Comparing Two Authoritarian Superpowers, China and Russia
The relationship between China and Russia is lengthy and tumultuous, with the two countries having shared periods of solidarity as well as disagreement.
Although the two countries have grown closer over the past decade, their strategic alliance has been called into question by some experts.
They claim that the countries’ alignment is motivated less by genuine friendship than by a shared hatred of the United States.
Tensions have arisen in the past because to communist dogma, their large common border, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite official proclamations of cooperation, people’s personal connections today remain poor, and officials continue to distrust one other. Many experts in international relations believe that 2022, when Russia invades Ukraine, will be a watershed moment in their relationship, with far-reaching ramifications for the global order.
China and Russia: Friends or Foes?
Neither China nor Russia are treaty friends, therefore they are under no obligation to support one other in a conflict over Ukraine or Taiwan. However, they now consider each other strategic partners and have grown closer over the years.
The leaders of China and Russia met in February 2022, just days before Russia invaded Ukraine, and declared that their friendship has “no limitations,” pledging to work together on a wide range of issues.
More than forty meetings between Xi and Putin since 2012 suggest a tight personal relationship between the two leaders.
However, there are many who argue that the alliance is mostly pragmatic, with the major force bringing them together being a shared belief that the United States poses a threat to their interests. U.S. officials have, in recent years, labelled China and Russia as adversaries of “great power status” [PDF]. Susan A.
Thornton, a professor of law at Yale, opines, “I don’t think China-Russia is a natural alliance.” Weakening ties with the United States “makes it easier for China and Russia to be driven together.”
How similar or dissimilar are their international Policies and Interests?
There are parallels between the political systems of China and Russia, in that both are dominated by a single, long-serving leader and are therefore categorised as authoritarian.
While the Chinese Communist Party rules over a communist one-party state, Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party holds sway over Russia’s multiparty system. To maintain their dominance, both regimes have become increasingly repressive at home, using repressive measures and undermining the rule of law.
In order to expand their sphere of influence and undercut international democratic standards, they have also resorted to subversive nonmilitary measures. Cyberattacks and internet disinformation operations are only two methods Russia has used to meddle in international elections, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Meanwhile, state-owned media outlets in China have stepped in to broadcast and publish news that is beneficial to Beijing in dozens of countries.
The two countries, which each have a veto on the United Nations Security Council, rarely go against each other.
Russia has focused on supporting the security and political stability of allied former Soviet republics, while China has focused on bolstering trade and economic development, but they have avoided conflict and collaborated on maintaining regional security through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Yet, their foreign policy aims and the means by which they are pursued are significantly different due to fundamental distinctions. China’s economy is larger than Russia’s by a factor of more than eight, and it is the world’s second largest overall.
Even though growth has slowed due to the widespread COVID-19 epidemic, it is still increasing. Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia had the eleventh largest economy, although it had been stagnating in recent years.
After the invasion in 2022, Western nations slammed Russia with harsh sanctions that will stunt its economy for years. Experts argue that because of these divergent paths, some in the Chinese government view Russia as a weak partner.