Think Tank
Russia and China: No Alternative to Cooperation
Valdai Club Conference Hall (42, Bolshaya Tatarskaya, Moscow)
List of speakers

On February 17, the Valdai Discussion Club and the Center for Russian Studies of the East China Normal University held a joint conference, titled Driving Forces in Russian-Chinese Relations: Unlocking Potential, Improving Quality and Efficiency.

Vasily Kashin, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, described the prospects for Russian-Chinese relations in 2021 against the backdrop of the on-going crisis in the world economy and the deepening economic war between the main centres of power. The new American administration is likely to continue the policy of technologically and economically isolating China and Russia, and this situation seems to have persisted for a long time. This requires Russia and China to engage in complex interaction and joint coalition planning.

Feng Shaolei, Director of the Center for Russian Studies at East China Normal University, briefly outlined the features of the new emerging world order. He noted that simultaneously with the formidable confrontation of the great powers, there are also manifestations of the development of relations, especially in the economic sphere, which the political crisis had surprisingly little effect on. The United States can no longer rule the world as before, he stressed, noting that the changes are associated with the growth and power of developing countries. Against this background, China and Russia should cooperate hand in hand, without exchanging their friendship for the temporary favour of Washington.

Alexander Lomanov, Deputy Director for Research, Head of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies and Chief Researcher at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), outlined the challenges for Russia faced by the Chinese economic policy of double circulation. He pointed out that with all possible difficulties, the question of whether Russia and China can become a substitute for the West for each other makes sense. Serious structural contradictions have formed relations with the West at the moment, and a break in Russian-Chinese relations in any case will not return relations with the West to their previous high level.

Xing Guangcheng, Academician of the Academy of Public Sciences (APS) of the PRC, Director of the APS Centre for Geography and History of the Chinese Border Territories, added that relations between Russia and China have taken the character of a strategic partnership, but there is a need to expand them at the non-governmental level. In his opinion, too many areas have not yet been covered by cooperation, including the scientific and technical sphere.

Fyodor Lukyanov, Research Director of the Valdai Club, stressed in his speech that given the current situation, Russia and China no longer have a choice. Even the most committed adherents of the liberal order admit that it is over. The Western world has begun to fall back, retreating to the parameters of the Cold War times, and it has become impossible to return to the models of interaction with it that have become familiar over the past decades. This makes Russian-Chinese interaction and cooperation uncontested.

Zhang Xin, Deputy Director of the Center for Russian Studies at East China Normal University, devoted his speech to the main parameters of the Russian-Chinese partnership. He called its potential unlimited “It is important for us to identify points of contact and prerequisites for cooperation,” he said.

Anastasia Likhacheva, Director of the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies (CCEIS), analysed the features of economic cooperation between Russia and China under the pressure of sanctions. In her opinion, in the long term, its impact is rather positive, but it narrows the number of projects that can be worked on at the moment. The existing and still operating financial system does not allow for the problem to be overcome with a simple volitional decision. Therefore, for the development of cooperation, our countries need to build their own system, relatively isolated and closed off from external sanctions shocks.

In conclusion, Wang Haiyan, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Kazakhstan, at East China Normal University, gave a general outline of Russian-Chinese interaction in Central Asia, briefly describing its main directions. Qu Wenyi, Professor at the Center for Russian Studies at East China Normal University, discussed the possibilities of cooperation at the level of society and private business at the local level, and Bei Wenli, Secretary of the CCP Committee Branch, and Deputy Dean of the School of Advanced International and Area Studies at East China Normal University, stressed the importance of cultural cooperation.