Russia and China in the Mirror of U.S. Policies

17 november 2007

Igor Zevelev is Doctor of Political Science.

Mikhail Troitsky is an associate professor at the Department of International Relations and Russia’s Foreign Policy of the MGIMO University. He holds a Doctorate in Political Science.

Resume: Russia could learn from the Chinese the intricate overtones of public diplomacy, even though it recognizes its own difference as a political player. Beijing skillfully lifts its partners’ concerns over the growth of China’s economic and military capability, and persistently profiles itself as a friendly country that is trying to build a harmonious world.

The image of Russia and China as seen by the American political elite has become increasingly similar over the past two to three years, and the process has developed in two directions.

First, the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China are now predominately viewed as large countries that have market economies and authoritarian regimes.

Second, both countries objectively obstruct the increase of American influence on the global stage.

Still, the contents and style of American policy-making, as well as the tone of the rhetoric, vary noticeably depending on which of the two countries – Russia or China – is the case in point. Being neighbors, the two nations share the vision of the system of international relations that the U.S. is trying to build in the world today. Neither Moscow nor Beijing accepts Washington’s desire to remodel the world according to its own whims, and both have put up stiff, systematic resistance to these developments. And yet, China’s domestic and foreign policies do not provoke a sharp reaction from Washington as do the actions taken by Russia.

On the whole, the U.S. takes a more businesslike, restrained and positive approach toward China, while Russia’s domestic political reality and international activity are often vilified. Moscow ranks above Beijing if we consider the emotional taint of U.S. assessments. This is evidenced in the calls for containment – as demanded in official U.S. documents and expert reports; such a voice is heard more explicitly when references are made to Russia.

In 2001, the Russian sector of George W. Bush’s policies was bolstered by a certain degree of trust, while China was viewed as a strategic contender. But the U.S. administration produced clear signs by the end of the 43rd American president’s second term of office that the unexpectedly smooth relations with Communist China, and the equally unexpected tensions in contacts with Russia, will become part of his political legacy.

Beginning in 2005, one of the objectives set down by the Bush administration was to encourage China to become a “responsible stakeholder” in the international order, as Robert Zoellick, who now is president of the World Bank, put it. At the same time, Washington constantly makes relations with Russia contingent on the latter’s progress along the path toward liberal democracy and its policies on the post-Soviet space.

The conclusions of the Council on Foreign Relations in its reports on Russia (in 2006) and on China (in 2007) pulled no punches. The report on Russia proposes to build relations along the principle of selective cooperation rather than partnership, which is dismissed outright as impossible. “The very idea of a ‘strategic partnership’ no longer seems realistic,” it says.

But when it comes to relations with China, the experts recommend Beijing’s broader inclusion in global processes, albeit with putting certain checks on its growing might. They reject direct containment methods.  The report suggests that the U.S. administration “pursue a strategy focused on the integration of China into the global community” and “must focus on creating and taking advantage of opportunities to build on common interests in the region and as regards a number of global concerns.”

In other words, the U.S. increasingly views Russia as a failed partner, while China is viewed as a rapidly growing power that should be integrated in the global order that is being founded by the Americans.

What are the reasons for the dark sentiments regarding Russia, and quiet pragmatism that greets China? Why is U.S. paranoia toward rising China only talked about in regard to the pro-Taiwan lobby… while the ‘brutally growling Russian bear’ is a typical cliché for even the most respectable publications? Why do official U.S. documents cautiously urge Beijing to continue moving toward democracy and openness, but issue at the same time stiff-lip warnings to Russia that future relations are contingent on its conduct? Most importantly, the question is: What should Russia do in this situation and is the Chinese model of relations with the U.S. generally possible or desirable for Russia?

Russia and China as Global Opponents to the U.S.

A comparison of Russia and China’s traditional potentials leads to the conclusion that the latter has better chances of becoming America’s main global contender in the 21st century; the only question that remains is what forms this competition will take.
China has much better gross parameters of economic performance. Its GDP purchasing power parity totaled 77 percent of U.S. GDP in 2006, versus Russia’s indicator that was just 13 percent. Even if calculated at the current exchange rate, China will surpass the U.S. by 2027, Goldman Sachs investment bank experts claim. The fact that Chinese factories manufactured more cars than the U.S. in 2006 boldly attests to China’s industrial growth. Meanwhile, Russia’s economy will most likely make up much the same percentage of U.S. economy in the coming decades, even if its growth rates remain as high as in the past seven years. Moreover, the demographic gap between Russia and the U.S. will continue to grow. By 2050, Russia’s population may shrink to 108 million people from the current 144 million, while the number of Americans may increase to 400 million people from the current 300 million.

