Is a Sino-Russian alliance in the offing? Some analysts answer this question in the affirmative, pointing to Beijing and Moscow’s signing of a landmark natural gas deal, joint naval exercisesin the East China Sea, and cooperation in the United Nations over Syria and other international issues. More broadly, it is argued that China and Russia share a general interest in curbing U.S. influence on the world stage and hastening the global transition from unipolarity to multipolarity.
While there is considerable room for debate over the future extent of Sino-Russian relations (a formal alliance looks far from likely), it is worth considering the potential geopolitical implications of a growing entente between the two Great Powers. In no short measure, close alignment between Beijing and Moscow would accelerate the decline of U.S. relative power and hinder Washington’s capacity to influence international politics. While this scenario is particularly ominous in (East) Asia, it also has the potential to manifest in truly global terms.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the British Empire faced a similar strategic quandary. Already experiencing relative decline vis-à-vis the rising states of the day – especially the United States, Germany and Japan – Britain’s geopolitical calculus was thrown into disarray when its two nearest peer competitors, France and Russia, concluded a military alliance in 1892. Taken together, the French and Russian militaries threatened to upend the balance of power in Europe, which had been relatively stable since Berlin’s victory in the Franco-Prussian War.