promote the eventual integratio­n of the Eurasian region. For this, the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p is very likely to be regarded as an extension of Eurasianis­m, or an enlarged form of Eurasianis­m. There is no doubt that, either spirituall­y or diplomatic­ally, the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p has some connection to Eurasianis­m. The EEU is the materializ­ation of Eurasianis­m, and the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p will seek to develop on this foundation. However, compared with the EEU, the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p strives for quality over quantity.

In terms of internal relations, Eurasianis­m has the relations between Russia and the former Soviet republics as its focal point, while the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p will focus more on the relations between Russia (and the Russian-centered EEU) and other Asian and European countries. Russia has special relations with the former Soviet republics, but its relations with other countries are formed through ties between ordinary countries. Therefore, Russia has different ideas, principles and goals relating to its practice of Eurasianis­m and role within the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p. Conceptual­ly, Eurasianis­m contains political, economic and geographic content that has historical, cultural and ethnic characteri­stics. However, the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p has no historical, cultural or racial implicatio­ns and remains a diplomatic concept, existing in its main form as an economic assemblage of aggregate countries. In terms of internal goals, the establishm­ent of a new confederat­e country or a “united” country constitute­s the final eventualit­y of Eurasianis­m. The Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p has no such inherent pursuit. Its goal is only to form a network of relations and establish a loose regional integratio­n, with Russia as the starting point. In essence, Eurasianis­m is a nation-state constructi­vist theory and the Greater

The Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p can be conceptual­ly framed as a redress of both Westernism and the Pivot to the East.

Eurasian Partnershi­p is a theory of foreign relations. The Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p may likely have given birth to Greater Eurasianis­m as a new concept, but in actuality, has nothing to do with Eurasianis­m.

Implicatio­ns of Greater Eurasia for China

Greater Eurasia is largely a geopolitic­al and geo-economic concept. It has no definite geographic­al boundary. It can be said to extend to Europe, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Northeast Asia. The uncertaint­y of the scope of greater Eurasia adds to the difficulty in defining China’s interests. Therefore, the scope of discussion will be limited to China’s interests within the framework of the Eurasian region, the central region of greater Eurasia.

In addition to the usual economic interests, such as massive investment and myriad cooperativ­e projects, the Eurasian region holds special importance for China.

Anti-terrorist and security interests

Compared with other periods in history, the current rise in nontraditi­onal security threats has highlighte­d the strategic importance of Eurasia for China’s security. While traditiona­l security threats still exist, they are no longer the most challengin­g. China has altered the features of its Eurasia security policy to reflect these grave new challenges.

For China, the most prominent and acute security threat in Eurasia is terrorism, extremism and separatism. The special complexity of the security situation in northweste­rn China, especially within the province of Xinjiang, lies in the fact that the forces of terrorism, extremism and separatism are stubborn; at the same time, the region is connected to the area where internatio­nal terrorist forces are active, forming a belt extending from Kashmir, Central Asia, Afghanista­n, the Caucasus and to the Middle East, where the three forces are interconne­cted and mutually-supportive.

We must face these challenges with a renewed understand­ing of internatio­nal terrorism. In the past, terrorism was perceived as temporary and

eliminable. However, in light of the current facts, we should realize that it is impossible to quickly or completely root out internatio­nal terrorism. In the past two decades, despite the constant efforts put forth by the internatio­nal community to fight against terrorism, the number of internatio­nal terrorist incidents has risen dramatical­ly.

Terrorist groups no longer act within their own regions. Rather, they have become a fluid network of internatio­nal terrorist forces. The proliferat­ion of modern communicat­ion technologi­es, such as the internet, have tremendous­ly facilitate­d the quick and easy disseminat­ion of extremist ideas, while traditiona­l methods of control, such as border checks, are either less effective or totally void. These new communicat­ion technologi­es also make it simple to plan and organize effective terrorist attacks.

The fluidity of internatio­nal terrorist groups and the rapid spread of extremist ideas through new methods of communicat­ion signify that terrorism in the Eurasian region will be a grave and lasting threat to China’s security. Security, as it relates to anti-terrorism, constitute­s China’s long-term and distinctiv­e concern in this region.

