China-Russia enhanced security cooperation is a form of geopolitical signalling. Despite closer relations, the coming years will tell whether such cooperation is sustainable as the relationship is expected to turn increasingly asymmetrical due to China’s continuing rise. It is unlikely that China’s relationship with Russia would turn into an actual military alliance in the future, however. China’s strategic partnership with Russia is the most comprehensive among its strategic partnerships. The two countries have also enhanced coordination in internationally topical issues. In June 2017, China and Russia signed a general plan for bilateral military cooperation for the years 2017–2020.

Over the years, there has been a qualitative improvement since the first two exercises of 2005 and 2007, moving towards interoperability. Joint naval exercises with Russia help the Chinese navy to gain experience in areas further away from the Chinese coastal regions. Arms sales from Russia to China picked up after 2015 when Russia agreed to sell its most advanced technologies to China. The latter will receive the S-400 missile defence system as Russia’s first foreign customer. The delivery date has not yet been published.

Elina Sinkkonen
Senior Research Fellow - The Global Security Research Programme