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Deadly Myth: Russia-China Rivalry

Toby Westerman
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the Americans have comforted themselves with the knowledge that the United States was the world's only superpower. The attacks of 9-11 demonstrated that there were still bad people who wanted to hurt the U.S., but these individuals were restricted to terror groups in caves somewhere in Afghanistan or Pakistan or to the insane governments of Iran and North Korea.

map china russia

The two communist powers hold most of Asia's territory; the U.S. should mistrust their supposed rivalry

The supposed hostile rivalry between China and Russia is one of the staples of American think-tanks and pundits. This supposed rivalry is great comfort to policy makers and politicians, because they can tell the public - and themselves - that the United States can play Moscow against Beijing to America's advantage.

Unfortunately, this is false.

One indication of the close relationship between Russia and China comes from Russian news reports indicating the sale of advanced Sukoi 35 Flanker fighters to China and the probable sale of SU 34 Fullback fighter-bombers to the Peoples Republic. Both aircraft are extremely sophisticated and are meant to rival America's F-22 and F-35s. The Russian sale of these aircraft go far in making Communist China a formidable threat to the United States in the Pacific.

While Russian exports of military hardware, technology and training to China are not new and have been ongoing since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the increasingly high level of sophistication of the weaponry presents a new and formidable threat to America.

This is particularly true as U.S. research and development of military weaponry is continually starved by budget cuts and the apparent disinterest of the U.S. political oligarchy in American security. The mass electronic media also seems to share this apathy toward national survival and leaves the average American tragically uninformed.

Quite the opposite is occurring in Moscow and Beijing, and in stark contrast to various experts and pundits here, Russian and China are not suspicious rivals but are working closely together against the United States.

The United States is facing not one, but two, powerful nations which are in a virtual anti-American alliance.

Agreements far outweigh arguments

The main area of mutual cooperation for Russia and China is the Pacific and those nations in the Far East bordering the Pacific.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already declared that China and Russia would work together to "strengthen the security of the Asia-Pacific region" by "supporting the relationship between the defense ministries." He made this statement last year after meeting with the then-leader of the PRC, Hu Jintao.

joint military exercise

A Chinese destroyer fires during joint Russia-China naval exercises in the Pacific in 2013

Close military cooperation continues between the two nations at the very highest level, and involves the Russian president personally.

Despite, or probably because of, the increasingly close military cooperation between Russia and China, Moscow is at present publically playing down the relationship with China. One Russian expert has declared that Moscow and Beijing have a "deep and comprehensive strategic partnership ... but not an alliance," according to a recent report in Kremlin friendly RIA Novosti.

China and Russia certainly do have differences, and have had for centuries. Today, growing Chinese economic influence in Central Asia, which Russia considers its own sphere of influence (party of the so-called "near abroad"), is a concern to Moscow. There are also some rivalries between Russia and China in several Third World countries. Moscow is also aware that some in China believe that the Russian Far East region, with its untapped natural resources, was unfairly taken from China and want the area returned to Chinese rule.

These issues, which are cited by Western experts as evidence of an immediate hostility between Russia and China, are considered by Moscow and Beijing as simply issues to be discussed and negotiated. In regard to the Russian Far East, Moscow has worked out a clear border, which China accepts, but Russia is open to giving China access to the valuable gas and oil reserves there.

Moscow and Beijing have been seeking to work out their differences for years, and continue to do so in what appears to be a careful and mutually respectful dialogue. As a result, there is little room for the U.S. to play one against the other, or to hope that Sino-Russian differences will explode into a conflict weakening both. The political oligarchy in Moscow and in Beijing are aware of this danger to their interests and are acting accordingly.

talks Moscow Washington

 Putin freezes Russia's relations with the US over Syria, Ukraine and the Snowden asylum; to the contrary, he gives warm smiles and an oil agreement to Beijing

agreement Russia china

Agreements between Moscow and Beijing far outweigh differences, and one important point on which the two concur is that the West is in decline, including the United States. Moscow and Beijing see great opportunities for themselves, especially if the United States no longer poses a serious opposition.

Anything but a close "strategic partnership" (a de facto alliance) would be absurd for the two powers. It is to the benefit of Moscow and Beijing to work together as America weakens. For this reason, no doubt, Chinese scholar in Russian studies Yang Cheng recently stated that Sino-Russian relations are "quickly" improving "in quality."

The bottom line is this: the United States is facing what in practice amounts to an alliance of two increasingly powerful nations, both of which are hostile to the American economic and political system.

As in the Soviet era, America's allies are first targeted. "Smiling" diplomacy is the first tactic. The benefits of working with China and Russia, which are ascending in power, are now being presented to our allies (Japan, Taiwan, even Australia). The declining power of the United States forms a backdrop to this "smiling diplomacy."

Everyone knows, however, that behind the smiles of Russian and Chinese diplomats is the growing might of China and Russia.

Stark and fateful decisions will soon be made by our allies in the Asia Pacific region, as well as around the world: Will our allies remain committed to the United States or find that survival dictates a re-alignment with the rising powers of Russia and China? This question to a great extent will determine whether or not the United States continues as a great power or will become a vassal State to Moscow and Beijing.

We must quickly recognize the danger of the Sino-Russian de facto alliance and take the proper measures to ensure the defense of ourselves and our allies. Our independence, our very survival, depend upon it.


Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted February 14, 2013
Toby Westerman publishes
International News Analysis - Today
An uncompromising weekly analysis of the world situation

Contact T. Westerman at
or P.O. BOX 5182, Rockford, ILL, 61125-0182

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