August 20 – Vilya Gelbras, the late Moscow specialist on Soviet and Russian
relations with Beijing, famously observed that Poles after many years had “learned
to sleep in one bed with the [Russian] bear but “we Russians will not be able
to learn to sleep with the [Chinese] dragon.”
the 1950s to the 1980s, the Soviet Union was larger and stronger on every
measure except for population, the Polish commentator says. But now China’s GDP
is 7.6 times that of Russia’s, its economy continues to grow albeit more slowly
than before even while Russia’s is in stagnation or even in decline.
population is ten times that of Russia’s; and Beijing can field an army larger
than the total number of Russians in the world. Moreover, that army while still
weaker technically than the Russian is rapidly closing the gap and soon will
reach parity or superiority in almost all measures.
there is another difference that may matter more in the relations between the
two. Russia wants to “play above its weight” internationally right now, while
China takes a longer view, confident that it will get its way over time.That gives China an advantage given Russian
overreaching, Radziwinowicz suggests.
current close ties between Russia and China have been “cemented” by their
common antipathy to the United States, but the factors pushing them in opposite
directions are ultimately deeper and more powerful, the Polish analyst
continues, involving as they do the real ability to project power in the future
and the expansion of Chinese influence into Russia’s Far East.
know about the territorial pretensions of ‘the dragon,’” he continues; “and are
concerned that Moscow which categorically refuses to return the Southern Kuriles
to Japan which Moscow has occupied since 1945 will continue to make concessions
to the growing potential of Beijing.”
has rented out land and transferred water to China despite the fears of many
Russians as to where that may lead.And
it has not blocked the influx of Chinese workers and business people into Russia
east of the Urals, thereby allowing what for now is neo-colonialism but what
might become the real thing in time.
Chinese advance is infuriating many Russians, with some saying that this summer’s
forest fires in Siberia and the Far East were set by Chinese in order to cover
their illegal harvesting of timber in the region. Even if this is not the case,
the fact that many Russians believe it is now a political fact of life.
Russians are focusing on the fact that while China has become Russia’s largest trading
partner, Beijing isn’t investing in Russia. China’s share of direct foreign investment
there last year formed only 0.6 percent of all such investment. China thus is
taking money out – in the first half of 2018, Beijing withdrew a billion US
dollars from Russia -- but not putting money in.
means, Radziwinowicz says, that those who say Russia is now China’s “younger brother”
are right, an arrangement that benefits China but one that will only antagonize
Russians in the future.