Russia-China Alliance, Marriage of ConveniencePosted: April 18, 2019
Russia-China Rider-horse Alliance Failed
In the 1950s, there was a treaty alliance between Russia’s predecessor and China. The treaty had a term of 30 years, but the alliance broke and the two nations became enemies within a decade.
Perhaps it was an alliance described by Stephen Blank, a senior fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council. Blank points out, “every alliance has a horse and a rider.” In the 1950s, the Soviet Union regarded itself as the rider as it was much richer and stronger than China. However, China did not want to remain Soviet Union’s horse when it had grown stronger. It wanted to be the rider too. It began to strive to grab from the Soviet Union the leadership of their socialist camp. The fight for leadership broke the alliance in spite of a long-term treaty of alliance between them.
Marriage of Convenience
Some analysts regard Russia-China alliance as a “marriage of convenience”, a marriage based on mutual needs instead of affection. The needs are obvious as both countries are under US threat. However, in a marriage the two parties are equal. China has a much larger economy and its military is growing stronger than Russia, but China treats Russia as an equal partner. China is wise to pay attention to refraining from regarding itself as rider and Russia as horse. Its president Xi Jinping even wants Russian President Putin to be leader of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) they have jointly set up though China is much richer and stronger than Russia. Putin rejects China’s proposal and wants China to be the leader. As a result SCO is led by Russia and China jointly. Such mutual respect enables a marriage of convenience to remain strong and difficult to break by external pressure.
In addition, a marriage of convenience, though not sound as a marriage based on mutual affection, may have some firm basis for the marriage, which usually is mutual interests. If the couple are both good and their interests are compatible and even facilitate each other as they grow closer due to the alliance, mutual affection may develop gradually. That is the case of Russia-China alliance. Long-term enmity may be turned into friendship due to mutual respect and trust built up through the alliance..
The US Has No Allies to Counter Russia-China alliance
While China has won over another world military power Russia to form an alliance that will assist each other to resist the US militarily, the US only has the allies it has obligations to protect but no allies to assist it in attacking China or Russia.
US former President Obama tried to form an Asian iron triangle of US, Japan and South Korea but failed as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had upset South Korea with his visit to Yasukuni Shrine. In fact, South Korea could not help the US in its war with China but Japan will be able to if it has further developed its military.
Obama’s pivot to Asia is mainly an alliance with Japan to contain China. Japan may become an ally comparable to China’s ally Russia. Japan is willing to take an active part to join force with the US due to its history of invading China and inflicting Chinese people with great misery. Together Obama and Abe had formed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to contain China economically. Obama’s successor Trump, however, withdrew from TPP in spite of Abe’s strong opposition. Trump, in addition, plans to start a trade war with Japan. As a result, Japan is now active to improve relations with China. It is now making great efforts to establish with China Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and ASEAN + 3 Free Trade Area.
The US is pushing Japan to China’s arms and will thus lose its only possible ally. Its European allies rely on its military protect and are unwilling to increase their military spending for their own defense, let alone help the US fighting China.
The US has no one to complain as its alliance with others is rider-horse alliance. It certainly cannot hope that its horse will protect it.
Can the US Be a Third Party that Disrupts the “Marriage” with an “Affair”?
The United States regards China as its only rival for world hegemony. As China is rising while the US is declining, normally, the US has to form alliance with some other countries to counter Russia-China alliance or instead make efforts to break Russia-China alliance. US President Donald Trump has tried to improve relations with Russia and thus drive a wedge between Russia and China but has encountered strong opposition at home.
Will Trump succeed in leverage Russia against China?
The question will be answered in my next post.
Article by Chan Kai Yee.