In an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Russia, Afifa Abedi noted that the political leaders of the two countries use the phrase “strategic relations between China and Russia” to underline the importance of these ties. She said Russia-China relations are subject to the kind of interactions between the two super powers. In spite of their common positions and the threats that bring them closer together, as well as the showcase of great military and economic cooperation, these two powers, in reality, are subject to various other issues that do not necessarily serve joint interests.

 

China-Russia Relations Are Not Strategic

“The interests the two great powers follow in the world regionally and internationally are sometimes even at odds, so in the opinion of theorists Russian-Chinese relations at least in the current situation, in the medium and long terms, are not strategic because strategic ties have their special circumstances.

Abedi, a researcher at the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) affiliated to the Expediency Council, emphasized: Although Russian-Chinese relations may expand in economic and military spheres, the different approaches of the two countries, as well as their different international status, would not allow their relations become strategic. They are great partners in the current situation.

 

China and Russia Are Serious Competitors

She said the volume of trade and military cooperation between the two countries, as well as the existence of common threats, were a factor in the adoption of common political, military and economic orientations. “The two powers have a serious rivalry in Central Asia by analyzing which we will find out how much Russia sees China’s policies in Central Asia in conflict with its interests. Or on contrary China attempts to advance in Russian influence domain. These things are not going to change easily, and they are realities that will be there in the future.

Noting that both countries claim to be international powers, Abedi added: “China has more claims. Russia, however, is seeking a multipolar system because it does not have the requirements of being a superpower.

China, Russia Policy of Tolerance against the US

The Russian affairs analyst commenting on recent tensions in US relations with China and Russia said: “The truth is that both Russia and China, in the current situation, have adopted a policy of tolerance with the United States, and have refrained from escalating divisions and conflicts.” While maintaining their prestige, the two also respond to hostile US policies elsewhere, and we have seen numerous occasions to this effect in recent years.

Abedi continued: China and Russia are trying to portray their relations as very close and expanding, and according to some theoretical approaches Russia and China have the potential to become strategic allies or form the Eastern bloc, but in the circumstances, they pursue a policy of tolerance towards the United States to see what happens next in America; whether Mr Trump will be reelected and if so what policies he will follow; or will another person will take over.

 

Russia, China Pursue Pragmatic Policy towards Each Other and the US

She emphasized that Russia and China are pursuing a pragmatic policy towards each other and the United States, and said: “They are trying to increase the importance of their relationship for each other and maintain expanding relations politically and economically and they are very much focused on economic relations. At present, they have over $100 billion in bilateral trade and want to increase the figure.

Abedi described the Russian gas supply deal to China worth about $400 billion signed between the two countries in 2014 as huge and unique and noted the two countries’ cooperation in the international system in some joint political projects. They work together, while responding in part to hostile US policies, but pursue a policy of tolerance to see what happens in America next.

“The status quo and some of the issues caused by US policies, especially Mr Trump’s, have enabled the two countries to work together in some cases,” she said. If someone like Mr Obama was in power now we would not have witnessed such a military convergence between China and Russia.

On the future of China-Russia relations, the CSR researcher said: “Maybe on paper and in the long run we can talk about the idea that China and Russia because of the conflicts of interest they have with the US and the mutual interests they have in countering Washington’s unilateralism, could form the Eastern bloc, but this is subject to the events and realities that the future will define, as well as the conflicts of interest they have. However, China and Russia have numerous issues that sometimes put them at odds.

 

China and Russia Differ on International Politics

She also emphasized that China’s and Russia’s international politics are different, adding that China owes its international credibility to increasing economic importance and has had an economist approach to international issues in recent decades, with most of its priority being to enhance economic ties with all countries even the United States. It has even been able to expand its relations with the US even deeper under Mr Obama. This was because of China’s goals and capabilities. Beijing was trying to reduce the political aspect of its actions. Because of the political situation in China, it is trying to diminish the political dimension to increase its international credibility.

Abedi also said concerning Russia’s international politics: In recent decades, Russia, due to its low economic potential, irrespective of energy issues, has always tried to adjust its international prestige with more militaristic and more military-political approaches and opposition to US unilateralism.

 

Efforts by China, Russia to Address Past Weak Performance

She added that different approaches Russia and China have led to face different issues in the current international system. “China and Russia appear to be ready to address the weaknesses of their former approaches,” she said. For this reason, Russia is trying to emphasize economic issues in its relations with China and Europe, but at the same time, given the conditions that China has, it is also able to increase its military prestige and cooperation with China.

“The political and scientific approach to a relationship is very different,” Abedi said of some US officials’ concerns about China-Russia proximity. US officials deal with China and Russia based on their military and propaganda approach, but Russia and China have issues that may not be easily resolved.”