User login

Russia and China in the multilateral world - conference held in Moscow 1-2 December 2011

The potential for cooperation between Russia and China in the framework of BRICS and multilateral organizations in the Asia-Pacific was the main topic of discussion between "track two" experts and diplomats at the Russian-Chinese conference held on December 1-2 in Moscow. The meeting was organized by the "Russkiy Mir" Foundation, Russian National Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific and Russian National Committee on BRICS Research in cooperation with the influential China Foundation for International Studies. It should be pointed out that the Moscow conference became the first occasion for this prominent Chinese research center, comprising China’s leading institutes that deal with international affairs, to engage in a dialogue with the Russian counterparts.

As Vyacheslav Nikonov, "Russkiy Mir" Foundation Executive Director, noted in his introductory remarks serious changes are underway on the international stage – the center of power is shifting from the West to the East and, consequently, geopolitical interest of Russia are also shifting. The change in focus of Moscow’s efforts in international affairs is all the more logical given that China has become the leading foreign economic and geopolitical partner of Russia, and potential for cooperation between the two countries is far from being exhausted. Common approach to international security architecture in the South Pacific was also noted by the Chairman of the China Foundation for International Studies, Zhang Deguang. Moscow and Beijing would benefit greatly in case mechanisms for coordination in handling both global and regional situations were established.

At the same time, despite common views, there were matters on which Russia and China do not see eye-to-eye. One such question is the approach to cooperation via the BRICS organization. While China seeks to expand the group, Russia is pushing for deeper cooperation within the present framework of the bloc. Alexander Lukin, Vice-rector of the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pointed out another area where the two countries’ views diverge. In his opinion it is the purpose of the BRICS group that is perceived differently from Moscow and Beijing: for China the organization is primarily a means for expanding economic cooperation, while Russia wants to use this format to address a broader spectrum of international issues. However, notwithstanding such differences in policy approach, the Russian scholar believes that BRICS has become an ever more formidable center for preparing agenda of the G20, while earlier the G8 held this position and reflected only the interests of Western countries.

But despite some tactical disagreements, common approach to international security architecture was clearly manifest during the discussion. Russian and Chinese experts agree that global and regional policy issues require concerted efforts to be adequately addressed. The range of issues the experts have brought to the table is quite comprehensive: the situation in the Middle East, Iran, Korean Peninsula, the creation of US missile defense system, information and energy security, joint anti-narcotics trafficking operations, international crime, natural disasters, regional territorial disputes, contentions in the South China Sea and many more. All of this requires the creation of new multilateral, transparent international security architecture, and most importantly in the Asia-Pacific region. Russia’s envoy to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO), Kirill Barsky, pointed to the main challenge facing emergence of new geopolitical design for the Asia-Pacific. He emphasized currently existing security architecture in the region that has been around for over fifty years in the form of closed and opaque bilateral alliances between countries of Asia and the United States. Furthermore Ambassador Barsky asserted that cooperation between Russia and China within the framework of SCO is directly related to the Asia-Pacific region and proposed to intensify efforts of this organization within the main regional structure of the Pacific region – ASEAN. This proposal was fully supported by the representative of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Song Ronghua.

The topic of American involvement in the region was also addressed by the head of the Center for SCO China Institute of International Studies, Chen Yurong, who introduced the report, “Afghanistan and Central Asia.” The speaker stressed that China’s position with regard to security in the Asia-Pacific region takes into account the interests of the United States, which, in his opinion, are aimed primarily at non-proliferation of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula. Moreover, Chinese scholar emphasized the point that it is fundamentally important for harmonization of interests in the region to recognize natural economic, political and military interests of the US, since it is a Pacific Power, which influences the Asia-Pacific region more than any other country.

As the conference came to a close participants have made note of the highest academic level of the discussion, as well as concrete policy proposals that were put forward and expressed interest in further perpetuation and development of the dialogue. The Chairman of the China Foundation for International Studies, Zhang Deguang, has invited the Russian side to China for the next conference.