Sino-Russian relations: the false promise of Russian balancing

Abstract

The expectation that Russian will balance China’s growing presence in Central Asia and Northeast Asia is premised on fundamental misunderstandings of the nature of balance of power politics and of Russian great power capabilities. First, contrary to neorealist scholarship, secondary powers nearly always bandwagon; the traditional classical realist security studies literature’s focus on the centrality of capabilities, rather than on intentions and threat perception, explains non-great power behavior in the context of great power competition. Second, contrary to a widespread assumption, and following the understanding of the attributes of great power in the traditional security literature, Russia is not a great power in East Asia; it lacks the necessary relative great power capabilities in its Far East. China is the sole great power on mainland Northeast Asia. In this respect, the sources of Russian security policy will be similar to other secondary powers, both in East Asia and elsewhere.

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Notes

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  33. 33.

    Some scholars have characterized this diplomacy as “hedging.” But insofar as these secondary powers had not hedged before, their hedging constitutes improved relations with China in response to the rise of China. This is not balancing but rather part of a process of bandwagoning. See, for example, Evan S. Medeiros Strategic Hedging and the Future of Asia–Pacific Stability, Washington Quarterly, 2005, vol. 29, no. 1 (2005).

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  40. 40.

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  41. 41.

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  42. 42.

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  65. 65.

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  67. 67.

    Author’s interviews with Chinese government and military researchers.

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Ross, R.S. Sino-Russian relations: the false promise of Russian balancing. Int Polit 57, 834–854 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-019-00192-w

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Keywords

  • Sino-Russia relations
  • Rise of China
  • Balance of power
  • Bandwagoning