Monday, January 19, 2009

The West and New Capitalist Motherlands ―― Russia and China

While American conservatives worry about President-Elect Barack Obama’s new socialist motherland America, new capitalist motherlands of Russia and China pose far more critical challenges to global security. The clash between our liberal capitalism and their illiberal capitalism will be no less important than threats of Islamic radicals. President Bush has made substantial efforts to tackle dangers posed by Muslim terrorists, but it seems that the Russo-Chinese challenge has been left unconstrained. It is becoming increasingly important to understand the nature of their defiance to our liberal world order.

Bobo Lo, Director of Russia and China Programme at the Centre for European Reform in London, examines foreign policy of Russia and China in “Ten things everyone should know about the Sino-Russian relationship” (Policy Brief; Centre for European Reform; December 2008). He was the Deputy Head of the Mission at the Australian Embassy in Moscow. Lo articulates that Russia and China have contrasting national interests and values. Also, he insists that the Russo-Chinese partnership will not harm Western interests, because both nations are more interested in engaging with the West than with each other.

Lo criticizes neoconservative agenda that Western liberal democracies unite against the rise of Russo-Chinese authoritarianism. He even makes an analogy between this agenda and Marxist slogan of united international proletariats. To the contrary, Lo says that Russia and China do not share common interests in authoritarian alliance.

Let me review 10 points mentioned by Bobo Lo. He admits that bilateral economic relations are expanding, and security cooperation is developing rapidly. However, Lo points out that Russia is just one of the markets and natural resource suppliers for China. For Russia, China accounts for a tiny portion of its total amount of trade. Also, in security, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is not enthusiastically endorsed by the government of both countries.

Rather, Lo argues that both Russia and China are keenly interested in developing relations with the West, despite bitter rhetoric against American hegemony. Both Russia and China trade more with the West than each other. In addition, both Russia and China see the West as a model for their economic development despite recent financial crisis.

As the Chinese economy has been growing rapidly since late 1980s, the relation with Russia is becoming increasingly unequal. Though Russia has recovered from disruptive economy during the Yeltsin era, its economy is dependent on natural resources, and technological lag lowers its global competitiveness.

Lo also points out that Russia and China are competitors as well as partners in Central Asia. Sometimes, they unite against the West, while they confront each other in some cases.

The most importantly, Bobo Lo argues that Russia and China have different visions of the world. While Russia envisions its unique role to bridge the East (China) and the West (the United States), China regards Russia as a secondary great power along with Japan, India, and the EU in a world of rivalry against the United States. While Russian nationalism is confrontational to the West, China emphasizes “peaceful rise” or “harmonious world”. China is so cautious that it does not pursue a multilateral order so as not to provoke its indispensable partner, the United States.

A former Australian diplomat in Moscow, Bobo Lo presents invaluable insights on the nature of the Russo-Chinese challenge. Particularly, different visions of the world between Russia and China are important. However, his viewpoints seem to be quite liberal. Whatever their intentions are, both nations develop critical arsenals to defy American or Western supremacy. Russia has deployed Bulava SLBM while the United States has stopped producing new nuclear weapons. China succeeded in anti-satellite missile test.

Remember! Germany under Otto von Bismarck kept friendly relationship of common German blood with Britain under the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dynasty. However, Kaiser fought against Britain, with forces built up by Bismarck. We have to be careful to the Russo- Chinese challenge.