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Foreign Policy

The Fallacy of a China-Russia Alliance

Nov 15 , 2016
  • Yin Chengde

    Research Fellow, China Foundation for International Studies
Recently, some officials and scholars in Western countries have been hyping the so-called China-Russia alliance. The most sensational was an article “A New Sino-Russian Alliance?” written by a senior research fellow from the American Foreign Policy Council, which claims that China and Russia share significant interests on major strategic issues such as Asia-Pacific security, coordinate their stance against the United States, and are moving towards a real China-Russia alignment. A Financial Times editorial also called on the US to be aware of risks of an emerging anti-West China-Russia alliance. These are nothing but groundless gossip, and the so-called Sino-Russian alliance is a non-issue.
It’s true that Sino-Russian strategic cooperation, under the framework of their comprehensive strategic partnership, has deepened and reached new levels in the past years. They have cooperated mainly to cope with US hegemonistic threats. The two countries are united in opposing a unipolar world and unilateralism, the “color revolutions” or the use of force the US has instigated in some countries; they oppose the absolute security and absolute military dominance sought by the US, as well as its development and deployment of the anti-missile system and the militarization of space; they oppose the US’ Cold War mentality and pursuit of NATO’s eastward expansion and its planned “NATO in the Orient”. Both countries also dismiss the US perception of China and Russia as strategic rivals and US efforts to drive a wedge in the China-Russia relations. On some critically important issues such as the US deployment of the THAAD system in South Korea, China and Russia sought to coordinate their stance, and made it clear that they would take concerted actions whenever necessary. In order to jointly counter common threats, China and Russia expanded the scale and scope of their joint military drills, and have effectively improved the joint combative capabilities of their armed forces.
In the tripartite game involving China, Russia and the US, China and Russia are weak and on the defensive, while the US is strong and on the offensive. When China and Russia coordinated their stances or took joint actions, they were actually forced to do so in response to the US containment strategy. These actions were of a self-defensive nature. They were justifiable and rational for safeguarding their core interests such as sovereignty and security, and for ensuring global strategic balance, peace and stability. Today, people should no longer expect China and Russia to swallow the bitter pills of being contained, or easily yield to hegemony and pressure. Make no mistake about it, China and Russia would coordinate their actions, but they would not seek to enter into any form of an alliance.
First, as counterpoints against the US strategy, China and Russia usually act separately and independently, and have not formed any pattern of joint counteractions. Even if the two sometimes cooperate or take joint actions on some issues, they have actually been forced to do so but have refrained from letting that lead to full confrontation. Furthermore, China and Russia did not coordinate their stance or take completely identical stances on every important regional or international issue.
Second, there is no need for China and Russia to form any kind of alliance. While Russia and China are weaker than the US, they are powerful enough in their defensive strength. Furthermore, the US applies double-faceted policies towards China and Russia -- containment as well as engagement. The former is a kind of “cold containment”, that is, instigating changes by exerting pressure or creating an environment for peaceful evolution, and not resorting to force.
Third, the claim that China and Russia want an “anti-Western alliance” runs counter to the truth. Neither China nor Russia is anti-American, nor is against the West, and they would not seek to form a kind of anti-US and anti-West alliance. In fact, China and Russia are only against the strategic containment policy practiced by the US, and are not anti-American. Take China as an example. It’s true that China has differences and disputes with Western countries headed by the US, but dialogue and cooperation are the main tools of their bilateral relations. China has established strategic cooperation partnerships with virtually all allies of the US; in particular, China’s relations with the European Union countries have been raised to a new level. China and the US, at the same time, have reached a consensus and are committed to building a new type of major-country relations. In particular, their economies have become highly intertwined, and now constitute a community of common interests, in which their weals and woes are highly interdependent. Under such a scenario, how could it be feasible for China and Russia to ally to counter the US?
Fourth, China adopts and abides by the non-alignment policy. The core of China’s independent foreign policy is the non-alignment principle, that is, China will not enter into an alliance with any country or country bloc, and will not form any political or military bloc or develop strategic relations targeting any particular third party. Alignment and bloc politics would lead to standoff and confrontation, and would be harmful to regional and global peace, while the non-alignment policy conforms to the trend of the times and the fundamental interests of the country. Therefore, non-alignment is the natural and inevitable choice of China.
Those who preach the “China-Russia alignment” share the same motives with those hyping the “China threat theory.” Some fail to learn the truth, while some others may harbor ulterior motives in cooking up the fallacy. No wonder the fallacy of China-Russia alliance finds fewer followers, because it is against both common sense and the truth. It is, however, a fact that the US is somewhat worried about China-Russia strategic rapprochement, but the US needs to reflect on its own policy. The US is acting against the trends of the times by continuing to seek global hegemony and containment of China and Russia. If the US seeks to cooperate with China and Russia, all parties would benefit; if the US seeks to confront China and Russia, it will produce no winner. Therefore, it would be advisable for the US to change its strategy, and consider China and Russia as cooperation partners rather than strategic rivals. If the US will seek to build a new type of major-country relations characterized by mutual respect and win-win cooperation, this will not only bring benefits to the three countries, but also the world as a whole.
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