Russia, China and The New World Order
Ke 22.10.2008 klo 16:30-18:00
This seminar seeks to shed light on the nature of the “strategic partnership” between Russia and China. Officially, ties are closer and warmer than at any time in history. However, the mutual engagement and cooperation are complicated by historical suspicions, cultural prejudices, geopolitical rivalries, and competing priorities. What are the implications of this highly ambiguous relationship for the rest of the world?
Summary of the Seminar
Dr Matti Nojonen opened the seminar by welcoming everyone to the “Russia, China and the New World Order” seminar.
Dr Bobo Lo began his speech by presenting Russia’s and China’s partnership in the wider context. He stated that the world is not multipolar and that the new world order is just an illusion. The US is still a superpower and will remain in this position until the middle of the 21st century. Dr Lo stated that Moscow and Beijing have different perceptions of the world order. In his opinion Russia has no single vision of the world and it tries to recreate the concept of superpower. Russia wants to regain its position as a global power. According to Dr Lo, the Chinese vision of the world is more realistic. The Chinese think that the world will not become multipolar and that the US stays as a superpower. The US is China’s true partner and Russia is not. China has moved and will move to a more cooperative direction.
Dr Lo stated that Russia’s and China’s relations are now better than ever, but they have different priorities. China sees Russia as a supplier of energy and as a bilateral partner of secondary importance, whereas Russia sees China more in global terms. Beijing wants a good relationship with Russia but the Georgia conflict set limitations to that relationship. Dr Lo’s vision is that China’s rise will happen at Russia’s expense. Dr Lo highlighted that China and Russia have a traditional great power relationship. He also stated that Russia and China are more important to the West than to each other. Dr Lo sees two problem areas concerning Russia’s and China’s relationship. First one is the growing inequality between Russia and China and the fact that the countries are growing in different ways. The other problem area is Central Asia. Russia wants to be a leading power in Central Asia whereas China would prefer to be more of an equal partner.
In the end Dr Lo brought out the development of Russia’s and China’s relations. He sees that the relationship will be quite good in the future and the countries need to work together. But in his opinion there will most likely be strategic tension between them. Neither of them wants the other to be too successful.
Dr Igor Torbakov began his commentary speech by saying that he very much agrees with Dr Lo. Dr Torbakov stated that the important thing to think about is the question: “what does Russia want?” According to Dr Torbakov, Russia wants to grow and develop but without interference of the West. Russia also wants to be a global power. Dr Torbakov mentioned that Russia is present in all the major decision-making bodies, but Russia believes that it is not taken into account. Russia does not want isolation. It wants cooperation but in its own terms. Dr Torbakov stated that Russia’s position in the world has been dramatically transformed. It has been a great power, but is it that now? In Torbakov’s opinion it is not. He stated that Russia feels itself inferior to China. And it also feels excluded from the Europe because of the European Union.
Dr Nojonen stated in his commentary speech that facing the international financial crisis China has an opportunity to step into the shoes of a superpower in the sense that it can or could initiate a new international financial structure or become a more active player in the international finance architecture. He also pointed out that China is following a two-path international strategy. According to the first strategy, China is acting in a very constructive manner, e.g. in the WTO, World Bank and the UN. However, according to the second strategy that is based on the Chinese White Paper from 2001, China should “rewrite the unequal international agreements and arrangements”. China is as a matter of fact doing this in formulating new multilateral and bilateral relations in Africa, and even through e.g. the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization).
In the Q&A session there was a question about the Taiwan situation. Dr Lo stated that the situation concerning Taiwan and the mainland is at the moment better than before. Taiwan’s investment is critical to Shanghai and it is a key trading partner for China. There was also a question about what role does India and its rise play. Dr Lo answered that India has lots of ambitions but it is not a global power. India is a regional power with global interests. To the question about the integration dynamic in Asia and its impact to China, Dr Nojonen answered that China is dependent on world markets and it has adopted a strategy of peaceful rise. However, China has also shown greater interest to utilise its second strategy of rewriting international agreements (back in 2001) and has built an attractive ‘Chinese development model’ that it is trying to promote in bilateral and multilateral forums in Africa and East-Asia. According to Dr Nojonen, the important question in the long run will be that when China is investing more and more of its critical and strategic investments abroad, it will need to reconsider its policy of non-interference in other countries’ internal politics. Hence, as the global energy deficiency becomes more critical, will China send its own troops abroad to protect its national interest?