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Non-alignment and Non-capping of Russian-Chinese Relations Are Not Opposing Statements

November 15 , 2021 10:22 AM by Feng Shaolei

When it comes to Russia, I often use the expression "Russian phenomenon", which refers not only to a country, but also to a civilization and a choice, which is so rich in connotations.

In my opinion, China and Russia are still the same: "harmony and difference". We can't have one model, one concept, one ideology. We advocate "harmony and difference", and we seek tolerance and a wide range of choices in a diverse society. This is precisely the reason why we have been criticizing Western logic - ideological lines and exclusionary cliques. So, which model of thought is more appropriate? Why do we choose "harmony and difference"? Because we are currently facing a diverse world.

The study of Russia is sometimes too controversial, some things are not clear, and there are often heated debates. But on the other hand, it is more useful for us, because the "non-normative" Russian phenomenon allows us to look at the world in a way that maintains its diversity and complexity, and it gives us a lot of inspiration.

Looking back on my personal journey, I didn't actually choose this major back then. I was in the "class of '77" and was swept in by the tide of reform. When I was studying in college, I formed a research group on Soviet Eastern Europe with my like-minded classmates. When the reform started, a lot of information and motivation actually came from Soviet Eastern Europe. I had no idea that this would take more than 40 years. It was very rewarding to listen to the speeches of several teachers today. Usually we are all very nervous at school, but today we benefited a lot from the exchange of ideas with the help of this platform of the Academy of Guanxi.

For example, Mr. Zhang Xin (Deputy Director of the Center for Russian Studies at East China Normal University) talked about the changes in the former Soviet space and the way Russia dealt with its peripheral problems. If you deal with it in the former Soviet way back then, the neighboring countries will simply ignore you, much less in an imperial way.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and representatives of Crimea and Sevastopol sign a treaty on March 18, 2014, in which Crimea and Sevastopol will join Russia as federal subjects. Photo from the Kremlin's website

In fact, there has been a lot of internal reflection and debate in Russia in recent years following the Ukraine crisis. Many leading Russian experts, for example, like Sergei Karaganov, Federico Lukyanov have been involved. Some believe that Russia has done it all right; while others believe that there is still a lot to reflect on.

As you know, many of our Russian friends have a style like Dostoevsky's, intellectual gutting of self-criticism, which is a way of life and culture for them. This kind of reflection also brings about the resilience of Russia in dealing with problems today.

Is the "former Soviet space" really going to disappear completely? Zhang Xin uses a good word - "just beginning". For example, Timofey Bordaichev suggested that Russia can no longer use its limited domestic resources for unnecessary investments, except for Belarus and Kazakhstan, which cannot be moved. It is evident that Russia has a new exploration in dealing with its peripheral problems after painful reflections.

In particular, Qu Wenyi (professor at the Center for Russian Studies and the Center for Peripheral Studies at East China Normal University) talked about the "Belt and League" docking issue.

First of all, this is a geo-economic space, which Russia wants to preserve. When a lot of Chinese goods go in, their own industries will face challenges. At this point, we need to put our heads together and make a good pre-assessment. But, on the other hand, what happens if the industry can't take off after the space is closed? We also have good intentions. So it's important for both sides to find an entry point and path that can dovetail.

In fact, in addition to energy, there is also agriculture. The former minister of economy under Boris Yeltsin was Dr. Yevgeny Yashin, the director of the Yeltsin Presidential Advisory Center, now in his 80s and a spiritual leader of Russian liberals. In recent years, especially after the crisis in Ukraine, he has said several things that have struck a chord. One of the quotes was that it was Putin who saved Russia during the crisis, no matter what. The fact that the spiritual leader of the opposition can say such things shows the complexity and diversity of the Russian political spectrum. Some years ago, Putin asked Yashin to come back as a senior advisor to the government on macroeconomic and social issues because Yashin made an important proposal to develop agriculture as a grip on reviving the economy. This is a very ambitious topic, and the entire East Asian region is extremely complementary to Russia in terms of space, land, environment, water, seeds, and meat. But again, Russia's output is extremely limited. In such a context, issues such as these should be explored and studied in great depth. I believe that these issues are far more than just academic issues, and we look forward to engaging with all parties through various platforms and getting more learning opportunities.

Of course, there is no doubt that when put into the current international landscape, people are not only concerned about Sino-Russian relations, but also about the interaction between the U.S. and Russia, China and the U.S. and Russia.

First, with regard to the U.S.-Russian relationship, judging from the latest statements by Thomas Graham -- who has been deeply involved in the decision -- he believes that despite all the nuclear warheads still in the Russian arsenal, it seems that Biden doesn't care that much anymore. The real adversary for the United States is here, not there. That adversary ranking has flipped.

Under this status quo, while there will be no restart of U.S.-Russian relations under Clinton, or Bush Jr. - the first time Bush Jr. ran into Putin, looked into Putin's eyes and thought there was something in this man's eyes - stories like this won't happen again. Certainly, there will not be a massive reboot of relations with Russia, as there has been since Obama took office, and this reboot has substantial policy content. First, there will be no significant intervention or churning in the former Soviet periphery; second, the tone of criticism of Russia's domestic political system will be significantly reduced. Generally in the reboot phase, these two things are bound to be done.

Biden at least in the near future or within a year or two will not restart, but also not overly aggravated relations with Russia; anyway, Russia is so far, the United States will not be too lethal, to focus on solving the problem of China first, this may be a consideration of Biden.

On the other hand, looking at the Russian side, after the "killer" dialogue, the general reaction in Russia - not only Putin's reaction alone, but also the response of press spokesman Peskov, other departments and major media - I think the tone of the Russian side is. When someone says the wrong thing, we can't really take it too seriously to hinder cooperation between the two countries.

U.S.-Russian relations have fallen to a freezing point, and there is little room to go further down the road, and U.S.-Russian relations can't get any worse. We can say that Russia does not have too much hope for U.S.-Russian relations, as long as they remain in the current situation and do not get worse. In fact, there is not much economic interaction between the U.S. and Russia, but only continued political constraints. Regional issues may also continue to worsen, such as the crisis in Ukraine.

However, if the U.S.-Russian relationship can be adjusted in the future, the Russians will not give up. Now, indeed, is an important point in the U.S.-Russian relationship.