Why Russia And China Won’t Fight

Every so often there appear claims, not only in the Western press but the Russian one, that (rising but overpopulated) China is destined to fight an (ailing and creaking) Russia for possession of its resources in the Far East*. For reasons that should be obvious, this is almost completely implausible for the next few decades. But let’s spell them out nonetheless.

1. China regards India, Japan, and above all the USA as its prime potential enemies. This is tied in to its three geopolitical goals: (1) keep the country together and under CCP hegemony – an enterprise most threatened by its adversaries stirring up ethnic nationalism (India – Tibetans, Turkey – Uyghurs) or buying the loyalties of the seaboard commercial elites (Japan, USA), (2) returning Taiwan into the fold and (3) acquiring hegemony over the South China Sea and ensuring the security of the sea routes supplying it with natural resources. The major obstacles to the latter two are the “dangerous democracies” of Japan and India, with the US hovering in the background. In contrast, the northern border is considered secure, and more generally, Russia and Central Asia are seen as sources of natural resource supplies that are more secure than the oceanic routes.

2. But let’s ignore all that. It’s true that in a purely conventional war, it is now very likely that Russia will not be able to defend its Far East possessions thanks to China’s (mostly complete) qualitative equalization, (very substantial) quantitative superiority, and (huge) positional advantage. Short of the US and Japan interfering – which is unlikely, if not impossible if Russia were to make big concessions (e.g. on Kuriles ownership, rights to the Siberian resource base) – defeat and occupation are assured. BUT…

This ignores the all-important nuclear dimension. In the wake of post-Soviet demilitarization, it has become clear that any war with either NATO or China would likely end up going nuclear. The official military doctrine allows for the use of nuclear weapons against other nuclear powers in defense against conventional attack; post-Soviet military exercises explicitly model usage of tactical nukes to blunt enemy spearheads as Russian military formations beat a scorched-earth retreat. Though the quantity of Russia’s tactical nukes is now substantially smaller than their 16,000 peak, there are still probably thousands of them remaining (unlike strategic platforms these are not subject to inspection and verification procedures), and it’s difficult to see how a Chinese invasion could effectively counter them.

(But why would the Russians use nukes on their own territory, one might ask? The Russian Far East is very lightly populated, and in any case air bursts – which is presumably what they’ll be using against the enemy divisions – produce little radioactive fallout).

3. Aleksandr Khramchikhin goes on to argue that:

… Unfortunately, nuclear weapons don’t guarantee salvation either, since China also has them. Yes, at the time we have superiority in strategic forces, but it’s rapidly diminishing. Furthermore we don’t have medium range missiles, but China has them, which almost makes null their inferiority in ICBM’s… What concerns a strategic nuclear exchange, then the Chinese potential is more than enough to destroy the main cities of European Russia, which they don’t need anyway (it has a lot of people and few resources). There’s a strong argument to be made that, understanding this, the Kremlin will not use nuclear weapons. Therefore nuclear deterrenece with respect to China is a complete myth.

This is wrong on most points:

(A) As far as is known, China maintains a position of limited deterrence, its nuclear forces being constantly modernized but remaining small in comparison with those of the US and Russia (this may or may not change in the future). The big post-Soviet decline in Russia’s arsenal has largely run itself out and on recent trends is unlikely to resume. This shouldn’t be surprising, since Russia no doubt realizes that it is precisely its nuclear forces that do most to guarantee its current day security.

(B) Apart from the fact that China’s medium-range rocket forces still can’t reach deep into European Russia, even accounting for them it is still very much inferior to Russia: “In July 2010 the Russian strategic forces were estimated to have 605 strategic delivery platforms, which can carry up to 2667 nuclear warheads.” As of 2010, China is estimated to have (non-MIRVed) 90 intercontinental ballistic missiles (i.e. can reach European Russian cities) and a few hundreds of medium and short range ballistic missiles. The latter will comprehensively devastate the populated regions of the Russian Far East, and to a lesser extent east of the Urals, but these aren’t core Russian territories and have relatively small concentrations of population and industry. In any case, if anything these are likely to be used not against Siberian cities, but against Russian military and strategic objects.

(C) One must also include ballistic missile defense, civil defense and geography into the equation. Though China has more S-300 type missile systems and has recently demonstrated an ability to shoot down ballistic missiles in controlled tests, there is little doubt that Russia is still ahead in this sphere. The S-400 now replacing the S-300 has intrinsic anti-ICBM capabilities, and the A-135 system around Moscow – with its nuclear-tipped interceptor missiles – makes it better than even odds that the capital would survive intact.

Both China and Russia have substantial civil defense measures. The USSR in 1986 had shelter space for around 11.2% of its urban population, according to CIA estimates. As of 2001, it was estimated to be 50% in Moscow, and construction of bunkers continues. China too has a large-scale civil defense plan of building bunkers in its larger cities.

At first glance, it would appear that geography-wise, China has an advantage in its huge population, large size, and greater rural population as a percentage of the whole. In contrast, Russia’s population is largely urban, and seemingly more vulnerable. This however is misleading. Most of China’s population, fertile land and industry is concentrated on its eastern seaboard and along its great river valleys. Agricultural productivity will plummet in the years following a large-scale exchange, resulting in famine, and as so often in Chinese history, perhaps anarchy and the end of political dynasties – in this case the CCP. Even if the Russian Far East is “won” in time, it is unlikely that it could alleviate the suddenly critical population pressures, for building up the infrastructure for mass human accommodation in that cold, barren and mountainous will take decades. Since Russian agriculture happens over a greater area, is less intensive / reliant on machinery and fertilizer inputs, and generates a substantial export surplus in most year, it isn’t as likely as China to dip into all out famine.

