Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine has cast a spotlight on China’s close ties with Russia. The ChinaPower team has developed a series consisting of a historical backgrounder and three features examining the China-Russia relationship. The series focuses on assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship, and it also includes a deep-dive on military cooperation between the two countries. Below, you can preview some of the highlights of each feature and navigate to the full features by following the links.
This backgrounder explores the history of China-Russia relations, from the establishment of relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union to the present. The backgrounder features an interactive timeline of major milestones in the bilateral relationship, which you can preview below.
Major Milestones in the China-Russia Relationship
This feature explores how the China-Russia relationship came to be so close, up until the time of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The analysis centers on five key ways in which China benefits from the relationship, each of which is examined in detail.
One of the key strengths highlighted in this feature is the strong personal relationship between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Since he became China’s president in 2013, Xi has met with Vladimir Putin over 40 times—more than double the number of times Xi has met with leaders of any other major power.
This feature explores key areas of uncertainty and weak points within the China-Russia relationship. While ties between Beijing and Moscow are currently close, there are areas of tension and uncertainty within the relationship. One potential long-term stressor on the relationship is the growing power disparity between the two countries, as China solidifies its position as the more "senior" partner.
This is most visible with respect to economic power. China's GDP has already far outpaced Russia's, and the gap between the two is set to widen as China's GDP is expected to climb toward nearly $30 trillion in the coming years, while Russia's is forecasted to stagnate at well under $2 trillion.
The final feature in the series analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of China-Russia military relations, focusing on arms sales and joint military exercises.
Arms sales have ebbed and flowed over the years, with a notable decrease in recent years. Joint exercises, however, remain a critical element of military ties between the two countries. Altogether, China and Russia participated in at least 78 joint military exercises between 2003 and mid-2022, with more than half of these taking place since 2016.