Russia’s nuclear and missile capabilities aside, China poses many more risks to the U.S. as a global contender. For the past 16 years, Beijing has been implementing an ambitious program of modernizing its Armed Forces, including space, naval and missile elements. The Pentagon has stated in reports on the Chinese Army, which it started publishing in 2000, that the continuing lack of transparency of China’s defense spending alarms the Americans. This alarm grew especially after a space test in January 2007 when a Chinese ballistic missile destroyed a satellite in a low-earth orbit.

Bates Gill, a notable American expert on China who is also director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, and his co-author Martin Kleiber voiced deep concern in the U.S. Foreign Affairs journal.

“Put bluntly, Beijing’s right hand may not have known what its left hand was doing. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and its strategic rocket forces most likely proceeded with the ASAT testing without consulting other key parts of the Chinese security and foreign policy bureaucracy – at least not those parts with which most foreigners are familiar. This may be a more troubling prospect than anything the test might have revealed about China’s military ambitions or arms control objectives.”

The latest U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review Report characterized China as a country that “has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies that over time offset traditional U.S. military advantages absent U.S. counter strategies.”

China has a far less pluralistic and open political system than Russia. On the whole, Russia’s bureaucratic methods of adopting decisions are much closer to American than Chinese methods. The shortcomings of the Russian system of administration were found in the U.S. system in certain phases of its development, too, but the Americans eventually eliminated them.

The impression that Washington gets from the prospects of China’s traditional might is magnified by the latter’s opaqueness for ‘mild’ American influences, which the U.S. hopes to implement in its efforts to channel Chinese resources to alleys it deems appropriate, or avoid the risks of experiencing their impact. However, China is far less perceptive toward American values than Russia.

The Chinese have developed a durable consensus with regard to the repulsion of American views on democracy and political plurality. Apart from a few dissidents, even the forces that consider themselves to be relatively liberal speak in favor of cautious, slow-paced reforms while taking account of China’s uniqueness. By contrast, Russian ‘Westernizers’ have enough intellectual, if not political, strength. Also, Russia has a pro-American political opposition to the current political course, and the authorities here are much more tolerant of it than the Chinese.

Russia and China display characteristic differences on issues concerning the environment. Russia joined the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and undersigned a number of obligations. Moscow has no problem observing these rules since its greenhouse gas emissions are far below the limits specified in the protocol. Contrary to that, China proceeds from the principle of “a diversified common responsibility,” while its own emissions continue to grow. Beijing generally views the ecological agenda of global policies as an attempt by Western countries to hobble the fast developing Chinese economy and to impose unfavorable models of development on it. Beijing dismisses various environmental standards as unfair and has no plans for translating them into practice until Chinese affluence levels approach those of the West.

Even in the early years of this decade, when the world generally had a positive view of the U.S., Beijing looked at the Americans’ role on the global stage rather apprehensively. The refusal to accept American hegemony is one of the most persistent aspects of Chinese rhetoric in foreign policy. Beijing had a much less stringent agreement with Washington on the grounds of fighting with terrorism than Moscow. The atmosphere of Sino-American relations saw no major changes after the events of 9/11; Beijing apparently felt some satisfaction that Washington had shifted its attention to the Middle East. On the contrary, the U.S. military buildup in Central Asia made China highly apprehensive long before 2005, when Russia officially voiced its solidarity with China’s position at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Astana. Beijing also worries about its diminishing influence in Pakistan, about Japan’s Self-Defense Forces operating in the Middle East, as well as the U.S. Army’s involvement in the antiterrorist operation in the Philippines. All of this has fueled China’s fear of becoming encircled.

It might seem that the above factors would make China, and not Russia, America’s chief opponent on the international stage. Given this situation, relations between two superpowers – the existing and the potential one – should have deteriorated. So why does America’s irritation focus predominately on Russia? The presence of anti-Russian lobbies that play a disproportionate role in Washington, as well as the absence of powerful economic groups that might create a good balance and build good relations with Russia – exactly the same way as with China – cannot fully explain the U.S. position.

For an answer, it is important to remember that the U.S. policy-forming community does not look at Russia as a country that is radically different from it, as it believes China is.

On the one hand, Russia has a much closer historical, cultural and institutional relationship to the West, and poses less of a strategic threat to it in the long term.