(D) As things stand, the real result of a nuclear war between Russia and China would be (1) a crippled Russia with 20-30mn fewer people, with many tens of millions more at the edge of subsistence, shorn of its Far East territories, but with an intact state still endowed with a nuclear deterrent, and (2) a collapsed and c.90% deindustrialized China rapidly descending into mass famine and anarchy and knocked out of the Great Power game for the foreseeable future. Two tragic, but nonetheless distinguishable, postwar environments, as Herman Kahn would have said.

4. Obviously Chinese strategists comprehend these arguments, and as such cannot have any serious medium-term designs on Russian territory. This is not the case for Taiwan and the South China Sea, where Chinese interests are greater, and don’t fundamentally infringe on US security to the extent that it will contemplate using its far superior nuclear arsenal against China, as that would risk Los Angeles and San Francisco and a dozen other cities on the West Coast getting annihilated. This fulfills the main purpose of China’s long-range “minimal deterrence” strategy.

5. The strategic balance isn’t fixed in stone, and future developments may make the situation more precarious by 2030-50: (1) The development of truly effective ABM systems, (2) growing sustanance pressures in China due to climate change and the depletion of coal reserves, and (3) the opening of the Russian Far East and Siberian interiors to intensive settlement thanks to global warming. But this remains speculation, and the facts are that since both Chinese and Russians are more or less rational actors, the chances of large-scale war between them in the next few decades is very close to zero – no matter what the sensationalists claim.

* Their other major claim is that Russia is already facing a “demographic invasion” and that Siberia is rapidly becoming Chinese. This is completely wrong, as I’ve pointed out in my old post on The Myth of the Yellow Peril.

EDIT: This article has been translated into Russian at Inosmi.Ru (Почему Россия и Китай не будут воевать друг с другом).


  1. I’ve blogged about the issue at Demography Matters a fair bit, and it isn’t obvious to me why China would even want the area.

    Most of the Chinese migration to the Russian Far East seems to be the temporary migration of tourists or cross-border traders or contract workers, the economic gap between the Chinese Northeast and the Russian Far East is narrowing quickly if it hasn’t closed altogether or even reversed, Chinese immigrants to Russia tend to move towards major urban areas in the west of the country because (surprise) immigrants go to economically attractive areas, the differences in population density in themselves hardly lead to mass migration (Sweden hasn’t been overwhelmed by Germans, for example, population density differences notwithstanding), and the question of why China’s government would want to acquire at existential risk territories it’d be more sensible to leave under Russian control (China can still extract resources, without the costs of exerting sovereignty) hasn’t been answered at all, if it has been raised at all.

  2. “(1) keep the country together and under CCP hegemony – an enterprise most threatened by its adversaries stirring up ethnic nationalism (India – Tibetans, Turkey – Uyghurs)”

    I think that Western elites are doing more to stir up Tibetan nationalism than India ever did. Of course Western elites couldn’t care less about Tibetans themselves – they simply view them as China’s soft underbelly, an Achilles’ heal that can be exploited in hopes of undermining China’s unity. I remember reading an article about China’s university examination system. Tibet is always the lowest-scoring province, which more likely than not means that it has a low mean IQ. I also remember a purported list of Chinese provinces’ mean IQs floating around the Internet. It’s probably a hoax, but it’s useful anyway because it reflects internal Chinese stereotypes, i.e. accumulated folk wisdom. Of all the provinces Tibet had by far the lowest purported mean IQ. Such imbalances always lead to tension and resentment, which Western elites would love to be able to exploit. Western media views Tibet the way Marxists used to view the proletariat – as a potential tool with which to beat rival (in this case Han Chinese) elites over the head.

    “…or buying the loyalties of the seaboard commercial elites (Japan, USA).”

    I doubt that the loyalties of Chinese elites are in any danger of being bought by the Japanese.

    “…it is now very likely that Russia will not be able to defend its Far East possessions thanks to China’s (mostly complete) qualitative equalization, (very substantial) quantitative superiority, and (huge) positional advantage.”

    Well, the Germans were thought to have all sorts of technological, industrial, etc. advantages before they attacked the USSR in 1941. Same thing with the French under Napoleon. There is a very Russian pattern of sloppiness and indifference leading to disaster, leading to the rallying of forces, which eventually leads to success. One can see that on the small scale too, not just in wars. It would be stupid of the Chinese not to know this.

    I agree that since we live in a nuclear world, a full-blown Chinese-Russian war of any sort is impossible, but if we didn’t and a conventional war WAS possible, I’d give the edge to whichever side would be defending its home turf from attack.

    A Chinese annexation of Mongolia seems likely to me in the long term. Not of Kazakhstan though of course, because that would threaten a conflict with Russia. And as soon as the US loses its sole superpower status, Taiwan would have no choice but to agree to a peaceful reunification with the mainland.

    • Agreed on most things. The Tibet / seaboard elites subversion points don’t reflect what I think (which is that both scenarios are far-fetched if not impossible), but the concerns Chinese strategists voice in their public writings. E.g. see here, quoting Zhang Wenmu:

      In the next century, to split China’s western part, or more specifically, to split China’s Tibetan region . . . is probably the target of the Western world’s geopolitical strategy. Having pushed Russia northward, creating a political barrier like Tibet or Xinjiang between China and the oil-producing countries in Central Asia conforms to the strategic interests of the West to control permanently the world’s geographic and energy center. This dovetails with India’s political plot to create a Tibetan buffer zone between China and India. Currently, India is pulling out all the stops to convince the West that it is willing to play the vanguard for the West’s effort to achieve this goal, under the prerequisite that the West will adopt an appeasement policy towards its nuclear option.

