Russia has far more to lose from a hegemonic Chinese empire.
It is now taken for granted by many that Russia and China will stand on the same side in the growing Cold War between China and the Free, Democratic Nations.
Yet, that conventional wisdom should be challenged.
An objective look at the facts shows Russia has far more to lose from a hegemonic Chinese empire than they do from allying with the West.
First, there is the question of values.
Russia is a heavily Christian country, and despite being led by an authoritarian regime, Russians know very well the cost of Communism.
For decades, Russia was an officially atheist country under the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. Tens of thousands of churches were destroyed. Christianity and all religion was brutally suppressed.
Yet, almost the second the Communists fell, Christianity came roaring back, and plays a large role in the lives of many Russians.
Additionally, Russia is more democratic than China. Of course, more democratic does not mean democratic. While much of Russia’s ‘democracy’ is ‘managed,’ and thus not truly free, the fact that Putin has to at least pretend to be a popularly-elected leader shows that Russians will not put up with the outright totalitarianism that exists in China.
Russia has well-known opposition leaders, and journalists that openly criticize the government (often at the cost of their freedom/lives). That doesn’t happen in China, where the government straight-up controls all media and where no open opposition is even heard from, let alone allowed.
Another reason Russia has much to lose from a Chinese empire is demographics.
Russia has been struggling to maintain their population in the face of low birth rates, emigration, and low-life expectancy in many parts of the country.
Much of Russia’s economic and military power derives from their immense holdings of territory in the north and east with large resource and mineral deposits.
Yet, China, with 1.4 billion people, surely covets that space and resource wealth. And as the world saw in Tibet, China has no qualms about moving in a bunch of Chinese citizens to a new territory, changing the demographic facts on the ground, and then taking the territory for themselves.
The reality is that Russia faces no real territorial threats from the Western world, while facing big potential territorial threats from China.
Russia surely knows that China cannot be trusted, particularly under the Xi Jinping regime, as much as they pretend to get along.
Also, in many ways, Russia is far more like Europe than it is like China.
Of course, Russia and China are currently seeking closer ties. They both see each other as legitimizing non-democratic systems, and seek to form a counterweight to the prominence of the Western world.
But just as many Western corporations have discovered in dealing with China, a deal with the CCP always has consequences, and ends up being a ‘deal with the devil.’
For Russia, they face the reality that any long-term deal with China would have Russia as the junior partner, with Beijing effectively turning Russia into a vassal state or colony, using Russia for resources and military equipment while seeking to slowly fill Eurasia with Chinese Citizens, waiting for their moment to make massive territorial claims.
Meanwhile, a Russia that shifted towards democracy would find allies in the West, willing to help counter the danger of the Chinese Communist Party and China’s expansionist ambitions. Indeed, the leader of France has already made that case to Russia, warning of the peril of over-reliance on China.
Among those allies could be India, a country that already has some military co-operation with Russia. If India can be brought more strongly into the alliance of free nations, the growth of that nation could present great economic opportunities for the world while clearly counter-balancing China.
Now, none of this is likely to happen under the current Putin government, as Putin’s actions in Ukraine and his goal of legitimizing authoritarian control render him very unpopular in the West. Yet, in the long-term, we can see that it makes much more sense for Russia to ally themselves with the Western world, rather than China.
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