On the other hand, the Americans pinned much greater hopes on Russia, since they believed it shared more similarities with the U.S. than China. Democratically minded intellectuals, including the media community, thought in the early 1990s that Russia would fully align with the West and join its ranks in the short term.

The U.S. political and expert community hoped that Russia would follow, albeit with a delay, in the footsteps of the Central European countries, since those countries had recovered from the painful social and economic reform process and had joined Western institutions, like NATO and the European Union. Certain circles in Washington believed that accession of Central European states to NATO in the mid-1990s should have motivated Russia to cooperate with the bloc. This line of logic suggested that Moscow had no other options than to take this geopolitical blow quietly. The experts thought that following NATO’s expansion, Russia would have to initiate an all-embracing interaction with it, accepting the inescapable reality of the post-bipolar world. In reality, the expansion did not help these hopes to materialize. In fact, it only worsened Russian-U.S. relations, which had slightly improved after 9/11.

Alexei Bogaturov, an authoritative analyst of international affairs, commented that “Moscow was preoccupied with the job of winning the love of Western partners in the first half of the 1990s,” but “in the second half of the decade Russian diplomats got the task of minimizing the damage from major international processes, in which Russia was engaged objectively although it had virtually no role in regulating them.”

The gap between expectations and reality prompted the West to perceive Russia as a European deviant, a country whose internal life and international rhetoric and actions did not match the customary stereotypes. According to convictions in certain American milieus, as a transition country Russia should have craved for stronger ties with the U.S., tirelessly copying American values and practices of state administration. Yet it showed no willingness to do so; this only made the U.S. want to teach Russia more and transform it into a friend from an alien. Thus, this opened a paradox concerning Russia: instead of China, which deserved much more criticism for its practices, the U.S. targeted Russian behavior.

On a practical plane, Russian-U.S. relations are pegged to a constantly changing list of acute problems that involves NATO expansion, internal political strife in Ukraine and Georgia, projected oil pipeline routes, the future status of Kosovo, plans for deploying elements of the U.S. missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, and Russian as well as U.S. military presence in Central Asian countries. All these nodes of tensions are located along a broad arch spanning an area from Central Europe to Southeast/Eastern Europe to the Caucasus to the Caspian littoral zone to Central Asia. The security interests of the U.S., as a global power, and Russia, as a regional power, collide inside these transforming regions.

China and the U.S. also compete for influence in various parts of Asia, but this competition is much more positional and rarely results in crises in bilateral relations. Beijing always abides by the principle of partnership in its dialog with neighboring countries, and widely uses multinational formats to this end (ASEAN Plus Three, APEC, the East Asia Summit, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization). China’s growing demand for energy resources to feed its economic growth prompts it to expand its presence in Africa and Latin American countries. This naturally puts the U.S. government on alert, yet this does not force Washington and Beijing onto the path of mutual rebukes at the governmental level.
A New Geopolitical Triangle

The search for new partners that would be prepared to rebuff Washington’s advance caused Moscow to find an ally in Beijing back in the mid-1990s. At the time, cooperation with the Chinese was viewed as very promising. The leitmotif of China’s foreign policy rhetoric – namely, the prevention of any sort of hegemony in the world at large and in Asia in particular – is consistent with Russia’s strategic thinking. Russia’s concept of national security, adopted in 2000 and formally still in effect today, described major threats as “the desire of some countries and interstate unions to scale down the role of existing mechanisms of international security,” i.e. to act unilaterally. Naturally, this description was a direct reference to the U.S. and NATO. China’s New Concept of Security, a document issued two years before the Russian paper, revealed a strikingly similar vision. Beijing’s list of fundamental threats included hegemony, policies from the position of force, Cold War mentality, expansion of defense unions, and the consolidation of military blocs.

Russia and China have developed a special strategy of responding to the U.S. They have not built a full-blown union to counteract the Americans openly. Instead, they try to counterbalance American influence, but in a tentative manner. Neither Moscow nor Beijing put themselves into overt opposition to Washington, because at that point they would risk provoking tough retaliatory measures. They only seek to demonstrate that there are alternatives to cooperating with the United States on certain issues.
Russia and China’s policies toward Washington proceed from the assumption that U.S. political and economic power in the world is getting weaker, while their own power is growing. Analysts in Moscow and Beijing draw this conclusion from a range of considerations. First, their economic growth rates are well above those evidenced in the developed countries, including the U.S.

