If you haven’t already read it, Gilbert Rozman has an incisive essay over at Foreign Affairs that explains why the contemporary iteration of close bilateral ties between Russia and China is here to stay. Rozman argues that we’re not about to see a rehash of the Sino-Soviet split anytime soon for a variety of reasons — most related to national identity and ideology. What makes Rozman’s argument remarkably convincing in my view is the complete absence of the United States’ policy and position in Asia as a causal force in driving China and Russia together. Indeed, under Putin and Xi, China and Russia have come together organically as both country’s ideological directions and geopolitical impulses have converged. While the two aren’t formal allies (and won’t be anytime soon), their potential combined impact on international relations in Asia and the world at large should not be understated.
At the core of today’s convergence between Russia and China is the common idea that the existing international order needs at least an alternative, and at most a complete overhaul. Both countries’ elites experienced the global financial crisis of 2008 in similar ways and walked away from that experience with a degree of vindication that the Western way was by no means adequate. Similarly, Rozman notes that contemporary intellectual elites in both Russia and China have convincingly cast the West as a nefarious imperialist force, culpable for current unrest in Ukraine and Hong Kong. Given the prevalence of these narratives in both countries, nationalism remains directed at the West and not at the other.
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