  3. Here’s a bet, right now, that China will have Taiwan back within the next 10 years, probably less. Chinese diplomacy remains imperfect, but they’re learning. The old catch-more-flies-with-honey-than-vinegar saw seems to resonate with China these days, and their exercise of laissez-faire self determination can be seen in Hong Kong and Macau. Designated a “Special Administrative Region”, Hong Kong remains much the same as it was under British rule. The territory has its own flag, its own government, and is largely autonomous although it belongs to China. Visitors from most countries do not need a visa to stay up to 90 days, provided you’re not working, going to school, the usual quite reasonable restrictions.

    Many farseeing agents with interests in the region suggest the laid-back policies are an example for Taiwan – a “See? We’re not scary!” sort of come-along to demonstrate to the Taiwanese government that sovereignty association can work. And so far, it has. Most head offices of major companies sited in Hong Kong remained after the British lease expired. The island is incredibly wealthy (an excellent foreign-currency cow for the mainland), its streets thronged with well-dressed shoppers and intent businesspeople. Although it costs a King’s ransom to live there, visiting is surprisingly affordable, and it’s a popular tourist destination.

    Commercial and passenger flights between Taiwan and the mainland have increased steadily over the last 3 years; Taiwan has been approached with reunification offers that include keeping its own government (like Hong Kong), its own flag, its own municipal organizations and even its own military, although it would presumably be subordinate overall to Chinese interests. In return, Taiwan is shown a mainland business and technical colossus to which Chinese students sent abroad to study are now steadily returning, owing to excellent economic opportunities that surpass what they might find in the countries where they studied.

    There is no doubt China could take it by force, and little doubt they could hold it, as it is historically Chinese. There’s no need for that kind of rough stuff, because they’ll get it back without firing a shot.

    I agree nukes remain a powerful deterrent to aggression against Russia – but again, there’s no need. China is flush with cash (thanks, America, for your spendthrift ways and your stubborn throwing of good money after bad), and can amicably buy all the raw or refined materials it wants. Russia is eager to sell to a trade partner that doesn’t spit on it or write ridiculous judgmental rants against it. Anyone who doesn’t think China is watching Russia’s attempt at a high-tech startup at Skolkovo with interest isn’t paying attention. The opportunities for trade with China are enormous. China will overtake Japan this year as the world’s second-largest economy, and while it would take China at least a decade of steady increases to catch the U.S., consider what they’ve already accomplished in a decade. Ten years ago, they were seventh.

  4. I don’t see war between China and Russia in the near future.

    But then again, I don’t see a war between China, Russia, and any major power in the near future.

    But, none of this means that there will not be serious ‘great game’ type competition between these powers.. On this count, the Russians and the Chinese have the potential to be very nasty rivals.

    It is worth pointing out that China and Russia are far from natural allies. They were at each others’ throat for most of the cold war, had even worse relations before WWII, and only retain a sense of friendship now because of their mutual hatred of U.S. influence in their backyard. Rest assured, if there was no NATO there would be no SCO either.

    This poses an interesting question: what if there was no NATO? What if America was taken by another of its habitual isolationist strains and decided to pack out of Central Asia altogether?

    This is where things get interesting. The Kremlin places every country between its borders and the Hindu Kush within its sphere of influence; a rising China might see things differently. Hydrocarbon stores and transportation lines only raise the stakes – particularly if the author of this post is correct in his prediction that we have hit the ‘limits of growth’ and face a future of shrinking oil/natural gas stores. There are other tensions to be mentioned: China favors Pakistan and really does not give a whit if the Taliban rules Afghanistan. Russia favors India and is seeks to destroy any Eurasian Narco regimes before they have the chance to get off the ground. Both would like to make Iran their client state. Their views on North Korea diverge now and shall only widen in the future.

    And of course, if China truly hits SuperPower status (as predicted, again, by Mr. Karlin), I can imagine few scenarios where Russia will not be eager to balance with Japan and India against Beijing.

    Much of this depends on just how much power the United States has in the near future, and how willing the Americans of the near future will be to wield it. If America stays, tensions between the two will be few. If America retreats from inner Eurasia and sticks to the continent’s fringes, contenders for the Heartland will arise.

    • While they’re certainly not natural allies (as is even clear from their military-industrial relations Russia far prefers India), I doubt there’ll be an intense cold war between the two for a few decades to come. Why?

      Different spheres of interest. While China is interested in expanding its influence into Central Asia, I think most analysts would agree that the eastern and southern directions take first priority. It is really not in China’s interests to antagonize Russia too much while its hegemony over the East & South-East Asian maritime sphere is not consolidated. Though Central Asia figures prominently in Russia’s interests, it is steadily becoming superseded by the Arctic region (as can be gleaned from perusing its latest documents on strategic policy). So I think it reasonable that for the next two decades at least these two countries will find it in their interests to keep the jockeying over Central Asia contained – regardless of whether the US stays or leaves – with an understanding that the former Soviet ‘stans “belond” to Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan to China; while pursuing more vital interests elsewhere.

      I don’t think the Cold War period has much relevance. Back then, there was (1) a real ideological struggle between China and USSR whereas today they are both largely post-ideological, (2) China was a land power and, as was typically the case in its history, mostly concerned with the land threat from the north(ern “barbarians”), whereas today it is focused sea-wards, and (3) the USSR was hostile about China’s desire to emerge as an independent power pole (and even planned to nuke it to prevent it from developed its own nukes until it was threatened off by the US), whereas today it is a reality it cannot do anything about.

      The LTG considerations are only likely to become critical for China from around 2030 (for now the environmental and resource stresses are significant but manageable). As I mentioned in the post, it is precisely from that period that the China-Russia understanding will be at risk of breaking down.

