Discussion of U.S.-China-Russia relations often focuses on how American policy is driving Moscow and Beijing closer together. This analysis, however, ignores important factors limiting cooperation between China and Russia and preventing the two countries from forming an alliance. Paul Haenle sat down with Carnegie scholars Dmitri Trenin, Eugene Rumer, and Alexander Gabuev to discuss constraints on the China-Russia relationship and their implications for U.S. policy.

Trenin, Rumer, and Gabuev agreed that there are clear limits to further China-Russia cooperation. Trenin characterized the relationship as an “entente” driven by a high degree of mutual strategic understanding on common core interests. Gabuev argued that China’s rapid pace of growth relative to Russia’s has led to insecurities in the Kremlin despite their growing economic, military, and technological ties. Russia does not want the relationship to become too asymmetrical and fears becoming overly reliant on Beijing for economic and technological support. Rumer argued neither side is looking for an alliance, as both Moscow and Beijing want to maintain positive relations, but at an arm’s-length. Haenle highlighted that Russia and China hold divergent views of the international system, leading to fundamental disagreements over whether to reform or undermine the global order. He argued that China is increasingly frustrated by Russian attempts to further its geopolitical aspirations by exploiting global instability.

Paul Haenle

Paul Haenle holds the Maurice R. Greenberg Director’s Chair at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy based at Tsinghua University in Beijing. His research focuses on Chinese foreign policy and U.S.-China relations.

Dmitri Trenin

Dmitri Trenin is the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center and the chair of its Foreign and Security Policy Program.

Eugene Rumer

Eugene Rumer is a senior fellow and the director of Carnegie’s Russia and Eurasia Program.

Alexander Gabuev

Alexander Gabuev is a senior fellow and the chair of the Russia in the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center.