Secondly, Moscow and Beijing interpret the problems that U.S. troops are now experiencing in Iraq and Afghanistan as a sign of the breakdown of the unipolar system of international relations presided over by the U.S. Considering that the U.S. military doctrine relied on its ability to conduct two large-scale wars simultaneously, Russian and Chinese observers are inclined to believe that the era of unilateral actions, as set down by U.S. foreign policy, is drawing to a close. The mistakes of American diplomacy in what concerns the maintenance of nonproliferation regimes, especially with reference to Iran, only serve to intensify this impression.

According to Dr. Alexei Arbatov, “the U.S. is losing its influence in Western Europe, in the Far East and even in its traditional fiefdom of Latin America.”

Third, the Russians and Chinese believe that the violation of human rights (in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and in the CIA’s secret interrogation facilities in Eastern Europe) heavily impaired America’s image and the concept of ‘soft power.’ Many Russian and Chinese experts say that the global jump in anti-American sentiments since the outbreak of the Iraqi campaign increases the list of countries that would like to cut Washington’s omnipotence down to size.

Last but not least, the internal political struggle inside the U.S. around the prospects for the Iraqi campaign and the absence of unanimity on the issue among America’s ruling elites are frequently interpreted in Russian and Chinese political quarters as one more symptom of a weakening America.

Moscow and Beijing expect that these circumstances will put brake on America’s ability to press forward with its international objectives – if not over the short term (after three to five years), then definitely over the medium and long term (after ten to fifteen years). That is why Russia and China resolutely refuse to follow the lead of the U.S. in politics in the capacity of junior partners.

However, Russia’s foreign-policy community overlooks an important consideration in showing Moscow and Beijing’s assessments of the global situation and relations with the U.S. The fact is that Beijing eagerly passes on to Moscow the leading role in rebuffing U.S. policies that both find unacceptable. Meanwhile, China has secured a less turbulent and more pragmatic interaction with the U.S. The Chinese model combines an independent line in international policies, the rejection of attempts to promote internal political problems to the agendas of bilateral relations, and some measure of political distancing from the West, since Chinese leaders claim that Western experience and recommendations cannot be applied directly due to the present realities in China.

Beijing safeguards its own interests and has its own assessment of risks from the U.S. Moreover, it is interested in an intense level of contrariness between Moscow and Washington. China benefits when Russia is seen as the main critic of U.S. policies and, consequently, assumes the full force of retaliation for its stance. The Chinese fear rebuffing U.S. policies – as it might lead to their isolation – much more than the Russians. For instance, Chinese ambassadors to the UN do not veto Security Council resolutions on their own, unless these concern Taiwan. China would unlikely veto any resolution on Kosovo’s independence if Russia abstained from the vote.

It is difficult to imagine a situation where Beijing would invest its efforts to block disadvantageous American initiatives, while Moscow, preferring to remain in the shadows, confines itself to supporting China’s tough criticism of the U.S. Such an approach would invite a tough response from Washington against China and would call into question Beijing’s very strategy of a ‘peaceful rise,’ which implies the gradual accumulation of strength in a way that would not provoke other powers. Deng Xiaoping, the architect of the ‘Chinese economic miracle,’ said China should play an inconspicuous role in the international arena and never seek leading parts. The current Chinese leader, Hu Jintao, stresses that the government will continue focusing on internal development for the next two decades.

What Does THE Chinese Path Offer to Russia?

Moscow continues to drift away from the West under political pressure from the U.S., which is not ready for compromises with the Russian capital. Meanwhile, advocates of the ‘Chinese model’ of relations with the U.S. have begun to appear in Russia. But before we make any sort of final choice, it is worth thinking once again about the costs that model implies.

Depending on its choice, Russia should be ready to give up substantial dialog with the West in various formats, including the G8, the Council for Partnership and Cooperation with the European Union, the Russia-NATO Council, as well as in multilateral structures like the Council of Europe and the OSCE. Quite possibly, it would have to abandon those international clubs of its own accord, thus demonstrating the level of its self-confidence and independence from the West.

Moscow has already begun to revoke some of its agreements with the West. It has imposed a moratorium on the 1990 Treaty for Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, and it may pull out of the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. But these measures concern the arms control regimes only. As for institutions that ensure political dialog with the West, the Russian leadership still treasures membership in them. Would it be wise for Russia to dramatically cut back its presence in these institutions?

