- Xinping-Putin friendship has sparked intense discussion on whether Russia and China are moving in the direction of a formal alliance.
- A Sino-Russian quasi-alliance has formed in recent years, and this has been possible due to the anti-Chinese rhetoric from Washington, collapse of oil prices and growing dependence of Russia on Chinese consumption.
- Western analysts see this as a “friendship of convenience” between two countries led by strongmen — Russia by President Vladimir Putin and China by President Xi Jinping.
Historical evolution :
- 1950s- 1990s : Global politics since 1950 was dominated by the triangular relationship between America, China and Russia in which Americans had occupied the favoured position in terms of its relations with the other two.
- During the Cold War, China and the USSR were rivals after the Sino-Soviet split in 1961, competing for control of the worldwide Communist movement
- The disintegration of the Soviet Union essentially negated the Russian threat in Chinese eyes. Both these trends will likely continue despite the recent tensions in Sino-U.S. relations.
Impact on India :
- India is not a part of this triangle; yet Russia-China-USA are India’s most consequential partners. Prime Minister Modi has held informal summits with only two leaders — Xi and Putin.
- New Delhi believes that the approach of Western countries, especially that of the US towards both Moscow and Beijing, has brought them even closer.
- Estimates say 60 to 70 per cent of India’s supplies are from Russia, and New Delhi needs a regular and reliable supply of spare parts from the Russian defence industry.
- Hence, a proper examination of the Chinese-Russian relationship will be critical to our foreign policy.
Present trend in global politics :
- The West’s approach towards Russia after the annexation of Crimea through harsh sanctions in 2014 brought Moscow much closer to China.
- Falling oil prices and fears of new sanctions on Russian gas supplies are hurting the core of Russian exports to Europe, thus moving them to depend on China.
- After the western sanctions, China-Russia trade has more than doubled to $108 billion.
- While Russia presently enjoys a nominal trade surplus but China’s exports to Russia are now at a higher technology level while the share of labour-intensive goods has declined. Russian exports have continued to focus on raw materials, especially oil and gas.
- The investment relationship remains subdued except where it has suited China’s core energy interests, such as the $400 billion deal over 30 years to supply gas to China along the 1,800 miles long pipeline known as the Power of Siberia.
Impact of this Sino-Russian quasi-alliance trend :
The growing power-gap is threatening to further reduce Russian influence in their ‘near-abroad’ and to confine Russia to the periphery of global power.
- It is in neither Russia’s nor the European Union’s interest to hasten a bi-polar world but it is happening as China and the USA emerge stronger.
Significance of Russia-China bilateral relation:
The three pillars on which the Sino-Russian partnership
A peaceful boundary
- China’s talk of “rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation” has raised fears about Chinese revanchism. China’s rise has produced discomfort among some Russians. There are Russian concerns over Chinese migration in the Russian Far East.
Expanding trade –
- China is Russia’s biggest trading partner and the largest Asian investor in Russia. China sees Russia as a powerhouse of raw material and a growing market for its consumer goods.
- Russia presumably thinks to control China through its energy dependency, and China feels that it can integrate Russia into its economy by redirecting Russian oil and gas eastwards. While Russia needs financing, it is unlikely to give up its economic independence or sovereignty.
A shared distrust of American intentions :
- Russia still regards itself as a world power at the centre of a Eurasian arrangement that stretches from the Pacific to the Atlantic. It considers the U.S.-led hegemony as the primary threat to this vision, and this leads them on to make common cause with China.
Way ahead -Lessons for India :
- Russia is not the USSR which was a politically reliable, trustworthy defence supplier with shared misgivings about China.
- Russia is now politically agnostic, commercially motivated and no longer shares India’s concerns about China.
- A strategic partnership with Russia based on the absence of fundamental conflicts of interest and a shared belief for a multipolar world is important for India, and this relationship deserves more attention from both sides.