      • AK, I think you over-estimate the rationality of all the actors involved. It really is not in the interest of the United States to have thousands of troops in Afghanistan or to maintain a network of bases across Central Asia. We do it anyway.

        It is also worth remembering that foreign policy is (more oft than not) driven by domestic political concerns. As I wrote last week over at my place, this is particularly true of China and it goes a long way towards explaining many of the ‘irrational’ foreign policy decisions made by China over the last year. If the current set of Chinese bug-bears have been beaten back there is little reason to think that Russia will not become the next public boogeyman.

        Moreover, if China adopts an aggressive (and successful – that part is important) foreign policy some time in the near future it is difficult to imagine a Moscow that would not be alarmed by it. Perhaps if the Chinese play their cards slow and steady or Europe decides to relive its glory days the Russians will feel little concern for their hold in Central Asia, but we can’t be sure either of those things will happen. That so many Russians today worry about the Yellow Peril overwhelming the Eastern reaches despite China’s current passivity and the multitude of ‘interests’ that would be marred if war were to come suggests that the Russians living in an age of China Triumphant might not be as rational as you expect them to be.

        Re- China’s focus on the sea:

        I generally attribute this approach to two factors.

        1. At this moment in time the greatest threat to China’s security is United States Pacific Command.
        2. If Malacca and Sunda are closed to China, the entire country falls apart.

        If America leaves the scene – or even reduces its presence significantly – #1 means quite a bit less. #2 is important only so long as China is dependent on getting oil by sea. Were China to get its oil via pipeline, Central Asia takes prominence. So here is a question to think about: how long will it be before China is getting more (non-coal!) energy by land than by sea?

  5. Great discussion. Russians should not listen to Western propaganda about “yellow peril” bursting over its borders. Technically, China is not overpopulated. As Karlin points out, most Chinese population is clustered on the coasts. Which leaves much inland territories open for internal migration and economic development. China has no designs on Siberia, other than trade. War between China and Russia is unlikely and unthinkable. Any attempt to stir things up can be discounted as Western meddling.
    I also want to make point that China did a great thing when they liberated Tibet from an extremely brutal feudalistic dynasty (the Lamas). Americans have tried to use current Dalai Lama as a pawn against China, maybe dismember Chinese empire the way they did USSR. But this particular Lama, whose ancestors tortured Tibetan serfs for amusement, does not have the fire of retribution in his belly. He is more like a jokester. Recently he even came out and claimed he was a Marxist! So the Americans stopped pushing him forward so much.

    • georgesdelatour says:

      I think it was Edmund Burke who said that Indians would prefer to be ruled by the most bloodthirsty Indian tyrant than by the most benevolent Englishman.

      It’s obvious that the Tibetans don’t want to be ruled by China. It’s also obvious that China knows this. China’s policies in Tibet are only comprehensible under that assumption.

      • That’s probably true. But I doubt if most Tibetans would endorse the return to power of the Lama dynasty. My understanding, such as it is, of Tibetan public opinion is that the majority do not want independence from China, but rather more autonomy within the overall Chinese economic/political structure.

  6. I think that Western elites are doing more to stir up Tibetan nationalism than India ever did. Of course Western elites couldn’t care less about Tibetans themselves – they simply view them as China’s soft underbelly, an Achilles’ heal that can be exploited in hopes of undermining China’s unity.

    Support for Tibet is also a New Age/hippie cause that has little or nothing to do with geopolitical concerns.

    China favors Pakistan and really does not give a whit if the Taliban rules Afghanistan.

    I’m not so sure … China is worried about the increasingly fundamentalist Uyghurs in its far western areas, and would not want to see them inspired by a Taliban victory.

    • Peter-

      I follow the reading of Bahukutumbi Raman on this issue. As he sees it, China believes Pakistani cooperation and economic integration with Tibet/Xinjiang to be central to the long term stability of both. Furthermore, Beijing is unwilling to let Afghanistan get in the way of closer ties with Islamabad, something it deems absolutely necessary to contain Indian domination of South Asia and useful for dampening American and Indian influence in Central Asia. As such, China is quite willing to accept the Taliban if it means a return of stability to the region. As long as the extremists’ bombs are being blown in Mumbai instead of Beijing, the Central Committee is satisfied.

      P.S. This is also how the Carnegie scholars see things. See their chapter on China in Is a Regional Strategy Viable For Afghanistan?.


  7. georgesdelatour says:


    What is it with the Kuril Islands? Opinion polls show most Russians are determined to keep them. But are they worth it, when they’re the principal obstacle to a fruitful relationship with Japan?

    • Besides Japan’s famous sneak attacks, they are also good for spying on US forces.

      • Besides being stiff with fish that could be sold to a neighbouring country that eats a hell of a lot of fish, rather than just letting them catch those fish themselves for nothing, ceding control of the Kurils cedes access control to the Sea of Okhotsk and right of passage for the Russian Pacific Fleet to a foreign nation. The Kurils also hold significant potential for oil and gas exploration.

        Oh, and Japan foreswore legal claim to the Kurils in 1951.

