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Historical, conceptual and today’s sources of friendly relations between Russia and China as a prerequisite for creation of All-embracing Greater Eurasian Partnership


We are all under strong impression of the latest developments in Russia-China relations. The visit by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin to China and the weekend’s annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an eight-country association founded by Russia and China to further their shared interests, have been crowned with important results and have given a powerful impetus to the development of bilateral ties. As President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping pointed out in his press statement following Russian-Chinese talks, “China has the world’s largest population and Russia has the world’s largest territory. As neighbors we have a huge advantage and internal impetus for cooperation in all areas”[1].

It is China that President Putin has made his first state visit to during his new presidential term as a special sign of paying close attention to the promotion of China-Russia multidimensional cooperation. As President Xi Jinping has stressed, “President Putin and I agree that our comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation is fairly mature, stable and strong. It is distinguished among relations between great powers by its high level, rich content and highly important strategic significance. Both sides value the achievements of bilateral relations, reaffirming their readiness to continue strengthening their resolve and take more practical steps in the spirit of centuries-old friendship and strategic cooperation to further expand and deepen the multi-faceted cooperation and produce new results in bilateral relations in the new era”[2]. When awarding the Order of Friendship of the People’s Republic of China to “old and great friend of Chinese people” President Vladimir Putin, the first case since China introduced a system of awards for merit to the state, he reiterated: “In 2001, President Putin signed the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation between China and Russia, which created a solid legal framework for the centuries-old friendship between our countries[3].

We would like to attract your attention to these words: “in the spirit of centuries-old friendship between our countries”. They are of crucial importance.


Centuries of emotional and historical links

The Great Silk Road, the Silk Road Economic Belt and other similar terms and notions are not strange at all to the Russian ear. They sound very familiar. Why? It is because all children in Russia start learning history with historical facts about the way from Vikings to Greeks and the Great Silk Road. Indeed some Russian-Chinese connections had their origin in the days of the Great Silk Road, the time the land trade routes between Europe and Asia were developing.

When describing Russian-Chinese relations old and modern historians tend to forget that both of our nations were, over a period of time, part of a big continental empire created by Mongolian dynasties. It is not insignificant. Indian politicians and representatives of expert society are proud to repeat that India has a responsibility for nations of Central Asia. When asked ‘why?’ they answer: “The explanation is obvious. We remember that all of us belonged to the same empire of Tamerlane (Timur) and he was of Uzbek origin”. This is an approach worth remembering.

Formally the history of Russian-Chinese relations goes back to the 17th century. Of course, it is full of ups and downs which are natural for any kind of relationship. Ties remained weak until the middle of the 19th century. Relations became more dynamic when Tsar Alexander III ascended to the throne. According to our historians dr. Vladimir Paramonov and dr. Aleksey Strokov, “between that time up and the break-up of the Soviet Union there were two distinct periods of good relations, each of which was followed by a sharp deterioration”. Now, let us add, we witness the highest level of the third period of good or even very good relations.

They developed from cooperation limited to border issues in the early 1860s to a military alliance at the end of 1890s. In 1881, in St. Petersburg a treaty on “settlement of border questions” was signed which transferred Kashgar province to China. Tsar Alexander III and later Russian minister of finance count S. Witte warmly supported active development of commercial and military ties between the countries. Count S. Witte personally helped to establish Russo-Chinese bank in St. Petersburg in 1895. A year later, a bilateral treaty was signed on the “alliance and construction of the “Chinese Eastern Railway Society”. The treaty envisaged the formation of a military alliance between Russia and China against Japan’s looming attack on Russia, China or Korea.

Starting from 1924, when China among the first countries recognized the USSR and diplomatic relations were established, till late 1950s Soviet Union and China progressed from renewed diplomatic relations to the creation of a real political and military alliance. The USSR provided China with large military support to withstand Japan aggression and took part in liberating China from occupation later in 1945. Relations between Russia and China became even closer when revolutionary People’s Republic was established and Russia greatly assisted in rebuilding its economy and infrastructure.

Each generation has a tendency and a privilege to take a new look at history. There are two significant events among many others in our common history that are touching our hearts. In 1938, the Russian air forces stopped the advance of the Quantun army near Wuhan where a Russian military base was established and disrupted Japan’s plans to conquer Central China. There is a memorial in the center of Wuhan to the honor of Russian pilots who died to protect China. The first modern bridge over the Yangtze River in this large urban center was built by Russian technicians and designers.

Now we praise Russian-Chinese relations, saying that they are at their highest level, that they are better than ever. But those who belong to older generations in Russia remember the time when the slogan “Russians and Chinese are brothers forever” was so popular that ordinary people and political leadership took it for granted. It means that we are to learn a lot from our common history.


Conceptual basis for transforming Russian-Chinese ties into the cradle of Great Eurasia project

There exist both prerequisites for strengthening relations of trust, good neighborhood and friendship between Great Eurasia nations. One of them consists of well-developed conceptual basis for connectivity between the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Eurasian Economic Union and for creation of All-embracing Greater Eurasian Partnership. The second is provided by common interests. This conceptual basis is formed by the theories of Eurasianism which received an up-to-date interpretation. The strength and attractiveness of Eurasians ideas resides in three main sets of thoughts. They are able to unite Russia, China, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and all other nations of Great Eurasia super-region.

They were developed by brilliant Russian thinkers and philosophers starting from the second part of 19th century and fused into concise ideology after the disappearance of the Russian Empire when reunifying ideas were so welcome. They are associated with such names as prince Nikolai Trubetskoy (formulated ideas of the development of Eurasia as doomed to become a unified entity), Fyodor Dostoevsky (one of the greatest writers who had a profound impact on world literature and our way of feeling and thinking), Nikolai Berdyaev (one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century), Pyotr Savitsky (played a key role in the evolution of Eurasianism as based on geographical determinism), Roerichs (enlighteners and philosophers who dreamed about qualitatively new spiritual science of the future) and Lev Gumilev, (the author of Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere).

