Staunton, March 31 – Both Russia and China are using the West but to very different ends, Liliya Shevtsova says. “For Russia, the liberal democracies are a resource for the maintenance of its archaic raw-materials-exporting economy,” while “China is using the West for modernization.”
And because this is so, the Russian analyst says, China has found “a clever means of using Russia for its own rise.” As one Chinese diplomat put it, “Russia has become a mercenary for China” distracting the West by its hostility and allowing China to appear less threatening and more attractive (echo.msk.ru/blog/shevtsova/2813876-echo/).
As a result, Shevtsova continues, Russia is unintentionally helping the two major players to solve their respective problems even as it declines in importance to both. On the one hand, Moscow’s actions are promoting the unity of the West around the US, it is providing a justification for re-armament, and it is leading Western countries to block dirty money.
And on the other, it is helping China rise to the status of a super power, not just by voting as China wants at the United Nations but as serving as “a northern flank of security.” But what Moscow isn’t doing because it can’t is to be more than “a reserve player” rather than as one of the two central ones.
That could allow Russia to refocus attention on its domestic problems, but unfortunately, Shevtsova says, the Kremlin prefers to “frighten the Western world” by its aggressiveness even as it fails to see what the rise of China means for it. As a result, Russia has lost its former role but has not yet found a new one that defends its interests rather than undermines them.
As the RAND Corporation noted recently, Shevtsova says, “China for the West is a competitor of a new type. “Russia is an outcast but not a competitor, but China is a competitor but not an outcast” given that Russia wants to undermine the Western order it can’t dominate while China wants to modify that order precisely so that it can.
Or as a Chinese diplomat put it more bluntly, “Russia is trying to destroy the world order … but China benefits from that order and therefore is seeking to change it without demolishing it.” China’s new aggressiveness, however, is changing the West’s attitude toward it, forcing leaders there to worry about the future and seek to contain it.
But even as they worry about what China will do and take measures against it, the Western leaders increasingly view Russia as a problem they already know how to limit and a country that by its behavior is helping them recover the kind of unity the West will need to deal with the rise of China.