    • @Georges, @yalensis,
      There are any number of reasons why giving Japan back the Kuriles is a really bad idea. Here’s a few:
      (1) Unequal exchange: Russia offers a sure and immediate concession in exchange for… not even any guarantees of reciprocal concessions from Japan. Only the vague hope of “good will”, i.e. the hope of a sucker country like 1988-1998 Russia. I think that is an awful way of conducting foreign policy because in practice, unilateral concessions hardly ever win any respect, just contempt and demands for more.
      (2) Speaking of which, what’s to stop them then from claiming South Sakhalin? What if a “but what about me” attitude emerges towards Russia? Germany – Kaliningrad, Finland – former Finnish Karelia, China – Primorye / Khabarovsk. It may affect Russia too, as the “We gave back the Kuriles, Ukraine should give back Crimea”-type voices move from the fringes to the mainstream.
      (3) The political consequences as voices start asking whether the leaders are idiots or traitors. Russia’s 2004 (IIRC) giveaway of a few square kilometers of territory to China – in reality, a minor border adjustment – was very unpopular amongst ordinary people. The giveaway of the Kuriles will be vastly more unpopular still, and may well lead to open elite infighting and popular unrest. I can’t say it will be undeserved either. If Medvedev (or any Russian President) moves ahead with this, he can count on at least losing my support – and presumably, many of the 70%-80% of Russians who (generally speaking) support the Kremlin.
      (4) “The Japanese obviously want them very badly and, unlike American government, Japanese are capable of experiencing emotions of gratitude and mutuality”… жди.
      (5) The final reason is that, frankly speaking – and Japanese assertions to the contrary – Japan needs Russia more than Russia needs Japan. Russia has the alternate energy reserves to the Middle East, and the potential power to balance China in the north (and the fundamental disjoint between the interests of China and Japan is far bigger than either between Russia and China, or Japan and Russia). Japan has high technologies and machinery which Russia can get from countries like Germany, the US, France, etc.

      • Mr. Putin offered to return the Southern islands in 2005, but apparently Japan wants all or nothing. So it’ll be nothing. That’s the way the ボール bounces, I guess.

      • “and the fundamental disjoint between the interests of China and Japan”

        These are quite big. Japan hasn’t even begun cleaning up the chemical weapons they dumped on the Chinese during the war. They made promises to start a couple of years ago and haven’t moved since.

  8. also – I remember reading several years ago that China has dramatically ratcheted up their military exercises with Russia.

  9. On the Kuril Islands, I would also like to hear more discussion, if anyone knows something about this issue. I have always been confused: are these islands important or not? If not, why not just give them to Japan? The Japanese obviously want them very badly and, unlike American government, Japanese are capable of experiencing emotions of gratitude and mutuality. So could lead to more friendship and cooperation with Japan in the future.

    After all, Russia generously threw away territories of vastly more importance during the firesale of 1991! So why cling to these barren little islands? Unless somebody knows something and can demonstrate that they are strategically important?

  10. sinotibetan says:

    Hmmm…..I thought I should comment something on this since I am of Han Chinese descent.
    I agree with Anatoly that in the short-medium term, it seems unlikely that China and Russia would ‘fight’. However, in the long term, whether they turn against each other would depend on a few factors:-
    1. The decline of America’s geopolitical and economic clout. I believe American leadership of the West(and the world) is going to decline slowly. Like the Roman Empire, it has reach its zenith and now is on the decaying mode – culturally, morally, economically, politically at least. However, with its superior technology and huge number of nuclear arsenals, the USA would be a superpower or great power for a long time but its relative weakness would alter geopolitical alliances(just like the fall of USSR did). [I sometimes feel what is happening to the USA is a case of bad karma of the USA meddling in the affairs of other nations].I believe the USA will be in big trouble economically(it is a country heavily in debt) in the near future. Its geopolitical decisions will be influenced by ‘creditor’ nations(like China?). It’s not in the interest of China and other less pro-Western ‘creditor’ nations to destroy the USA completely – that would lead to global economic chaos and destabilize these countries. It’s a better strategy to continually ‘prop’ up that decaying power as long as it’s useful(i.e. it has nuclear power, the US dollar remains the ‘de facto’ currency of global trade etc.) until by gradual maneouvering these advantages are rendered meaningless(such as supporting another currency such as Euro or Yuan or some ‘globalized single currency’). The near-term relative weakness of the USA would mean the annexation of Taiwan and a Xinjiang-Uyghur and Xizang(Tibet) that remains Chinese. If the USA does decline never to recover, in the long term Russia’s Far East, Mongolia and parts of Central Asia might be annexed by the Chinese – if some other factors(which I shall mention below) are also in place.
    2.Russia’s internal socio-political situation. If Medvedev clashes with Putin – then Russia will be in trouble. Russia’s economy need to modernize but politically must remain stable. That’s going to be a tough job for Russia’s leaders(with the West always on the prowl to destablize Russia). And Russia’s demography. I agree with Anatoly that Russia’s demography has improved. But I fear in the long term, fertility might decline again. Low fertility is a modern phenomenon, in my opinion(with ‘modern’ attitudes towards family, cheap and effecient contraceptives etc.) and no one knows whether the fertility will improve and improve in time! Both Russia and China’s population will decline….but Russia has a population ~ 140 million and China ~ 1.3 billion – demography is destiny. To ensure that the Russian Far East or even Western Siberia remain part of the Russian state, this demographic decline must be addressed acutely and fertility should not only improve but must be maintained at least near the replacement fertility of 2.1 per woman. Western Europe is in danger of demographically Islamized. So European Russia is not free from the danger of conquest/infiltration of whatever becomes of Western Europe and Islamic nations south of European Russia in the long term.
    3.Will Russia continue to develop /maintain its nuclear arsenals and improve its missile capabilities? If not, China and other nations(Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, India) with their demographic strength and catching-up in weapons technology(maybe stolen from a corrupted and Islamized Western Europe?) will be threats to the integrity of Russia in the long term.

    On the whole, Russia and other nations should stop trying to emulate the West. Political-correctness and (wrong) ideas in the West about ethnicity, statehood, multiculturalism, ‘human rights’, ‘democracy’ etc. are leading it to cultural decline, the possibility of ethnic clashes and internal chaos, and ultimately vanquished by nations who understand that the victor is the nation who comprehends that only the fittest survive and triumphs. Utopian idealism will destroy the West, in my opinion.


