China – Russia Relations

We have theories about how great powers behave in multipolar, bipolar, and unipolar international systems. But what are the modes of great powers’ behavior under the conditions of declining unipolarity? Recent prominent events, such as war in Syria, Russian-Georgian war, the Ukraine crisis, Russia’s high-profile “turn to the east,” China’s rise with “new assertiveness” in territorial disputes and others have revealed that the post-Cold war unipolar configuration started to give way to multipolarity, generating considerable uncertainty over the major trends of international politics. At the time when the American leadership in world affairs is on a relative decline, other great powers, particularly China and Russia take more assertive stance in pursuing their national interests. The new efforts of balancing/rebalancing have led to the emergence of the complexity of international relations, affected the original alliance patters, and made many other countries in the Asia-Pacific and elsewhere start to contemplate alternative strategies of behavior.

Within this context, China and Russia cooperate on a wide range of issues both bilaterally and using different international organizations as a platform for interaction. While the current international configuration is transforming, China-Russia relations display many characteristics of a strategic alignment. But how will the strategic cooperation between China and Russia unfold in the 21st century? How will the two states behave under the conditions when the influence of the unipole is in relative decline? Will these two major regional powers form official strategic alliance, as many predict, or the relative decline of the U.S. will turn them into strategic rivals? The way China-Russia relations develop will, to a considerable extent, determine the international power configuration and dictate the objective conditions of existence to many other countries.

Principal investigators

  • Alexander Korolev

Project Publications