By: Elena Grace Flores
What would it be like when the 3 powerful countries of the world would merge and unite towards the betterment of the world? Should be too good to be true – knowing that each of them has their own interests and principles. Besides, all three are observed to have the tendency of wanting to dominate the world. So, is war the answer to settle such competition? Read through this analysis:
US News reported: A team of analysts Tuesday discussed the often tense relationship between the three economic powerhouses. As Russian President Vladimir Putin last month wrapped up his fourth trip to China since Xi Jinping assumed the Chinese presidency back in 2013, he boasted of nearly 60 deals that were in the works between Moscow and Beijing, reportedly worth upward of $50 billion.
“Russia and China stick to points of view which are very close to each other or are almost the same in the international arena,” Putin said at the time.
On its face, that message isn’t exactly reassuring to American observers, especially considering the substantial amount of political tension swirling between U.S. politicians and their counterparts in China and Russia.
“The reality is that Russian and Chinese relations are probably the best [they’ve been] in modern history. … They’re both opposed to a world dominated by a source of power that isn’t one of them,” J. Stapleton Roy, founding director emeritus of the Kissinger Institute on China and a former U.S. ambassador to Singapore, China and Indonesia, said Tuesday at a Brookings Institution event in Washington. “They both feel threatened by U.S. unilateralism.”
Roy and a handful of colleagues spoke Tuesday of the complicated and winding diplomatic relationships between the U.S., Russia and China. The three countries collectively represent some of the most geographically large, economically powerful and militarily significant nations in modern history. They collectively hold a quarter of the world’s population and account for 41 percent of its gross domestic product. If all three operated on the same page, each party – and the world at large – could stand to benefit immensely. But it’s said that two is company and three’s a crowd. And given China’s and Russia’s close proximity – and a mutual frustration with American international intervention – concerns have developed that a two-vs.-one scenario is developing.
The possibility that such an alliance could undermine American authority in the world is not ideal for the U.S. And yet China and Russia have increasingly aligned themselves in international efforts that stray from Western hegemony. The BRICS group – a collective reference to the emerging economies of Brazil Russia, India, China and South Africa – has offered opportunities for China and Russia to team up to improve economic and infrastructural development, as have the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative.
Trade between the two countries has also exploded in recent years, as China has become a primary market for Russia’s abundance of natural resources – particularly since the U.S. and Western allies levied sweeping economic sanctions in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
It added: “Russia and China are strategically complementary for one another. The Chinese feel Russia is good at confrontation, while the Chinese are good at maneuvering,” says Yun Sun, a nonresident Brookings fellow. “One is an energy exporter, one is an energy importer.” Attempting to clear the air, analysts at the Brookings event Tuesday were asked point blank whether rumblings in this three-way relationship could be laying the groundwork for a new Cold War in the years ahead.
Their answer: Not necessarily, though it can’t be completely ruled out.
“The Cold War was obviously driven by a very intense ideological struggle that was very clearly defined. This is much more vague in many respects,” says Fiona Hill, director of the Center on the United States and Europe. “In many respects, it’s a one-sided struggle.”
Whereas the Cold War in large part represented a showdown between capitalism and communism, Hill says the tensions at play today are more a matter of perspective than of disagreement over a nation’s ideological political structure.
For example, she says the U.S. sees its promotion of democracy and its involvement in global political affairs – like America’s advocacy for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – as “very benign.”
“That is not the view of many people in China, and it’s certainly not the view of the inner circle around Vladimir Putin,” Hill says. “There’s very much a strong view that the United States has been driving the uptick in insurgencies … which of course is not the perspective we’ve had in the U.S. at all.”
Analysts also suggested current tensions may not erupt into a Cold War-style conflict simply because all parties in the triangle aren’t standing on equal footing. Although Russian-Chinese trade has ballooned in recent years, the goods and services exchange between the U.S. and China is significantly more substantial. “A major weakness in Sino-Russia ties actually lies in their economic relations, which are fragile,” Sun says, noting that a combination of depressed energy prices, Russian and Chinese currency fluctuations and China’s broader economic slowdown all contributed to a “deterioration of the trade relations” in only a handful of months.
“The economic relationship with the United States is fundamentally more important than the one with Russia,” Roy says of China’s perspective. “The tenor of our relationship with China now, with all of the serious problems we have in the South China Sea and all our other issues, is so different than our relationship with Russia during the Cold War.” Analysts also pointed to an element of distrust that lingers between China and Russia. Hard feelings still persist in China over the Sino-Soviet border conflict of the mid-1900s and previous territory disputes in Eastern Russia that date back to the 19th century.
“It is nothing new for China that there are concerns about Russia within China and vice versa. It’s a peril of proximity and a peril of history,” Sun says. “It is Russia who took most of our lost territories. … Putin’s nationalism in China is perceived to be aimed not only at the West but also at China.” All told, though, Roy cautions American politicians about actively pushing China and Russia into an alliance against the U.S. Although they mostly avoided citing presidential candidates by name, Roy and Hill both noted that this election cycle has included some particularly strong rhetoric on the topic of Chinese trade.
Roy notes that “it’s bad diplomacy … to manipulate them instead of accomplishing something positive” and that “a bad relationship with China is not in the U.S. national interest.” But regardless of who moves into the White House in January, Hill notes that the upcoming presidential election will in some respects allow Russia, China and the U.S. to get a fresh start, even if it will take “really deft diplomacy” to make that happen. “We have an opportunity for a new chapter with our presidential election,” Hill says. “This might still be an opportunity to think afresh. And if we are concerned about getting into another Cold War relationship, which is actually avoidable, then perhaps it’s time that we start thinking about how to change [existing tensions].”