    • ” We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population….In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity….To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives….We should cease to talk about vague and…unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”

      George Kennan, Director of Policy Planning, U.S. State Department; 1948

      That sounds pretty much the polar opposite of Utopian, to me. It’s arguable whether that brand of hardheaded realism remains a factor in American political thought – however, I submit it does. It goes by different names from time to time; currently it would probably fall under “isolationism” – entirely due to the bleating of idealists – although the imperative to “devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity” argues it is not. What it suggests to me is that American allies are selected on the basis of their perceived utility to American policy, and that they have a high probability of being abandoned directly they cease to display such utility. Allowances must also be made for the leader/party in power, as some are less pragmatic-to-the-point-of-bloodlessness than others. As recently as the much-maligned (although not nearly enough to suit me) presidency of George W. Bush, this thought process was very much in vogue, embodied by the pugilistic, “You’re either with us, or against us” ideology. There was little of the Utopian in Dubya, and another leader just like him is around the corner if the Republicans regain significant power.

      You’re perfectly correct that American dominance – even influence – is on the wane, but this likely infuriates elements of the American political elite, and circumstances are ripe for a desperate correction. Whether the delicate reality of massive indebtedness will influence it remains to be seen.

      • Much of the above I agree with, but I take exception to: “There was little of the Utopian in Dubya.” Problem with W was that he was Utopian to the core. He actually thought that the way to deal with terrorism was to transform fractious Muslim countries into facsimiles of Kansas. Being naive and ignorant about foreign affairs, he allowed idealists disconnected from reality (the neocons) to hijack his brain. His understanding of the world was also informed by a sentimentalist, “Jesus is my buddy” form of Christianity (he was not a fundamentalist as is so frequently and erroneously stated). W was the opposite of a hardcore realist, and that’s why he created the mess that he did.

        • I guess I should have clarified: as far as Bush himself goes, I agree completely – he was a dreamer who preferred to make major decisions based on a perception of how he’d like the world to be, rather than how it is. That, I guess, is pretty much the definition of utopian. However, except for rare instances where he stubbornly went with his decision against all of his inner circle of advisors, he allowed himself to be guided or led by those who advocated for utopian-sounding initiatives based on business or influence-peddling principles that were firmly grounded in realities they wished to manipulate for selective gain rather than the common good.

          • That’s a meandering way of saying you’re absolutely correct, and I should have said, “Dubya’s government” rather than “Dubya”.

      • sinotibetan says:

        Thank you for your comments and cogent points.
        Perhaps I should clarify what I meant about Western(i.e. almost always American)Utopian ideals. The quote by George Kennan was interesting. Some points that I wish to clarify/state:-

        1. I think there is a dichotomy between what the Western/American elites truly believe
        and what they want others(the average American and the rest of the people around
        the world) to perceive they believe. I doubt that the top echelons of the American
        political elite really believe in egalitarianism, or human rights, or democratic ideals etc. when it comes to international politics. However, it is to their interest to project the image that they really do care about these things – for national and international audience. As to whether they truly believe that such ideals apply to their own country(but not the rest of the world) is anyone’s guess. However, to maintain that image of moral superiority internationally, these elites(past and present) were and are keen to showcase America as the only superior model politically, socially, culturally, economically, philosophically and ideologically of which the world must emulate and kowtow to(sorry for that word of Chinese origin..haha). At least, they would initiate policies within America that demonstrate the supposedly ‘superiority’ of such ideals(which are Utopian and humanistic in my opinion). The superpower status, economic success, cultural clout(the minds of the young the world over are fed with the American propaganda machine such as Hollywood), ‘political Superman’ antics, scientific and technological superiority of the USA lend credence(at least to a significant number of people the world over) that indeed the ideals of USA should be emulated to achieve that same status. The Russians were duped into believing that the American political elites truly care about their freedom and that American ideals(eg ‘democracy’, human rights etc.) would lead to a great Russia and they had to learn it the hard way – its effects will be felt in Russia for generations to come.

        2. As the American political elites are keen to showcase America as the model nation, such Utopian ideals are , I believe, made into policy within America. Or else, how can the USA tell other (‘enemy’) nations that they are not complying with human rights, for example? America is a young nation of immigrants still in search of a true identity. It’s a nation in perpetual construction(and maybe in the future, destruction). That’s why it promotes egalitarian ideals, a concept of nationhood based on an abstraction(an American is one who is an American national – ‘America’ being a political construct, an abstraction) rather than the traditional one in which the ethnic/ethno-cultural defines the nation, democracy and human rights(to an almost quasi-religious fervor amongst many Americans) , multiculturalism(it’s a country of immigrants trying to forge an identity based on an abstraction) etc. I would say, American ideals are perhaps ways the elites thought would help deal with problems which maybe uniquely American ones. The problem I have with these ideals is that America insists that all nations must follow those standards when they may not be applicable and maybe even be disastrous for other nations in their own peculiar situations. American system is the best and the standard in which all other nations are compared with and judged ‘good’ or ‘lousy’. This is the problem with America in her dealings with other nations.

