Russia and China: The Challenges of Excellent Relations

23.04.2018

The Russian-Chinese relations can be called excellent. However, this is what makes one think very seriously about the future of these relations. It is the main problem of any success: having achieved something, one always has to stop and think what to do next.

It is well known that human history is moved by the imagination: first, something is conceived, and then it is either fulfilled or not, or something completely unexpected can happen. And then, we have to do the thinking again. For example, the creation of the EU is a rather ancient idea, rooted in the Middle Ages, but its practical phase only began in the postwar years. The result, I have to say, which in some regards did not quite match the idea of the Maastricht process founders, is still rather impressive.

The Russian-Chinese relations started long before yesterday and have undergone a complex evolution. In a sense, its new phase started just a few years ago, when the leaders of Russia and China started talks about the confluence of their respective integration projects, the greater Eurasian partnership, cooperation in the framework of the EAEU, the SCO, BRICS and so on. It should be noted that a lot was done in only three or four years. But it is these successes in the economic development and political relations that make us think what to do next.

The fact is that the Russian-Chinese relations can prove to be an extremely important element of the entire current and, especially, future world architecture, and the need to understand it is quite obvious. After the collapse of the socialist system and disintegration of the bipolar world, no sustainable model emerged, contrary to the hopes of many. For one reason or another, the world lost the distinct leadership, so neither the US nor the West in general could act as a system-forming principle of the modern existence – while the need in such a principle is great. New technologies – especially in the field of communications, global economic growth, closer interdependence in all spheres from military to ecological, make the world a complex organism in need of management and careful planning. But, unfortunately, there is no center, no place, where we could address and solve these problems – at least the global ones. The international organizations, primarily the UN, although they play an important role, cannot act as a center of world wisdom. And the notorious G7, and even G20, whose usefulness is, of course, different from zero, cannot be qualified as the all-Earth intellect.

Of course, I do not claim that Russia and China will overnight become the core of a future international union capable of initiating the regulation of world processes, but I have no doubt that these countries and their elites can and must seriously take the understanding of the future and the development of humanity in the coming years. And this process is not easy.

To be sure, the role of Russia and China in the development of the world has been discussed for quite a long time. Both Andrei Bely in his “Petersburg” novel and the Eurasianists eagerly wrote about the need of a Russian-Chinese union and its prospects in the reconstruction of the entire world. In his “The Fate of Russia”, Nikolai Berdyaev made a curious observation. He lamented that the Russian defeat in the World War I would negatively affect the global state of affairs. “Now, as a result of the world war, the only nations that can win are only the extreme East, Japan and China, the race which has not yet depleted itself, along with the extreme West, America. After the weakening and disintegration of Europe and Russia, China and America, which can find points of rapprochement between themselves, will shape the world. Then the Sino-American kingdom of equality will be realized, in which no descends and ascents will be possible.” And further Berdyaev complains, by the way, that the Russian people rejects its world mission.

Berdyaev was wrong in many respects, as well as the Eurasianists. This could be, however, for the better, because Russia and China seem to have found strength for a new round of development, for contribution to a common future.

But for this, both Moscow and Beijing, the elites of the two countries should answer a lot of questions. The list of them is quite impressive.

How should the world security be arranged? How and when could the military force be used? What should the contracts between the Eurasian countries be like? Should we regulate only the economic issues? Are we in need of any political alliances? Should we reorganize the international organizations – and if so, how then? How to develop the Eurasian space? Are the existing institutes sufficient? What should bilateral relations between Russia and China look like in the context of multilateral commitments? The list could be continued further and then again – which is good, because it is more important to pose questions than to give answers. And if we pose the common questions, it means that contradictions could be overcome even if there are disagreements in the answers.

There are, surely, some problems in the Russian-Chinese relations. The paradox is that they are development problems, they are questions of the future. Such problems are faced, for example, by young businesses, new families or even simply groups of people who decide to go camping. At first, it seems that everything is good and simple: there is an unconditional agreement by the participants to act together, there are some plans, more or less well-designed – to grow carrots, to do hang-gliding, to live happily ever after and die the same day. But there are differences in the choice of the variety of carrot or the size of the hang-glider. Fortunately, I repeat, such problems are not only surmountable, they still play an important role in the development and construction of any relations. Where there is no dispute, there will be no development.

The world did really enter a new phase. We do not fully understand it, but we see that a lot of things are going wrong, creating great risks. In order to avoid major disasters, the states – and they continue to be the main subjects of global governance, – must learn to interact in the present world. So far, we have not succeeded much. So one has to start with what really works. In the case of Russia and China, there are many examples of that, and that is unfolding on a significant part of the world territory, which continues to grow.


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