China Policy Institute

CPI Seminar Russian-Chinese "Strategic Partnership" by Dr Mikhail Karpov

B1 Hemsley, University Park
Thursday 23rd March 2017 (16:00-18:00)

Please contact if you have any academic queries and  if you would like to register for this event.



The China Policy Institute is pleased to announce that a seminar by Dr Mikhail Karpov, Associate Professor at the School of Asian Studies, affiliated with the Russian Higher School of Economics that will take place on 23 March 2017.

The talk will focus on Russian-Chinese "Strategic Partnership": Alliance Indeed or Discourse in Creation?


Since the start of the political crisis in Ukraine, the growth of Russian involvement in it and the subsequent sharp deterioration in relations between Moscow and the West, there has been much talk in Russia and abroad about Russia "turning to the East" and upgrading her relations with China to the level of "strategic alliance". However, even the existing framework of ambiguous "strategic cooperation" would be problematic to sustain in the medium term, since the main structural prerequisites for Sino-Russian interaction in almost all fields, are quite poor. By 2013, Sino-Russian bilateral trade had reached its "structural ceiling". For both countries to overcoming these limits means a deep systemic change in their respective economic strategies and policies, a change which now seems highly improbable. In addition, in January 2015 came the collapse of this bilateral trade, logically derived from a general contraction of the Russian economy. The mutual vision of both countries is in many ways incomplete or openly erroneous. The perception of the Chinese reform experience in Russia today is much more emotional than sober, derived from Russia's traumatic defeat in the "Cold War". This makes for a kind of paradoxical "surrealistic-realistic" discourse, summoning fantastic expectations of China supporting Russia militarily or bailing out Russian state and corporate budgets, simply because Moscow is defending her national interests in Ukraine against "Western encroachments".

It is true that China may relish the prospect of fishing in the troubled waters of disagreements between Russia and the West. It may also be true that Beijing - in principle - has nothing against gaining as much economic, financial and even political preference in Russia as possible. However, all this has its price and limits. It was definitely not in Beijing's calculations to have a full-scale confrontation, to say nothing about a new version of the "Cold War" between Moscow and the West. The Chinese were also far from happy to see the first signs of the Russian economy melting down in autumn 2014, reasonably fearing its eventual collapse. By late 2014, Beijing leaders finally became aware of the fact that they cannot fully comprehend the dynamics, direction and possible outcomes of Russian-Western relations, the crisis in Ukraine and Moscow's domestic policies. At the same time, China was far from eager to risk Russian unpredictability on both foreign and domestic fronts. Indeed, Moscow's current policy has removed any profitability that Beijing could have hoped to derive from the conflict between Russia and the West.

The combination of these factors in the medium term (three to five years) may lead to what now seems to be quite an improbable situation with Russian–Western relations substantially stabilized and Sino-Russian interaction perceptibly cooling down. There will be no Russian–Chinese confrontation. What seems more plausible is a certain distancing from each other based on incomplete trust, the objective limits of interaction and some mutual fatigue.

Speaker biography

Mikhail Karpov, born 1967, is currently Associate Professor at the School of Asian Studies, affiliated with the Russian Higher School of Economics. Prior to this, he worked as Assistant and then Associate Professor at Moscow State University, Institute of Asian and African Studies (1996-2011), Head of Asian Desk at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (2011-2012). He also have been a visiting scholar, lecturer and visiting Professor at Budapest Collegium (1997-1998), Central European University (Budapest) (2000-2002), Beijing University (2005, 2006-2007 and 2009), Tamkang University (Taiwan) (2013),  Institute of International Relations of NCCU University (Taiwan) (2013, 2016).

He has Master of Arts in Political Science from the Central European University in Budapest (1994) and PHD in History from Moscow State University, Institute of Asian and African Studies (1995). Dr. Karpov is author of three books on political economy of China's transition to market, the most recent of which is "Vicious Cicle of 'Chinese Miracle'. Market Reforms and Adaptive capacities of the Chinese One-Party Leninist State", published in Sankt-Petersburg and Moscow by Nestor-Istoria Publishers in 2014. His most recent papers on Russian-Chinese relations and political economy of Xi Jinping's China were published as Policy Papers by correspondingly University of Sydney, China Studies Center in 2015 ("Will Russian-Chinese 'Strategic Partnership' Last Until 2020? Plausible Thoughts on an 'Implausible' Scenario") and King's College of London, Lau China Institute in 2016 ("Temporary Difficulties or the Start of the 'Endgame'? The Chinese Economy between Financial Deregulation and New Stimulus Packages").

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