Russian-Chinese Integration Strategies for Eurasia: Forming a New Condominium?


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When: Dec 15 2014 - 10:30am until Dec 15 2014 - 12:00pm
Where: 1819 L Street, NW, Washington, DC, Sixth Floor Conference Room

Russian-Chinese Integration Strategies for Eurasia: Forming a New Condominium?

An Asia Pacific Foreign Policy and Security Seminar featuring:

Dr. Vitaly Kozyrev
Visiting Asia Studies Fellow
East-West Center in Washington, DC

Dr. William Norris (Discussant)
Stanton Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Russian-Chinese Integration Strategies for Eurasia: Forming a New Condominium? from East-West Center on Vimeo

Dr. Vitaly Kozyrev and Dr. William Norris discuss China's motivations for its renewed interest in Eurasia and the possibilities of convergence with Russia in that region.

Two major regional actors – Russia and China – each increasingly regard the Eurasian heartland as their strategic backyard. Estranged and sanctioned by the West over Ukraine, Moscow, in partnership with Kazakhstan and Belarus, hopes to realize its ‘Eurasian dream’ by establishing the Eurasian Economic Union in January 2015. Likewise China, guided by its proactive “striving for achievement” foreign policy strategy, seeks to secure its regional domination by means of its new continental “economic corridors diplomacy,” along the “Silk Road Economic Belt”, The regional ambitions of these two rising powers threaten a new era of competition –or possibly cooperation- in Eurasia. Will Moscow and Beijing build a new condominium in Eurasia? Or will China’s new economic offensive (strategy) challenge Russia’s effort to form an independent power center in Eurasia? Will Moscow’s competition with an even more assertive and resourceful China unleash its productive potential or lead to Russia’s geopolitical failure in the Eurasian heartland and undermine its status as a regional great power? 

In his remarks, Dr. Vitaly Kozyrev explored these issues of Russo-Chinese strategic coordination in Eurasia in the context of China’s expansionist regional ambitions and Moscow’s growing political and economic dependency on China. He prefaced his remarks by emphasizing that China's and Russia interactions in Eurasia must be viewed in the context of strategic convergence. As it turns out both China and Russia have viewed Eurasia at one point or another as a "bridge" between themselves, Europe and Asia. When defining Eurasia, this pragmatic outlook dominates in both countries' governments, where each seeks to use Eurasia as a means to build trust both with Eurasian countries and Europe more generally while seeking to maintain their positions of power. Dr. Kozyrev described this confluence of factors as a "duality" in Russia's policies towards Eurasia. On one hand, it wants to emphasize that it is not seeking hegemony in the region by pushing for integration with Europe to strengthen economic ties and thereby provide a foundation for liberalization via multilateral diplomacy, collective leadership and regulated integration. But given Russia's tenuous status in the region in light of economic woes and its questionable dealings in Ukraine, Russia has found itself needing to resort to what Dr. Kozyrev described as a return to Sovet-era tactics such as "rescuing" partners from financial catastrophe in exchange for political loyalty. 

Russia is not alone in this duality. During his research, Dr. Kozyrev discovered that China too is pursuing an often conflictual agenda. Under its "march West" policy, China is looking to use Eurasia to develop "continental economic corridors" that would help it solidify its position in continental Eurasia, particularly in the "industry clusters" where it could get access to energy and raw materials. Yet despite wishing to solidify its position of power in the region, China has been doing what it can to project a more benevolent side so as to not frighten off the Eurasian states who see such moves as hegemonic. Considering just how similar its goals and obstacles are to those Russia faces it seems almost inevitable that China and Russia will converge more in Eurasia as time goes on.

Russia certainly has been relying on China recently as sanctions from Western countries have become more biting. In addition to needing increased supplies of oil and natural gas, Russia is anxious for more Chinese investment domestically as well as increased loans from China. As a result, Russia has appeared more willing to concede to China in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), where it along with many Eurasian countries are members. So far, in this venue and in others, China and Russia have been exercising what Dr. Kozyrev termed "mutual restraint." Since both are well aware that the other is turning to Eurasia to secure its identity (i.e. position of power) in the region rather than strictly pursuing economic issues they are doing their best not to embarass the other side. This can be clearly seen in how China has not challenged Russia's position outright in the region despite Russia's turning to it for aid.  

Dr. William Norris, who served as a discussant, offered some suggestions that Dr. Kozyrev could pursue to further his research into this topic. He began with suggesting that Dr. Kozyrev examine Russian and Chinese opinions in greater detail given his unique insights into both countries, including his dual language capability. On a similar vein and no less important was finding out how the Eurasian countries felt about Chinese and Russian influences in their respective countries and their own thoughts on further Sino-Russo convergence. The United States' opinion should be taken into account as well, especially since many believe that the United States has a pivotal role in influencing how China and Russia behave in Eurasia (i.e. because they both want a system that "challenges the West" they should work together to keep the United States out). He ended by suggesting that Dr. Kozyrev further pursue his interesting take on "21st century multilateralism." At what point would China and Russia have to address issues that continue to plague their own bilateral relationship? would Russia always be alright with acquiescing to China's greater power in the region or would it draw the line somewhere? And finally, if such a multilateralism was institutionalized in the SCO or elsewhere would it remain fluid or become locked into how China, Russia or both believe it should be? 

 For more images, please visit the album for this event on the East-West Center's Flickr page. 

Dr. Vitaly Kozyrev is an Asia Studies Fellow at the East West Center, Washington, DC and Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies at Endicott College, Beverly, MA. His recent publications include the chapters for the following monograph studies: East Asia: Increasing but Informal Integration (Routledge, 2014), The Chinese Labyrinth: Exploring China’s Model of Development (Roman and Littlefield-Lexington, 2011), China’s Energy Strategy: The Impact on Beijing’s Maritime Policies (Naval Academy Press, 2009), Normalization of U.S.-China Relations: An International History (Harvard University Press, 2006). His research interests are Russo-Chinese relations, regionalism and international security in East Asia. He is affiliated with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University as Associate in Research.

Dr. William Norris is a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow and an associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where his research focuses on U.S.-China nuclear relations and risks of escalation. Norris is also an assistant professor at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, on research leave for the 2014–2015 academic year. He serves on the Faculty Advisory Board of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs and is a member of the China and Latin America Working Group at the Inter-American Dialogue. Norris also serves on the Board of Directors for the Southwest Conference on Asian Studies.

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