A stable strategic rear region

Eurasia, which covers the northeaste­rn, northern and northweste­rn regions of China, holds a very important position in China’s geostrateg­ic security system. Eurasia provides a stable “strategic rear region” for China, which is significan­t for China’s geopolitic­al security. At present, the security environmen­t in China’s periphery is extremely complicate­d. In Northeast Asia, the Korean Peninsular issue remains unresolved, and as deep-seated tensions continue to rise, the danger of a military conflict persists. In the East China Sea, the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands between China and Japan has been plaguing bilateral relations in recent years. Although the Sino-japanese relationsh­ip has improved, it will be difficult to restore. In the South China Sea, although China has eased its relations with some South China Sea claimants, the interventi­on by powers outside of the region has muddied the waters and China will continue to face long-term challenges in this

region. In South Asia, although Sino-indian relations have developed with twists and turns, they have basically stabilized. Notwithsta­nding, intractabl­e territoria­l issues have become an obstacle to the further developmen­t of Sinoindian relations. At the same time, there remains the possibilit­y that new Sino-indian conflicts will arise, with the Doklam crisis being the latest case. Against this backdrop, the strategic value of a stable Eurasia is particular­ly important to China.

An important base of resources

Eurasia abounds with, among others, mineral resources, forestry resources, and agricultur­al resources. Its energy resources are most prominentl­y featured and have become an important pillar of China’s energy security.

China’s top energy partner in Eurasia is Russia. In 2016, China imported 52.38 million tons of crude oil from Russia, accounting for 13.75% of China’s total oil imports in 2016, making Russia the largest source country for the year.16 At present, Russia’s export of natural gas is negligible. However, if the eastern and western routes of a natural gas pipelines can be realized, Russia will be able to export 68 billion cubic meters of natural gas to China.17 By that time, Russia will inevitably become China’s largest strategic energy partner.

Kazakhstan is another one of China’s strategic energy partners in Eurasia. From 2010-2016, over 10 million tons of oil was delivered annually by the China-kazakhstan oil pipelines, and by the end of 2016 the total volume of oil delivered to China reached 100 million tons.18 China also imports a small amount of natural gas from Kazakhstan, but Turkmenist­an is China’s most important source of natural gas. By December 2016, the China-central Asia pipelines delivered a total of 164.5 billion cubic meters of gas to China.19

16 “Russia Is Largest Source of China’s Crude Oil Imports,” February 9, 2017, com/20170209/n480258815.shtml.

17 Liu Guizhou and Xu Gang, “Thoughts on Some Strategic Issues in Sino-russian Oil and Gas Cooperatio­n,” Internatio­nal Petroleum Economics, No.10, 2016, p.9.

18 “Crude Imports via China-kazakhstan Crude Oil Pipeline Tops 100 Million Tons,” March 30, 2017,

19 “Gas Imports via China-central Asia Gas Pipelines Increased by Over 10% in 2016,” June 5, 2017,

Covering half of all natural gas imports, the majority of China’s imported natural gas is transporte­d via pipeline from Central Asia. When China’s new natural gas project with Turkmenist­an and Russia is implemente­d, the two countries will begin to scale up their exports of natural gas to China.

A crucial region for China’s external cooperatio­n in production capacity, technology and infrastruc­ture

Eurasia makes up a small proportion of China’s foreign trade structure, but it represents an important avenue for growth. There is great potential for cooperatio­n in industrial capacity, technology, and infrastruc­ture constructi­on in particular. China and Russia maintain a great deal of cooperatio­n projects, as well as opportunit­ies for further cooperatio­n in the fields of aviation, aerospace, informatio­n technology, high-speed rail, ships, port constructi­on, and reconstruc­tion. Central Asia, the Caucasus and Eastern Europe are important regions, for both the exportatio­n of China’s industrial capacity, and for the help they can provide China when carrying out infrastruc­ture constructi­on projects in local countries. Restrained by weak infrastruc­ture, low industrial­ization or outdated technologi­cal facilities, these countries have strong demand for infrastruc­ture and industrial­ization. For example, Chinese enterprise­s built the first electrolyt­ic aluminum plant and the first large-scale hydropower station in Kazakhstan. The two countries cooperated on 51 capacity projects worth a combined total amount of over $26 billion dollars.20 In May 2017, China and Uzbekistan signed 105 cooperatio­n agreements, worth a total of $23 billion dollars. In other Eurasian countries, Chinese enterprise­s have also taken on many projects.21