        • sinotibetan says:

          If I may add to my already too long a reply:-

          1. When I inferred that I do not agree wit multiculturalism, it does not imply that I believe that multicultural countries should become monocultural or that multiethnic countries should construct policies that favour one ethnic group to another. I live in a multiethnic/multicultural country and the Chinese are a minority in my country. My own experience living in a multiethnic/multicultural environment led me to believe that multiculturalism is not a good policy for nation-building and nationhood. What I meant is that ‘monocultural’ countries should better off remain monocultural(eg Japan) while multicultural ones should not become even more multicultural. Multiculturalism tears a country apart. It has centrifugal rather than centripetal tendencies – if I may borrow some terms from physics. Humans are not ready(perhaps they never will be) for such egalitarianism because we are not created equal in every way. The world is a global village but it’s better that the village remains local and not global. Neither do I mean countries should not accept immigrants. Perhaps they should accept immigrants that the local population can integrate and accept(maybe ethnically and culturally more similar to the host country, for example?) and only small numbers where needed. For example Denmark was once a very homogenous country ethnically and culturally. Based on(I believe misguided) policies of egalitarianism and multiculturalism(they were trying to emulate the USA perhaps?) they accepted large number of migrants that are ethnoculturally alien and too different from native Danes. And they wonder why Danish Muslim migrants don’t integrate well in Denmark! Why bring additional problems to oneself because of some ideals? We Chinese can never understand that! That the idea causes more problems than good perhaps mean the idea is not a good one? Something for the Western world to think about. However, they might not dare to say what they really think because political-correctness in those countries would mean some form of self-censorship…how ironic!
          2. Republicans or Democrats? I think it’s almost like asking would you prefer Satan or Beelzebub?


  11. sinotibetan says:

    I must add I don’t mean to be anti-Western, or pro-China or pro-Russia or anti-Islam or what not. I just think of geopolitics as harsh and cruel just as reality is harsh and cruel. There is no mercy, no kindness, no tactics deemed ‘too immoral’ in the quest for power and supremacy in international politics regardless of what notions of morals each of us have individually. Until we find a cure for the problem of evil in mankind, I believe we should abandon all attempts in dogmatism in socio-political-cultural-ethical ideology like that being fervently held by the likes of America et. al.


  12. Trade is better because food is more important than oil and gas. China’s farmland is at maximum capacity while European Russia is the only breadbasket left in the world with major potential. Every country in the world will covet that chernozem to keep famines from occurring in their countries. The Far East has very low potential for settlement, which is why neighboring China has never been able to colonize it.

  13. “sinotibetan says:
    Russia’s economy need to modernize but politically must remain stable. That’s going to be a tough job for Russia’s leaders(with the West always on the prowl to destablize Russia)”

    There’s your answer to the China might attack question. China, Britain, Japan are all betting big that the US will color revolutionize Putin’s Russia, probably within the next 36 months when the bankers do a global demand drop and energy prices fall along with increasing global supply and energy conservation. Those 3 nations have likely done a Molotov type pact with US/NATO. Now you know which brand of people are running US foreign policy and the form of “historic poetic justice” they’re seeking.

    • sinotibetan says:

      “the US will color revolutionize Putin’s Russia”
      That has always been America’s aim ever since Putin took the helms and Russia became a country that will not bow down to American bullying. America brooks no rival and that’s why the Western anti-Putin stance. To be honest, I think Putin is better off President than Medvedev in 2012. Medvedev might be seduced by power and the carrots America(‘we will include Russia as part of the West’) dangle that would tempt him to break away from his mentor instead of pragmatically rebuilding Russia. I think maybe Putin thought Medvedev was a pliable person but I think he underestimated Medvedev’s political ambitions. For the sake of national interest, if I were a Russian, Putin should come back as President because I think he understands the ruthlessness of America better than his protégé.
      “China, Britain, Japan”
      Britain – probably will be bankrupt in the near future. China and Japan – they hate each other. Japan is also an American lapdog(the other is South Korea). In the near term, China prefers to cooperate with Russia. It might change though if political situations in Russia lead to chaos. 2012 might determine Russia’s fate and whether China will invade Russia in the near future.
      “next 36 months when the bankers do a global demand drop and energy prices fall along with increasing global supply and energy conservation. “
      It’s a possibility. That’s why the question of who leads Russia after 2012 is crucial. Putin , I think knows it may be coming and has that statesmanship to deal with it. I doubt that Medvedev have the ruthlessness of Putin to deal with this.


      • Nothing Medvedev has done indicates that he is moving too far off in another direction. Both are quite conservative. Brute force is also a nonstarter against a country like Russia because it is used to exploiting its vast territory and destroying anything the enemy might get its hands on. Plus the secret services have always had contingency plans to use hidden biological/chemical/nuclear weapons that are low-level enough to destabilize enemies who attack. Everyone knows they have rigged the Potomac somewhere so they probably have Beijing rigged as well.

  14. I agree with most of the above, although I do think sinotibetan places too much emphasis on the “utopian” aspect of Western ideology. The United States is the neighborhood bully, maintaining its power and dominance by any means necessary. In recent years the tools have been fairly blatant and crude: military invasion, death, carnage, rape, etc. A handful of ideologues in the government may believe they are doing “Jesus work”, but they are not fooling anyone. @donnyess: Russia already HAD its color-coded revolution, it was led by Yeltsin. The Russian people have already been duped once; surely they will not fall for that old trick again? One final remark: The United States itself is being prepared for its own “color” revolution, it’s called the “tea party”, and the very same money is pouring in to whip up fake enthusiasm for a “populist” movement that serves the interests of big business and big finance. So, yes, there is a kind of “bad karma” there: American people will be impoverished and crushed by the same political technologies that their government used against other countries.

