Amidst all of the conventional wisdom about a tight relationship between Moscow and Beijing, a caution:
Fifty years later, the ferocity of the skirmish between Mao Zedong’s China and Leonid Brezhnev’s Soviet Union seems to belong to a very distant past—so distant, indeed, that many foreign-policy experts are convinced that an anti-U.S. alliance between the two countries is emerging. Yet even half a century on, such an assessment stretches the evidence beyond what it can bear. On closer inspection, Chinese-Russian economic, foreign policy, and military cooperation is less than impressive. The history of relations between the two countries is fraught, and they play vastly different roles in the world economy, making a divergence in their objectives all but unavoidable. In short, reports of a Russian-Chinese alliance have been greatly exaggerated.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Vulcan had involvement in both. In our series A Fistful of Yuan, which dates from 2007, the following observation comes:
To his credit, it remained for Richard Nixon to re-open the door with China as the U.S.’s involvement in Vietnam wound down and the Chinese crawled out from under the landslide of the Cultural Revolution. Nixon wisely saw the natural rivalry between China and the then Soviet Union. United by ideology, the two nations were divided by history, a division that manifested itself when Soviet “experts” were given the boot in the early 1960’s. (This should give pause to enthusiasts of a China-Russia front against American “hegemony” today.)
Vulcan’s subsequent involvement in Russia revealed a system that, although had many commonalities with China, had many important differences as well.
The real question at this point is not whether the United States can benefit from this mutual unease. The real question is whether it will pull itself together long enough to do so.