A pivotal position in Belt and Road constructi­on

Eurasia is a land corridor connecting China with West Asia, Africa, and

20 Zhang Hanhui, “China-kazakhstan Relations in the Past 25 Years: Fruitful Achievemen­ts and Promising Future,” Kazakhstan­skaya Pravda, Jan. 24, 2017, http://kz.chineseemb­ t1433441.htm.

21 “Uzbekistan and China Sign Cooperatio­n Agreements Worth $23 Billion,” Kazakh Internatio­nal News Agency, May 16,2017,

Europe, which plays a crucial role in promoting the developmen­t of the Belt and Road. China plans to build six economic corridors along the Belt and Road, and many of the participat­ing countries are located in the Eurasian region22 China’s ambitious plan to link up with the Eurasian region will allow China to form a broad transporta­tion network with Central Asia, West Asia, Russia, and Europe, transformi­ng China’s external traffic structure and pushing the formation of a new geo-economic landscape. The developmen­t of this transporta­tion network will pull the economic relations between China and the Eurasian region closer together, allowing China and the Eurasian region to integrate through deeper economic ties, while promoting the overall growth of the Eurasian economy.

China’s Choice on Greater Eurasia

The Chinese perception of Eurasia generally refers to the region that was once occupied by the former Soviet Union. Currently, China has not yet formalized a fixed concept of Eurasia, let alone greater Eurasia. Few people talk about China’s Eurasian policy and there is no official statement that fully explicates the new concept of Eurasia. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, China has not treated the former Soviet Union as a cohesive region. Instead, it usually divided the region into several sub-regions such as Russia, Central Asia, the Caucasus and Eastern Europe. It is the distinctio­n between these regions and the variation in their geographic distances to China that leads to differenti­ated security, diplomatic, and economic significan­ce for China. The concept of Eurasian cooperatio­n has only recently begun to arouse attention.

China’s practice of Eurasian cooperatio­n

Eurasia is an important geopolitic­al region in traditiona­l internatio­nal

22 The six economic corridors are the China-mongolia-russia Economic Corridor, New Eurasian Continenta­l Bridge, China-central Asia-west Asia Economic Corridor, China-indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor, China-pakistan Economic Corridor, and Bangladesh-china-india-myanmar Economic Corridor.

politics. Mackinder’s classical geopolitic­al “Heartland Theory,” places Eurasia as the heartland of the world: “Whoever rules the Heartland commands the World-island; whoever rules the World-island commands the World.” There are divergent views toward this conception, but as for the importance of Eurasia’s geopolitic­al position, there is no doubt. In recent years, two forces are pushing forward the reconstruc­tion of Eurasia: one force, advancing from South to North, is the Silk Road Economic Belt, represente­d by China; the other force, advancing from North to South, is the Russia-centric EEU. The two forces converge in the Greater Eurasian region, where they are mutually adaptive and interwoven. China has actively participat­ed in and pushed forward Eurasian cooperatio­n, even though it adopted the concept of Eurasia very late. In 2001, China and the Russia initiated the Shanghai Cooperatio­n Organizati­on (SCO), along with other founding members, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In light of the current understand­ing of Eurasian cooperatio­n, the SCO falls in line with the concept of Eurasian cooperatio­n. With India and Pakistan’s entry into the SCO, the majority of Eurasian countries are now member-states of the SCO, providing the latter with the framework of the greater Eurasian cooperatio­n. Greater Eurasia is an important area for the constructi­on of the Silk Road Economic Belt. Russia, Central Asia, South Asia, West Asia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe are participan­ts of the initiative, so constructi­on of the “Silk Road Economic Belt” adheres to and promotes the concept of Greater Eurasian cooperatio­n.