The first set of thoughts reflects a respectful attitude towards all cultures, all civilizations, in explaining that superior civilizations do not exist, it is a nonsense, and all civilizations make valuable contribution to common human civilization. In accordance with them all nations are equal and deserve independent development honoring their historical traditions without interference from other countries. These noble principles of interstate behavior are thoroughly reflected in Russian-Chinese statements and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s and BRICS’ declarations and final acts.

The second set of thoughts reminds us that during many centuries nations of Great Eurasia had a habit and an inclination to unite their efforts to withstand external pressure and consequences of natural disasters. By the way, historical episodes when Russia and China were together and created military alliances are an eloquent evidence of that. This tradition could be reincarnated in All-embracing Greater Eurasia Partnership which is extremely needed to restore peace and peaceful political and economic relations on Earth, to find solutions to numerous international conflicts, to combat international terrorism, separatism and extremism, as well as organized crime and drug trafficking, and to prevent ecological and climate collapse and dissemination of weapons of mass destruction.

The third element may be described as a well-grounded belief in strong state structures. A strong and efficient state is particularly required now during a transition period to a more equal, democratic and inclusive world order along the path to putting the narrative of shared destiny of mankind into practice.


Today’s sources

All of them can be found and are well explained in the speeches of political leaders of Russia and China made by them during the recent state visit of President Vladimir Putin to China and the final acts of bilateral and multilateral summits with their participation.

Let us consider just three main components. First, Russia and China as responsible key world players, nuclear powers and members of the United Nations Security Council together with other BRICs, SCO and EAEU countries, and respectful members of international community are interested in protecting the multipolar world order and the system of international relations based on the norms and principles of the UN Charter; in building long-lasting peace, universal and indivisible security, joint prosperity and mutual respect among nations; in solving all acute global and international problems through genuine multilateralism.

Secondly, they believe that there is a need to counter instability and uncertainty in the world economy and promote irreversible trends of regional and trans-regional economic integration as well as integration of integrations. In this sense they will firmly go ahead with developing One Belt, One Road joint project and interconnectedness between the Silk Road Economic Belt and activity of the Eurasian Economic Union which ultimately should lead to the creation of All-embracing Greater Eurasia Partnership. Such Partnership will serve as guidance to others, an instrument of shared opportunities and an impetus to everybody’s economic growth. In the opinion of Russia’s leadership, “a big step towards this was made in Astana this May with the signing of an agreement on trade and economic cooperation between EAEU member states and China”. Further steps could be expected as a follow-up to the joint statement on the completion of the feasibility study and the agreement on the Eurasian economic partnership.

Thirdly, they want to strengthen material foundations of bilateral relations and make the merging of interests even deeper by enhancing the effectiveness of cooperation in economic and related areas. As the Chinese side highlights it “the trade structure of our countries is substantially improving”; “major strategic projects in the investment, energy, transport, infrastructure, aviation and aerospace areas are making rapid headway”; “new points of growth are appearing in science and technology, as well as in agriculture and e-commerce”[4]. The following facts are the most impressive concrete examples according to the Russian side. Chinese consumers received the first gas from the Yamal field in December 2017 where both countries energy companies are building a LNG center. Rosatom will build two more power units for the Tianwan NPP. The construction of another Russian-designed nuclear power plant in China will begin soon. Russia will assist China in creating a demonstration fast reactor. Russia’s cutting-edge achievements will be applied in China’s Moon exploration programme. The construction of long-haul aircraft and a heavy-lift helicopter is advancing rapidly. Russia and China intend to secure the implementation of the Eurasia cargo and passenger rail corridor and the Primorye 1 and 2 transport corridors infrastructure projects. Joint development of the Northern Sea Route, the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Baikal-Amur Mainline is envisaged[5].



Shaking hands with one’s heart, there is no need for summing up. Close relationship between Russian, Chinese and other Greater Eurasian nations has deep roots in history, perception of today’s world and mutual interests. These deep roots must be incarnated in All-embracing Greater Eurasia Partnership. In this case they will serve as a firm guarantee of the success of this future oriented project.

© Ekaterina ENTINA
Associate Professor at National Research University Higher School of Economics
17-1, ul. Malaya Ordynka, Moscow, Russian Federation, 119017,
Russian Academy of Science Institute of Europe senior scientific researcher
ORCID: 0000-0003-4198-4870

Professor at MGIMO University,
Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) MFA Russia
76, pr. Vernadskogo, Moscow, Russian Federation, 119454,
Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University professor-reseacher
ORCID: 0000-0001-9562-8340

[1] President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping (retranslated) statement on June 8, 2018 / Press statements following Russian-Chinese talks. June 8, 2018, Beijing // http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/page/4

[2] Ibidem.

[3] President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping (retranslated) speech on June 8, 2018 / Vladimir Putin awarded the Chinese Order of Friendship. President of China Xi Jinping awarded the Order of Friendship of the People’s Republic of China to Vladimir Putin. The President of Russia is the first foreign leader to be awarded this high national order of China. June 8, 2018, Beijing // http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/page/5

[4] President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping (retranslated) statement on June 8, 2018 / Press statements following Russian-Chinese talks. June 8, 2018, Beijing // http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/page/4

[5] President of Russia Vladimir Putin statement on June 8, 2018 / Press statements following Russian-Chinese talks. June 8, 2018, Beijing // http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/page/4

№6(131), 2018