China and Russia – A Study on Cooperation, Competition and Distrust


  • Märta Carlsson
  • Susanne Oxenstierna
  • Mikael Weissmann

Publish date: 2015-06-16

Report number: FOI-R--4087--SE

Pages: 99

Written in: English


  • China and Russia
  • strategic partnership
  • great power
  • United States
  • Central Asia
  • Asia-Pacific
  • Ukraine
  • balancing power
  • energy cooperation
  • arms
  • Trade
  • technology transfer


China and Russia share a geopolitical world view and a preference for a multipolar world. How their relationship evolves and how they understand their respective positions in the international system are vital for the development of global affairs. The purpose of this report is to analyse the relationship between China and Russia from a political as well as an economic perspective. In this context it compares how the two countries perceive themselves and their role in the world. The report provides an overview of the national foreign policy elements and the economic ties between the two countries. China and Russia cooperate and compete in many areas and their interests and ambitions are exemplified by their policies in Central Asia and Asia-Pacific. Throughout the report the role of the United States as a competitor and a partner to both countries is discussed. The partnership with China offers Russia an opportunity to conduct a multivector foreign policy and thereby to counterbalance the hegemony of the West. For China it supports the efforts to offset the US influence in the Asia-Pacific. Economic interdependence between the countries is limited, but arms trade and technology transfer are vital elements and energy cooperation is developing. China's gradual economic reforms have created an economic superpower that will soon be overtaking the United States as the largest economy in the world, while Russia's economy is stagnating. A weakness in the relationship is the fact that relations with the United States are the most important for both China's and Russia's foreign policy. The United States is China's only real strategic partner, which adds to the weakness of the partnership with Russia. The Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2014 is found to be a defining moment for the Sino-Russian relationship.