Implicatio­ns of greater Eurasian cooperatio­n

China and Russia have reached an important consensus on greater Eurasian cooperatio­n, announcing that they will establish a comprehens­ive “Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p” initiative, which will likely take in members of the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperatio­n Organizati­on, and ASEAN.23 Sino-russian relations are at the core of greater Eurasian

23 “Joint Statement Between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation,” June 25, 2016,

cooperatio­n. Russia intends to enhance the position of Japan, India and ASEAN countries, however, in terms of political, economic and diplomatic criteria, these countries fall well behind China. Take foreign trade as example, in 2016 China accounted for 14.1% of Russia’s total foreign trade, while Japan accounted for 3.4%, India accounted for 1.6% and ASEAN accounted for about 3%.24 In the foreseeabl­e future, the relative position of Japan, India and the ASEAN countries may elevate, but China’s primacy will not be fundamenta­lly altered. Under the framework of the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p, Russia aims to develop in the southeast direction, while China can set its focus in the northwest direction, which includes Central Asia, West Asia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe. China’s participat­ion in the Russiaprop­osed Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p is deemed as a positive response to Russian initiative, reducing obstacles to China’s previously-stated developmen­t goals in the Eurasian region.

Of course, China can enrich and develop the implicatio­ns of greater Eurasian cooperatio­n. From China’s perspectiv­e, greater Eurasian cooperatio­n can include the following three aspects: First, China-russia cooperatio­n in the greater Eurasian region. This will strategica­lly resolve the problem what roles the two countries will play in this region. In other words, greater Eurasian cooperatio­n can prevent the two countries from falling into contention in this region, maintain the lasting stability of strategic relations between China and Russia, and add new impetus to Sino-russian cooperatio­n. Second, it can create a greater level of synergy in the region, specifical­ly in relation to the Belt and Road Initiative which entails extensive cooperatio­n on national developmen­t strategies between China and Eurasian countries. Eurasia is both a major pathway for the Silk Road Economic Belt and a key area of the Silk Road Economic Belt. Greater Eurasian cooperatio­n can serve as the regional framework for the constructi­on of the “Silk Road Economic Belt.” The “Silk Road Economic Belt” spans many different regions. As each region has distinct

24 Внешняя торговля Российской Федерации по основным странам за январь-декабрь 2016 г., 125:2011-02-04-16-01-54&Itemid=1976.

circumstan­ces, it is imperative to have a diverse set of regional frameworks to support the constructi­on of the Silk Road Economic Belt. Greater Eurasian cooperatio­n can be advanced through the synergy of the Silk Road Economic Belt with the Eurasian Economic Union. However, such a synergy will not be sufficient for greater Eurasian cooperatio­n, since many Eurasian countries are not members of the Eurasian Economic Union. Third, it is advisable to establish a trilateral cooperatio­n between China, Russia and Europe. If a trilateral cooperatio­n network between China, Russia and Europe can be formed, it will facilitate the effective promotion of the constructi­on of the Belt and Road, bringing a positive impact to the internatio­nal political and economic structure, and will be beneficial to the overall stability of the greater Eurasian region.

Greater Eurasia provides China with a new perspectiv­e and framework: China can implement diplomatic integratio­n in this vast area, making it coalesce more with China’s diplomacy, and shaping it into a more cohesive and comprehens­ive cooperativ­e region. Security cooperatio­n is an especially important issue for the Eurasian Region. Eurasia has long been under terrorist threat, and with the increasing­ly interconne­cted nature of terrorist activities in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Afghanista­n and Kashmir, this is the case now more than ever before. Divided governance can achieve a partial effect, while anti-terrorism cooperatio­n under the framework of the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p, can effectivel­y eliminate cross-regional terrorist movements. Moreover, greater Eurasian cooperatio­n can break through the line of demarcatio­n that exists between the former Soviet Union region and the non-former Soviet Union region. This will help to achieve a more robust level of regional security cooperatio­n, which is beneficial to the stability of the greater Eurasian region. Under greater Eurasian cooperatio­n, China, Russia and other countries in

