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Sino-Russian Relations in Recent Years

Date & Time

May. 11, 2021
8:00am – 9:00am ET


As conflict grows between the United States and Russia, Russia has strengthened its relations with China. In an event co-sponsored by the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center at Hokkaido University, David Wolff will provide an update on the key planks in the partnership between China and Russia. These include economic ties, military cooperation, leadership chemistry, relations in border areas and historical legacies. He considered the shared and divergent goals of these two great powers. Kissinger Institute Director Robert Daly joined the conversation as a discussant.

Selected Quotes

David Wolff

"Many people wonder if China is really a Communist country, but we should all remember that China itself says that China is a Communist country. Only one party rules that vast land of over of 1.4 billion people and it calls itself the Chinese Communist party. Over 90 million people are members of this party. China claims it has updated Marxism. It no longer believes in class conflict or income equality, but the ideas that underline Marxism are the ones that still shape Chinese leadership’s views of the world."

"If economics is central for China’s Marx-inspired world view, than it is also central for how China handles Sino-Russian relations. In May 2014, Presidents Xi and Putin signed an oil and gas deal that may be the biggest business deal in history, estimated at $400 billion… The deal was mainly about oil and gas, Russia’s main export to the world, providing about half of Russia’s government revenue… What was the background to the biggest business deal of all time? In February 2014, Russia occupied and annexed the Crimean peninsula, formally part of Ukraine. Sanctions against Russia on the part of U.S., Europe, and to a lesser extent, Japan isolated Russia. Putin needed an important diplomatic win and travelled to Shanghai to sign the biggest business deal in history with Xi Jinping. But Putin never smiled. All the pictures and TV coverage show how unhappy he was. Putin reportedly had to sign a deal that guaranteed future Russian economic losses in order to secure an immediate diplomatic win." 

Robert Daly

"I was in Moscow about a week after [the 2019 meetings between Xi Jinping and Putin in St. Petersburg] and there had been all of these declarations of friendship and tighter coming together between China and Russia and in the Chinese media in particular this was seen as a new day. And yet in Moscow, there was no sign of this whatsoever. There are far more Chinese characters on storefronts in any American city than there are in Moscow…. On a number of fronts, It still seems that Russia’s institutional models, many of its cultural lodestones and aspirations look West, don’t look to China. There was no interest in China at a social level that I could see."

Akihiro Iwashita

"From Washington’s view, Russia is an extension of Europe, naturally, and China is very much an Asian force, but for us, two giants have been neighbors for Japan. In that sense, we have a different and more deep, important informational analysis of their deficits."

Hosted By

Kennan Institute

The Kennan Institute is the premier US center for advanced research on Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, the South Caucasus, and the surrounding region though research and exchange.  Read more

Kissinger Institute on China and the United States

The Kissinger Institute works to ensure that China policy serves American long-term interests and is founded in understanding of historical and cultural factors in bilateral relations and in accurate assessment of the aspirations of China’s government and people.  Read more

History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program makes public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, facilitates scholarship based on those records, and uses these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs.  Read more

Indo-Pacific Program

The Indo-Pacific Program promotes policy debate and intellectual discussions on US interests in the Asia-Pacific as well as political, economic, security, and social issues relating to the world’s most populous and economically dynamic region.   Read more

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