Wednesday, 21 May 2014
China + Russia = "Chussia"?
Let me say it first, even if I loath these portmanteau joinings-together of country names in order to hype relations between them (worst offenders: Chindia, Chimerica, Chiwan), but "Chussia", or whatever you want to call the relationship between China and Russia that has been hyped as the new "special relationship", is the upcoming thing in world affairs. At the very least, this is what today's news seems to indicate.
Russia and China's signing of an agreement that has been in negotiation since my early days as a Chinese-language student in Nanjing, at a time when Russia's relations with much of the rest of the world are strained seems unlikely to be a coincidence. The prospect of being able to sell the gas to customers other than China for a higher price has distinctly dwindled as the countries of Europe and Japan have implemented policies designed to limit their reliance on a Russia that appears ever more unstable and aggressive.
In the past, commenters have dismissed the future Mr Putin holds forward to Russia as essentially becoming China's "Gas Station" - a country with an economy entirely dependent on hydrocarbon exports to a single customer. Some critics have also pointed out that the biggest threat to Russia's sparsely-populated east is the supposed threat of a land-grab by densely-populated China.
Russian exports to China, however, differ from the kind of China-oriented resource-extraction business seen in Africa ("Chafrica"?), because the Russia-based infrastructure will be entirely Russian-owned and built, and because Russia (unlike the Ukraine) is, with its massive army and nuclear arsenal, not so easily pushed around. It is hard to see Russia becoming totally dependent on China to the point where China calls the shots - indeed, as we've seen in Eastern Europe, being the main supplier of gas to country gives Russia definite power in that country. We are also unlikely to see Russia weakened to the point where she might lose territory in a fashion similar to the way that the Crimea was torn away from the Ukraine.
It would be wrong also to celebrate this as the dawn of some kind of "Eurasian Century" as one commenter at RT, the Kremlin-controlled media outlet did. In the final analysis, if Russia was an ordinary country living at peace with its neighbours, then its leaders wouldn't be rushing to Beijing to finalise this agreement at a price lower than the Russians get elsewhere for their gas - instead they would simply be selling to the highest bidder.
In the end "Chussia" isn't about a shared world-view. It's about how the unstable political systems of both countries limit their options in terms of allies.
[Picture: Vladimir Putin meets then-Chinese Premier Hu Jintao in Shanghai in 2007. Source: www.kremlin.ru via wiki]
Posted by Gilman Grundy at 07:52