Patterns of China–Russia cooperation in multilateral forums

Munro, N. (2015) Patterns of China–Russia cooperation in multilateral forums. In: Brown, K. (ed.) The EU-China Relationship: European Perspectives. A Manual for Policy Makers. Imperial College Press: London. ISBN 9781783264544

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.


Multilateral forums vary not only in their participants but also in their purposes and the degree of constraint their decisions impose on members. This paper analyses patterns of China–Russia cooperation based on examples from three forums representing different levels of cooperation and different degrees of constraint. These forums are: • The East Asia Summit (EAS). • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). • The UN Security Council (UNSC). Strategic competition between the US and China in the Asia-Pacific region is growing. Although Russia is often assumed to favour China, its behaviour at the EAS and in other forums in fact reveals a variable position, depending on the issue. For example, Russia has failed to support China’s demand that the Spratly and Paracel islands disputes should be resolved through bilateral negotiations between the claimants and has adopted a neutral position regarding China’s dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. In terms of wider strategic calculus, China and Russia once stood together in opposition to US missile defence plans. Now Russia seeks to develop missile defence jointly with the US. The SCO is at the heart of the China–Russia relationship. Although based on shared views of world politics, the SCO shows signs of internal tension due to political differences between Russia and China and China’s superior economic performance. A notable outcome is that China has effectively broken Russia’s monopoly on transportation networks for oil and gas in Central Asia. If Russia fails to diversify its sources of growth, it risks becoming unstable in the future. However, China–Russia energy cooperation is deepening, which may help to promote regional economic integration. Russia and China still tend to unite to defend norms of state sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs. To a large extent, this is a direct reaction to assertive Western foreign policies which they interpret as expansionist. In dealing with Iran, although the UNSC as a whole recognises the seriousness of the proliferation issue, no effective action has been possible in that forum because of China–Russia cooperation watering down proposed economic sanctions and pre-empting threats of military action. China–Russia cooperation has been even more obstructive in preventing UNSC resolutions against countries accused of repression. Under the terms of their July 2001 Treaty on Good Neighbourly Friendship and Cooperation, the two states have agreed to oppose the use of force to intervene in the domestic affairs of sovereign states. Under the same treaty they have agreed to strengthen the role of the UN, and especially the responsibility of the UNSC for promoting international peace and stability. Joint adherence to the norm of non-interference reflects a fear of political instability at home and a suspicion that the West desires to foment democratic regime change worldwide.

Item Type:Book Sections
Keywords:Russia, China, multilateralism, international relations
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Munro, Dr Neil
Authors: Munro, N.
Subjects:J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
J Political Science > JZ International relations
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Publisher:Imperial College Press

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record

Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
60234Europe China Research and Advice NetworkNeil Munro (Consultant)SteinbeisUNSPECIFIED