The Vladivostok APEC Summit and Chinese-Russian Cooperation under Russia’s Far Eastern Strategy

Russia should not merely be considered by the elites and ordinary people as a European country with a vast Asian territory. On the contrary, Russia’s leaders and its people have to fully understand that in the future Russia will need a shift toward the East and a more multi-faced and balanced strategy.

We are witnessing the appearance of a new geopolitical reality. The center of global power and economic vitality is shifting from the West to the East, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, and from traditional developed countries to the emerging economies. A flat, decentralized and diversified structure of international power is emerging. Meanwhile, for Russia, the Far East and Siberia are not only its strategic rear guard but also the frontline for its integration into international politics and the new economic order.

Russia has already demonstrated that it is capable of shifting its center of diplomacy from the West to the East. One important landmark of this is that Vladivostok became the host city of the 2012 APEC summit. The Russian government has already made the social and economic development of the Far East and Siberia one of its priorities, and formulated related special programs for this.

Russia must adapt to the global power shift and the new international structure in the Asia-Pacific region, and integrate more actively with other countries in this region. At present, the role it is playing is not making full use of its potential in this area, which in turn has a negative effect on its position as a great power. For the time being, it cannot act as the balancer in the game being played out amongst the great powers such as China and the United States, which is detrimental to its strategy of modernization.

Going back in history, Germany moved its capital from Bonn to Berlin, Kazakhstan moved its capital from Alma-Ata to Astana, and Brazil moved part of its national institutions from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia. From these cases we can draw the conclusion that if Russia moved its capital to its eastern part, it would help to realize its dream of 200 years of eastern development, a strategy that has not been very successful in the past. Moving the capital would be no less significant than when Peter the Great moved the capital to St. Petersburg. 

So to some extent the APEC summit may herald a new start for the development of the Far East and Siberia. Furthermore, it will most likely not only help the social and economic development of Russia, but will also be an advantage to maintaining a balance between the East and the West.

We have noticed that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s foreign policy has always been Western-centered or Europe-centered. Although since the mid-1990s, Russia adopted multi-faceted diplomacy for pursuing a balance between its Western and Eastern neighbors, objectively speaking, Russia still attached greater importance to its foreign policies regarding Western countries over Eastern ones. In the eyes of the Russian leaders, the Eastern countries are only there to act as strategic cards to be played when it gets into trouble with the Western countries.

For Russia, the top priority is to build up an effective mechanism of dialogue between Asian countries and other countries. And domestically, the intellectual system of the elites and common people has to be modernized. Russia should not merely be considered by the elites and ordinary people as a European country with a vast Asian territory. On the contrary, Russia’s leaders and its people have to fully understand that in the future Russia will need a shift toward the East and a more multi-faced and balanced strategy.

In my opinion, the situation in the Asia-Pacific region is constantly changing and growing increasingly complex, while occasionally maintaining a Cold War mindset in a world with an increasing number of uncertainties. So China and Russia need to share responsibility for stability, peace and development in this area. The Vladivostok APEC Summit and the agenda of the development of the Far East and Siberia create new opportunities for the Chinese-Russian strategic partnership of cooperation. The two countries have to promote the agenda of Asia-Pacific region, which is good both for its governance and development.

From a multilateral perspective, China and Russia can attach importance to the following objectives:

1. To build up the system of energy cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region (including the multilateral reserve of oil and gas of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea) based on Russian energy resources;

2. To accelerate the process of trade liberalization in this region;

3. To realize the mechanism of financial stability and cooperation;

4. To try to solve the modern problems of ecology, the environment and the oceans; 

5. To connect Europe and Asia via the territory of Russia.

In addition, China and Russia can initiate a new mechanism of multilateral dialogue for development and security, such as the multilateral mechanism of “China-Russia-Japan”, “China-Russia-U.S.”, “China-Russia-EU” and Russia-Japan-U.S.”. The two countries can also propose setting up dialogues between the two sides: one side being China and Russia, and the other side being the coalition of the United States and Japan. This dialogue is similar to the dialogue mechanism between Russia and NATO. China and Russia could also bring up the new security concept for the purpose of promoting regional security, especially if it helps to solve the nuclear issue of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They can also discuss a new system of regional security, promote mutual trust and take measures to maintain regional stability where necessary.

China and Russia have to realize that multilateral cooperation and co-governance is emerging in the Asia-Pacific region. Here a multilateral system is needed which can incorporate both the big countries and most of the medium and smaller countries. This mechanism is neither sub-regional cooperation nor the G2, and is also totally different from the U.S.-Japan and U.S.-R.O.K. security alliances. This system is multi-faceted and includes politics, trade, security and diplomacy.

As for bilateral relations, China and Russia will coordinate with each other in terms of regional public affairs, and each will explore deeper cooperation with one another. Cooperation between northeast China and Siberia is the key indicator to measure the strategic relationship of the two countries. However, at present, the cooperation is still based on the traditional method. On the one hand, both are promoting or participating in integration in this region; on the other hand, for both sides the word “integration” is still a taboo subject, and in fact a free trade zone is not even on the agenda at this stage.

Whatever happens, both China and Russia must adapt to changes of the regional situation in the future based on their mid- and short-term strategic needs. In addition, the two countries have to pay close attention to their domestic reformations and development. All in all, they need to strengthen their all-round cooperation with new methods and ideas.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.