Russia’s accession to the G8, together with the establishment of institutions for greater interaction with the EU and NATO, is viewed, at least in Russia, as a major political victory of the past decade; in this sense, Vladimir Putin reveals a similarity with his predecessor Boris Yeltsin. The two shared the same willingness to sit at the table with their Western partners in the capacity of permanent participants in the dialog, not as individuals who are invitees on separate occasions only (like China at the summits with the EU, or on the sidelines of the G8). Russian leaders give much value to the trust that Western partners have in them. Regardless of the problems with NATO, Russia’s partners in the Russia-NATO Council show much more credibility toward Russian leaders than toward the Chinese in strategic areas like nuclear nonproliferation, the development of defense systems and doctrines concerning the use of Armed Forces. Against this background, even a cursory glance of China’s documents on foreign policy and military strategy enforces the belief that Chinese officials act strictly in line with the proverb that says, “Man has a tongue to conceal his thoughts.”

A decade has passed since the establishment of Russia-NATO communications agencies and Russia’s accession to the G8 and the Council of Europe. Moscow has done a huge (and often underestimated) amount of work to adapt itself with its Western partners. It has managed to establish itself in the same institutions with the West and has learned how to show initiative at Western forums. Russia’s presidency in the G8 fairly matched the intellectual and organizational standards accepted by the other seven member-states. Russian diplomats have obviously found the experience of building interaction among NATO allies in the North-Atlantic Council quite convenient for strengthening integrated unions on the post-Soviet space. Russia has learned to produce weighty arguments and to defend its positions even during contacts with human rights fundamentalists who set the tune at the Council of Europe. It would be highly irrational to throw away the obligations that Russia has successfully adapted itself to over the past decade, in the course of which it gained additional levers of influencing its Western partners.

It is true that complaints about the liberalization of economic and political life in Russia, which the West frequently transmits through the institutions it shares with Russia, are often irritating. But let us keep it in mind that Western countries put forward the same demands for themselves, as well (consider ecological standards, for example). Nor do they avoid self-criticism when they are called out on violations of human rights. Western politicians and media do not have a tradition of bowing to the powers that be. They have often pushed hard on the touchiest issues, like the U.S. base in Guantanamo, CIA jails in Europe and the tapping of telephone conversations inside America. Beyond the United States, they report how the police in Britain observe potentially disloyal descendants from Moslem countries.

It is this permanent move forward and unwillingness to stop at what has been accomplished that provides a criterion for judging whether or not a country will be accepted into Western clubs, a membership that Russia praises highly. However, Moscow sometimes looks at its affiliation only from the angle of its own status and ability to gain concessions, not from the angle of growing responsibility or search for compromises.

Also, U.S. criticism that is aimed at a particular country does not necessarily mean an innate hostility toward it, or a desire to weaken it as an adversary. On the contrary, it may stand for recognition of basic community. As regards the absence of polemics between the U.S. and another country, this may indicate the absence of shared views and the irrationality of discussions on political principles, simply because the differences between the two countries may be too big.

Washington and Beijing do not criticize each other in a harsh manner, but there are good chances that they are moving toward a real mutual containment. The upcoming elections in the U.S. may conceal evidence of this tendency for the present time, as aggressive anti-Chinese rhetoric usually does not help presidential or congressional candidates win votes. But the military and intelligence community, where the planning period is longer than four years and is void of electoral pressures, are developing a far greater concern over Chinese policies.

China belongs to a group of countries that can afford to disregard compliance with the increasingly complicated criteria of the ‘Western clubs’ and maintain dialog with them at the same time. The West envisions those countries as capable of being equal and strong but alien all the same. Beijing, for its part, does not seek to formalize political dialog with the West at the institutional level. One example is the conflict that erupted over the return of a U.S. spy plane and its crew that made a forced landing on the island of Hainan in April 2001. The Chinese were able to demonstrate a tough attitude during the conflict since they had no formal obligations to discuss problems of that kind in institutions comparable to the Russia-NATO Council. China also finds it easy to repel U.S. pressure to revalue the yuan, as the two countries do not have common institutions that would enforce a compromise.

Finally, if one assumes that America’s ability to reach its objectives in global politics is really losing strength, Russia will not stand to benefit from such a scenario. In such an event, the U.S. would be forced to loosen its geopolitical grip in neighboring regions and the issue of admitting the post-Soviet countries into NATO will be put aside. But whether or not Russia will get any extra dividends from America’s weakening and isolationism is not immediately clear. The medal has the other side, too, as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the spread of extremist movements in the Middle East – and possibly Central Asia – would increase. Russia will run especially high risks if the situation in Afghanistan gets out of hand. The pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq will call into question the rationality of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, and Moscow’s vital interests in maintaining stability in Central Asia will become jeopardized. Given such a scenario, Japan will stop relying on U.S. protection as in the past and start increasing its military potential, prompting China to act correspondingly. These factors will negatively affect security along the entire perimeter of Russia’s borders and will compel it to increase its own military spending.

