Examining contemporary Russia-China relations, assessments by Western scholars yield a wide variety of perspectives and conclusions. Some view the relationship as inherently brittle, lacking in genuine substance and shot through with historical mistrust. At the other end of the spectrum, some hold that the relationship represents the most ominous possible threat to Western-style democracies. This presentation will summarize and attempt to categorize these wide-ranging conclusions, demonstrating that realists, liberals and constructivists have all developed distinct interpretations of the Russia-China relationship and its meaning for global security. Employing a case study approach, this research makes detailed probes into Russia-China cooperation in five specific domains, including Central Asia, the Korean Peninsula, the Arctic, the Middle East, and in the military domain more generally. These case studies offer preliminary conclusions for a larger book-length study that aims to be one of the first truly comprehensive studies of this complex and consequential bilateral relationship. Results to date illustrate a path between the two analytical extremes. The relationship has already produced some very significant results in the given case studies. On the other hand, the threat of further developing Russia-China relations should not be exaggerated, even as the subject demands increased scholarly attention.
Sponsored by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.
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