The orientalists in Russia have long been hand in glove with government simply by virtue of the long and arduous training in language and culture they collectively receive. So it is worth listening to them. A leading Russian specialist on China, Mikhail Karpov, dismisses the idea that China is likely to go all in with Russia during the war against Ukraine. There is no natural identity between the two. The Russians might occasionally refer to themselves as Eurasian, but to the Chinese they are and will forever remain European. Relations with Russia are therefore entirely functional; any symbiosis is constrained by geopolitical realities and the stark reality of commerce. Here in the balance of trade, what the Russians offer does not even begin to compare with mainstream Europe, let alone the United States. Sino-Russian trade turnover stands at little more than $100 million a year. Trade with distant Europe is close to $900 million. And trade with the United States, a colossal $3 trillion.
Karpov tells how the Chinese worried when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991-2 and the Russians effectively fell into the hands of the Americans; that they were always anxious lest the Russians threw in their lot completely with the West; and that they effectively sat on two stools, one buttock on each: the Russian and the American. The complete loss of either stool presented a serious dilemma.
In 2014 they went along with the sanctions against Russia when it attacked Ukraine and seized Crimea, but at the same time offered some material assistance. Putin’s war, however, and the cascade of Western sanctions against Russia, far from spurring the Chinese into alliance is actually having the opposite effect, prompting them to shift away from the Russian stool towards the United States; not least because Biden has eased up on the sanctions levied against China by Trump.
«Когда Россия заявила о «повороте на Восток», Китай начал дистанцироваться»
Востоковед, китаист Михаил Карпов — о перспективах большой российско-китайской дружбы
12:48, 24 марта 2022Ирина Тумакова, спецкор «Новой газеты»