  15. America will never “colour revolutionize” Russia so long as (a) Vladimir Putin is in a position of visible political power, and (b) the liberal opposition consists of such a bunch of weak sisters that they couldn’t get elected to library security. They make a lot of noise that sometimes creates the suggestion they’re gaining political support, but it’s nothing like the support Putin enjoys. Unless they have pictures of him doing a goat or something similarly career-ending, it’s not happening. In both Georgia and Ukraine, the west had smart, charismatic opposition candidates who captured the peoples’ imagination with that “time for a change” codswallop. Voters everywhere are generally ill-informed and easily manipulated, and it’s easy to get them to vote against their own best interests if you promise them a pony or distract them with something shiny. However, Mr. Putin is as politically aware as any leader Russia has ever had, the people like him and trust him with the country’s prestige, and American global influence is on the way down. Europe is tripping over itself to implement drastic austerity measures, and doesn’t have the money to finance dissident movements. America thinks it has the money – but China could disabuse them of that notion in about two seconds, by calling in its note.

    Will they? Who knows? They might not have to: a hint to the wise is sufficient. The one thing America has going for it is that China will not likely threaten to dump its dollars in favour of euros, as it has done before with dramatic and observable success, because the euro is sliding, too. However, China is owed one hell of a lot of money, which gives them leverage. The wise heads who already commented are right – China and Russia are not natural allies. However, they are ideologically closer to one another than either is to the west, and Russia is a huge country with a small population and a lot of natural resources. The USA is a smaller country with a gigantic population and not even enough natural resources for itself. China is both patient and clever, and neither of those are in America’s favour. America needs its rival to be dozy and prone to making up its mind without considering the realities. Maybe they can convince George Bush to become leader of China! If that wouldn’t make China stumble, nothing will.

    • “Unless they have pictures of him doing a goat or something similarly career-ending,”

      Maybe not quite so grotesque as a goat, but there was this little incident a few years ago (“I just wanted to cuddle him like a kitten”):


      If an American politician had done this, he’d be finished. On the other hand, if an American president had seen salaries double on his watch (like Putin), he could bite the heads off chickens on live TV and people would find ways to excuse it (“chickens are a great source of protein,” etc).

      • It’s just the difference in cultures, with the US culture getting more and more paranoid and psychotic . It has gotten to the point I don’t think I’ll stop to help a lost child for the fear of being labeled a pedophile/pervert/child abuser and so on. Plus, the propaganda machine must demonize Putin, even if they have to make things up.

        • Maybe I’m just twisted, but I thought it was cute that Putin kissed the little boy’s tum-tum! Hey, he’s an affectionate guy, he loves kids and animals. From what I understand about Putin’s sexuality, he is heterosexual and attracted to beautiful women (like his wife and also Kabaeva, the former gymnast). Young women, possibly, but nothing below the legal age!

      • Damn; that’s funny.

        An American politician who cultivated the habit of kissing his male counterparts three or four times on each cheek upon meeting in a formal setting would likely be finished, too, but that seems to be OK in Russia (although it’s less popular since Brezhnev).

        • “the habit of kissing his male counterparts three or four times on each cheek upon meeting in a formal setting”

          You wish 🙂 If only on cheek.

          • That was pretty horrible. I only got about a quarter of the way through it. Yeah; I can see Mitch McConnell and John Boehner doing that. To banjo music.

            And I’m not homophobic. They’re just really disgusting-looking old men.

  16. Not Boehner and McConnell. Well, McConnell is a little bit old and disgusting. I meant the guys in the vidclip.

  17. georgesdelatour says:

    I’m a Little Englander, in the tradition identified by A.J.P. Taylor in his best book, “The Troublemakers”. Taylor shows how British foreign policy has always been controversial in Britain, and that there have always been strong voices arguing against foreign wars, interventions, empire etc. From Charles James Fox (who supported American independence and opposed war with revolutionary France) to Robin Cook (who resigned as Foreign Secretary rather than support the Iraq War), they have always been there, and they have always mattered. They took their argument to Parliament, to the printing press, to public meetings. And most of the time they have been proved right by history.

    America has a similar tradition. Since the founding of the republic there have always been important voices arguing against foreign wars. In both the First and Second World Wars these voices delayed America’s entry into war. Public opinion turned massively against the Vietnam War and eventually had its way.

    One argument the Troublemakers have always used is that foreign wars tend to reduce freedom at home. And that is usually their first concern.

    Troublemakers are not always of the left. There’s Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky, but there’s also Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan in America. I like reading Edward Luttwak, who offers a more sober, dispassionate argument against foreign entanglements.

    It’s sometimes argued that this tendency is simply the byproduct of fortuitous geography, the relative immunity from direct foreign attack that both England and the USA have enjoyed as maritime powers. It’s hard to imagine Poland ever being able to pursue a policy of “Splendid Isolation”, for instance.

    I just mention this because I sense, among all the comments about “America the world bully”, a failure to take account of these countervailing streams within the American polity. And I can’t imagine that China and Russia are completely immune from such tendencies either.

  18. nevertheless, Putin isnt good for Russia. He has stated in the past that Russia is the biggest ally of the Muslim world. WTF! Sucking up to Muslims now? Russia should be the biggest ally of the Christian world, Duh. Why is Russia friends with Iran? wtf!

  19. Sure, China won’t attack Russia in order to get nuked for an icebox, but won’t Russia attack China in case they lose a big hot war, just to preserve their secure southern flank? And by the way the Russians have some experience with the Chinese as unreliable allies from the Sino-Soviet split.

  20. Talking the war, it is important to spell an objective of the war. What problems of China could be resolved by taking over Russian Far East? Lack of resources? Not at all. Overpopulation? Highly dubious. Than why to risk all-out war once it brings no sizable benefits?
    The only prize big enough to justify the risk is direct control over oil fields and cashes of mineral resources of Sibir’.
    It is said that strategy is extension of geography. One look at geographical map is enough to see that Chinese Drang nach Sibir’ is not viable whatever their quantitative supremacy is.
    This however will change dramatically once China assume control over Kazakhstan – than geographically they have all the aces and the only deterrent Russia has is nuclear.