The Russo-Chinese “Alliance” Explained

The Russo-Chinese “Alliance” Explained by  – UNZ

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It is not an easy task for someone without a background in Chinese culture, including the language and the history, to write about this country. However, this becomes necessary when looking at the Chinese view of the outside world and especially when writing about the emerging Russo-Chinese alliance. There is very little doubt anymore about the reality of such an emerging alliance in the combined West, and rightly so. There is no better evidence of such an alliance than President Putin’s numerous meetings with Chairman Xi Jinping and his recently awarding the Chinese Leader an Order of St. Apostle Andrei Pervozvanny i in Moscow on July 4th prior to President Putin’s meeting with US President Donald Trump at the G20 summit in Hamburg.

This understanding, however, comes with a caveat–many Western observers and analysts view China as the senior partner in such an alliance due to her sheer size, both demographically and economically. On the surface this is not a unreasonable assumption, but on the surface only. This belief is mostly a product of recent mythologies and false narratives about both China and Russia. It is also a product of misunderstanding the fundamental processes taking place inside the combined West and of the de facto bankruptcy of methods of socio-economic and derivative analyses. Is China an emerging global superpower? Absolutely! But does China know how to be a fully-fledged one? Not yet. China is learning, but unlike Russia, which has been intimately acquainted for centuries with the peculiarities of superpower status, first as a European and then a global one, she is yet to assert herself as a superpower. Those are not easy lessons to learn and they require more than just a huge economy and population.

Yet many in the West continue to base their conclusions on two false narratives:

1. The gross underestimation of Russia’s economy and capability;

2. The gross overestimation of the same for China.

Objectively, the Chinese economy objectively is already the largest in the world and nobody with even a modicum of common sense denies that. But here is the catch: just the size of an economy does not determine everything. Yes, it is very important, but not all that defines the power of a nation. As Correlli Barnett’s astute and empirically proven definition of power of the nation goes:

power of the nation-state by no means consists only in its armed forces, but also in its economic and technological resources; in the dexterity, foresight and resolution with which its foreign policy is conducted; in the efficiency of its social and political organization. It consists most of all in the nation itself, the people, their skills, energy, ambition, discipline, initiative; their beliefs, myths and illusions. And it consists, further, in the way all these factors are related to one another.

Barnett’s concise and brilliant definition received a further (more quantifiable) expansion when Samuel Huntington recited Jeffery R. Barnett’s 14 points criteria of West’s global dominance by the mid-1990s in his seminal The Clash Of Civilizations. Those criteria are sound and present a good framework within which assessments and comparisons could be made. Most of those 14 points are one way or another related to technological development, moreover–they are related to what can be defined as enclosed technological cycles. The larger the number of such enclosed technological cycles, the better. For many protagonists of monetarist economy and free trade orthodoxy, the whole idea that a nation can make something from scratch may sound as anathema. Yet, only nations that can extract resources, refine them and then manufacture a finished, sometimes extremely complex, product are the ones who are real power players globally. Despite some spectacular progress China has made in the last two decades, China, for all her technological advancements still lags behind in some of the most crucial areas that define national power and this cannot be ignored. It becomes especially important when assessing the roles and weights of the parties in this fledgling Russo-Chinese alliance. Take a look at several points by Huntington-Barnett (in the order they are presented by Huntington):

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For decades I have spent a couple of hours every morning carefully reading The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and several other major newspapers. But although such a detailed study of the American mainstream media is a necessary condition for remaining informed about our world, it is not sufficient. With the rise of the Internet and the alternative media, every thinking individual has increasingly recognized that there exist enormous lacunae in what our media tells us and disturbing patterns in what is regularly ignored or concealed. In April 2013 I published “Our American Pravda,” a major article highlighting some of the most disturbing omissions of our national media in issues of the greatest national importance. The considerable attention it attracted from The Atlantic, Forbes, and a New York Times economics columnist demonstrated that the mainstream journalists themselves were often all too aware of these problems, but perhaps found them too difficult to address within the confining structure of large media organizations. This reinforced my belief in the reality of the serious condition I had diagnosed.