Axis of Convenience

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Few relationships have been as misunderstood as the "strategic partnership" between Russia and China. Official rhetoric portrays it as the very model of international cooperation: Moscow and Beijing claim that ties are closer and warmer than at any time in history. In reality, however, the picture is highly ambiguous. While both sides are committed to multifaceted engagement, cooperation is complicated by historical suspicions, cultural prejudices, geopolitical rivalries, and competing priorities. For Russia, China is at once the focus of a genuine convergence of interests and the greatest long-term threat to its national security. For China, Russia is a key supplier of energy and weapons, but is frequently dismissed as a self-important power whose rhetoric far outstrips its real influence.

A xis of Convenience cuts through the mythmaking and examines the Sino-Russian partnership on its own merits. It steers between the overblown interpretation of an anti-Western (particularly, anti-American) alliance and the complacent assumption that past animosities and competing agendas must always divide the two nations. Their relationship reflects a new geopolitics, one that eschews formal alliances in favor of more flexible and opportunistic arrangements. Ultimately, it is an axis of convenience driven by cold-eyed perceptions of the national interest.

In evaluating the current state and future prospects of the relationship, Bobo Lo assesses its impact on the evolving strategic environments in Central and East Asia. He also analyzes the global implications of rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing, focusing in particular on the geopolitics of energy and Russia-China-U.S. triangularism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Love each other or loathe each other, Russia and China are going to need to work with each other in the years ahead, just as they have in the past, and this book is a good place to start working out this complex, fascinating relationship." —Kerry Brown, Asian Review of Books

"In this timely, eloquent and meticu-lously researched assessment of the "stra-tegic partnership" between Russia and China, Lo explores how their alliance has evolved on political, economic and military fronts." — Publishers Weekly

"Lo's writing is engaging and accessible, and provides a cool-headed critique of the folly of melodramatic terms in understanding international relations.... It is a book which provides a much-needed moment of pause in the current whirlwind of speculation and suspicion of the world's lesser understood political actors." —Elmear O'Casey,

"In his lucid and thoughtful book, Axis of Convenience, [Lo] makes a convincing case that there is rather less than meets the eye to the so-called "strategic partnership" that Russia and China claim to have enjoyed since the start of the century." —Tony Barber, Financial Times

"In this admirably concise and comprehensive book about "Moscow, Beijing and the new geopolitics", Bobo Lo presents many small arguments and one big one. The central thesis is that the long-standing bogey of a Russia-China alliance that would threaten the West is simply not a realistic prospect any time soon." —MARY DEJEVSKY, The Independent

"In this timely, eloquent and meticulously researched assessment of the "strategic partnership" between Russia and China, Lo explores how their alliance has evolved on political, economic and military fronts." — Publishers Weekly

" Axis of Convenience provides fascinating and compelling insights into the complicated relationship between Moscow and Beijing, which has often been touted in recent years as a burgeoning alliance of growing concern to traditional centers of power." — Robert Amsterdam blog

"Bobo Lo, in this fascinating, intelligent, wide-ranging book, sees the Russo-Chinese relationship as an axis of convenience. He delves into the history, the present status, and the future of the relationship. As such, it is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand this complex phenomenon." —Martin McCauley, East-West Review

"Recommended." — CHOICE

Publishers Weekly

In this timely, eloquent and meticulously researched assessment of the "strategic partnership" between Russia and China, Lo (Vladimir Putin and the Evolution of Russian Foreign Policy) explores how their alliance has evolved on political, economic and military fronts. The author counters recent claims that cooperation has reached "a level unprecedented in history" with salient examples of opportunism and narrowly defined self-interest on issues ranging from foreign policy and energy to weapons and national security. While the image of a formal, longstanding partnership bolters their standing in the international community-and as a counterbalance to U.S. hegemony-there are fault lines: Russia fears Chinese irredentism in its far eastern regions (once part of imperial China during the Qing dynasty and inhabited by ethnic Chinese populations), and China must temper its need for Russian energy and weapons to avoid perceptions of dependence and risking its important trade links with the U.S. Lo suggests possible directions in which these ties and hierarchies are likely to shift in the next decade, illuminating the mechanisms and realities behind rhetoric and media-spin in which political regimes are often complicit. (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815753407
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press and Chatham House
  • Publication date: 7/30/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Bobo Lo is the head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs) in London and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center. He was previously first secretary and then deputy head of mission at the Australian Embassy in Moscow (1995–99). He is the author of Vladimir Putin and the Evolution of Russian Foreign Policy (Blackwell, 2003) and Russian Foreign Policy in the Post-Soviet Era (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002).

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Table of Contents

1 Cooperation, Ambiguity and Tension 1

2 The Burden of History 17

3 Strategic Partnership - Image and Reality 38

4 The "Yellow Peril" - Engagement in the Russian Far East 56

5 "Peaceful Rise" and the Shifting Sino-Russian Balance 73

6 Cooperation and Competition in Central Asia 91

7 East Asia - Arena of the Great Powers 115

8 The Geopolitics of Energy 132

9 The Grand Chessboard Revisited - Russia, China, and the United States 154

10 Conclusion - From "Strategic Partnership" to Strategic Tension 173

Notes 197

Index 267

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