SHARE >>>  
Sino-Russian Relationship

Sino-Russian Relationship

22 June 2012

On 22 June, the EU-Asia Centre jointly sponsored a discussion with Carnegie Europe and the Centre for European Reform about the Sino-Russian relationship and its impact on global governance institutions. 

Fraser Cameron moderated the discussion between Charles Grant, director at Centre for European Reform, and Dmitri Trenin, director at Carnegie Moscow Centre. 

Charles Grant opened by discussing the way emerging and re-emerging powers, such as the BRICS, are not as committed to multilateral institutions as the European Union and the US have been. He noted that Russia and China have many commonalities in their position on global governance: they see global governance institutions as something invented by the West to serve Western interests; they like the concept of diplomacy and being included in supranational gatherings of key powers; they are keen on regional institutions to strengthen their own global standing; their internal politics have strong divisions between realists/nationalists and liberals; and they are both strongly opposed to liberal interventionism. Grant also discussed key differences between the two rising powers, such as Russia’s focus on security governance regimes but lack of commitment to economic governance, and China’s opposite focus on economic governance regimes but lack of participation in any security governance arrangements, most notably those related to proliferation. Grant concluded by noting that in the long run, the attitude of China and Russia toward global governance will depend on how successfully they rebalance their economies. If Russia and China don’t successfully rebalance, social unrest and instability will increase and both countries will have a less positive approach to global governance.


Dmitri Trenin spoke about the bilateral relationship between Russia and China. He discussed how the history of the Sino-Russian relationship has been rich and uneven, and the transition from Russia’s domination of China during the Cold War to the more even relationship they currently share has been a difficult process. However, both countries have been able to manage their competition and geopolitical rivalries to create a productive relationship. Since Russia and China are navigating a world dominated by the West, their relationship is dependent on their individual relationships with economic and geopolitical rivals. He indicated that Russia has transitioned from an interest in global domination under the Soviet Union to a status quo power intent on upgrading its current role, but not challenging the global status quo. He concluded by mentioning how Russia wants to be seen as an equal partner, and that a challenge for US and European leadership is to work more with countries like Russia and China that don’t necessarily accept Western leadership.


In response to a question about Russia and China’s efforts to reform current global institutions, Grant responded by saying that both countries need to provide positive contributions through ideas for reform, rather than simply criticizing the West. Trenin discussed how Russia’s current focus is very inward looking on its own domestic situation, and even though it may talk about global governance, Russia’s main concern is supporting the sovereignty of all nations by promoting non-intervention. Grant noted China’s need to balance its American relationship with its Russian relationship, and noted that very little of the tensions or agreements from the Sino-Russian relationship influence Sino-US relations. Trenin touched on the close relationship between Gazprom and Russia’s foreign policy, and noted that although Gazprom’s drilling in contested waters has been an issue for China, they have not confronted Russia to avoid harming the overall relationship. He also commented on Putin’s outlook for Russia, noting the necessity of navigating between the US and China as Russia becomes more active in Asia.


Fraser Cameron closed by noting the huge and uncertain prospects for global governance cooperation between China and Russia, as well as the EU. He re-iterated that Russia and China’s participation in global governance institutions depends largely on domestic interests, and that the outcome of the current Eurozone crisis will shape the potential for increased global governance in the future.