As for China, the decrease of American global influence will have dramatically opposite consequences and will bring Beijing doubtless benefits. New opportunities will open up for the solution of its main objective – reunification with Taiwan on Beijing’s terms. China will be able to act much more forcefully in defending its energy security, as well as in solving its territorial disputes in South Asia. The disintegration of the Soviet Union, the main deterring force in Northeast Asia, allowed Beijing to sign lucrative agreements on the state border with its western neighbors – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – and take control over formerly disputed land areas. Goals that had been unattainable during the presence of the Soviet Union on the geopolitical map became easy targets after it disappeared.

Finally, China has both the ambition and chances to acquire world leadership, and a weakening of the U.S. would only speed up the process. Meanwhile, Russia has overcome the temptation to lead a “global foreign policy” in discrepancy with its internal development. We are facing international objectives of a different kind now: a secure transformation into a leading and efficient global economy – one that is capable of providing its people with the conditions for a comfortable existence. A rapid revision of the international status quo will significantly impede the ability to reach this goal.

Being and Looking Like

In spite of growing contradictions with the West, the Russian leadership still wants to harmonize Russian norms and practices with Western varieties. Vladimir Putin’s confident declaration that “Russia will develop on the same general principles with all other civilized nations” came as a response to a provocation from radical oppositionists during the June 2007 summit of the G8 in Germany, and the West could not fail to notice it. The problem is that such statements are necessary, but insufficient for full-scale partnership with Washington. The U.S. demands that Moscow be an affiliated country in terms of foreign policy, which means that Russia should agree to the role of a junior partner and recognize the logic of interests of the leading partner. But this is exactly the role that Russia vehemently rejects today, as it tries to influence the U.S. in a way that makes it seem that Russia wants to change the rules of the game in the international arena.
Meanwhile, Russia’s sharp and unbending foreign policy rhetoric provokes a reaction on the part of the U.S. that is disproportionate to the scope of contradictions between the two countries. The architects of Russia’s foreign policy enjoy the image of a strong, brash player who is not dismayed by the fact that his self-assertion does not always convince partners and win them over to his side.

It seems that the U.S. has no plans of heeding Russia’s arguments in earnest. Like Moscow, Washington too is confident of its rightfulness and moral superiority. It has been meting out inordinately harsh criticism over ‘infringements on democratic norms’ in response to Moscow’s words and actions over the past two years. The U.S. gives overt support to anti-Russian movements and leaders on the post-Soviet space; it is not difficult to sense a reluctance to make Russia a “responsible stakeholder” in the international order.

Meanwhile, China successfully maintains the profile of a country that is on a ‘peaceful rise’ in the format of the existing order, although the U.S. has never regarded it as an allied country and the Chinese have never sought full-blown partnership with the U.S. in global politics. This explains why Washington finds it much more problematic to find grounds for and implement an uncompromising course at China’s containment than in Russia’s case, even in the presence of concerns over the astounding rise of China’s strength.

Russia could learn from the Chinese the intricate overtones of public diplomacy, even though it recognizes its own difference as a political player. It is no accident that opinion polls taken by the Pew Research Center in 47 countries in 2007 showed that China had a generally favorable image in 27 countries, while the number for Russia stood at 14 countries. Beijing skillfully lifts its partners’ concerns over the growth of China’s economic and military capability, and persistently profiles itself as a friendly country that is trying to build a harmonious world.

Joseph Nye, a leading U.S. political scientist and the author of the ‘soft power’ concept, said that China has learned the skill of attracting other international players by stressing its economic and cultural achievements and a desire to live in peace. The country has serious social and economic problems, but on the international plane it emanates calm and assuredness that time is playing into its hands. In contrast, Russia, with its sharp rhetoric, occasionally produces an impression (at least in the U.S.) of a player that is in a hurry to sense its growing might, but still not quite certain about its prospects, and still searching for a concept of national interests.

Russia has more opportunities than China to build partner relations with the U.S. and the West in general without damaging its self-identity and independence. Even though China has greater achievements in that sphere, Russia could win the race if it finds an authentic path between the Chinese model and the plight of being America’s junior partner, subjugating its own security interests to American interests. There is much broader room for maneuver between the two options than one might think.

Last updated 17 november 2007, 11:18

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