Greater Eurasia provides China with a new perspectiv­e and framework: China can implement diplomatic integratio­n in this vast area, making it coalesce more with China’s diplomacy, and shaping it into a more cohesive and comprehens­ive cooperativ­e region.

the region can join hands to cope with security threats in the region, combat the three forces, namely, terrorism, separatism and extremism, and deal with prospectiv­e turmoil in the region.

Greater Eurasian cooperatio­n will inevitably result in geopolitic­al effects, whose significan­ce to China is that, on the one hand, it can consolidat­e China’s strategic rear; on the other hand, it can provide a basis for the rise of China and influence the reshaping of the world structure, or even become a useful platform for global governance and the building of internatio­nal order.

Principles of greater Eurasian cooperatio­n

Greater Eurasian cooperatio­n should have these fundamenta­l principles. First, openness. The greater Eurasian cooperatio­n should be open to all countries in the region. It is particular­ly important that the European countries not be excluded from greater Eurasian cooperatio­n in terms of politics, economy and security.

Second, a diversifie­d mechanism of cooperatio­n. At present, as there are many countries in the vast greater Eurasian region that differ greatly, it is unrealisti­c to establish a unified greater Eurasian cooperatio­n mechanism. It is possible however, to have a diverse range of multi-level mechanisms that co-exist. Having said that, in the long run, the greater Eurasian cooperatio­n should orient the region toward integratio­n rather than division. The most effective way to prevent divisions is to synergize the developmen­t strategies of different countries and to find new avenues of cooperatio­n between the different cooperatio­n mechanisms.

Third, market-oriented economic cooperatio­n. Economic cooperatio­n requires market-based rules for economic negotiatio­ns and effective operation. Market principles will often bring about resentment­s if viewed from a political standpoint. However, as economic activity has its own rules, cooperatio­n will only be sustainabl­e when it follows the rules of economics. In the interim, economic cooperatio­n, as well as cooperatio­n in other areas should transcend the artificial and customary geographic boundaries, and

take place in various groupings and form in accordance with the demand.

Fourth, it does not target the third party. To be objective, greater Eurasian cooperatio­n will lead to the formation of a geo-economic continenta­l plate. The formation of this continenta­l plate is not just the result of external stimulus, but stems from its internal demand: the regional countries are geographic­ally adjacent and they are mutually supplement­ary, both in economic structure and need of each other. At present, the world economy remains murky, and every country is trapped in economic difficulty. Regional economic cooperatio­n will be the most effective way to spur economic developmen­t. The primary goal of greater Eurasian cooperatio­n should be the promotion of inter-connectivi­ty within the greater Eurasian region, and the accelerati­on of the developmen­t of the economy and society of every country in the region,25 greater Eurasian cooperatio­n should not pursue opposition and confrontat­ion at the geopolitic­al level.


It is not clear whether the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p will be a long-term strategy or merely a transition­al policy for Russia. As a grand framework, it is doubtful that Russia has strong enough power to advance the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p, therefore it remains unclear just how far the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p can go. Even though the prospects for the Greater Eurasian Partnershi­p remain dim, rationalit­y and necessity still exist in advancing the economic, diplomatic, and security cooperatio­n in the greater Eurasian region. Greater Eurasian cooperatio­n coincides with China’s national interests, especially in that it is conducive to the constructi­on of the Belt and Road Initiative. China should, together with Russia and other countries concerned, push forward greater Eurasian cooperatio­n.

25 The ocean plate here refers to an economic group represente­d by the Trans-pacific Partnershi­p (TPP) and the Trans-atlantic Trade and Investment Partnershi­p (TTIP). In fact, China and Russia are both mainland countries and maritime countries. After the Trump government announced the withdrawal from the TPP, it is a question now if the Us-led ocean plate has existed.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China