Primakov Readings on Crisis in China-US Relations

Primakov Readings on Crisis in China-US Relations

4 June 2020

June 4th, the Primakov Readings, a joint project of Interfax and IMEMO with the support of the Gorchakov Foundation, were held online. The event was devoted to discussing the topic: “China and the USA: is there a risk that the emerging bipolarity will turn into Cold War 2.0?”

The Special Envoy of the Russian President for International Cultural Cooperation M.Shvydkoy moderated the event. The meeting participants discussed whether economic cooperation could contribute to improving relations; whether there is a potential synergy between the positions of the Russian Federation and the EU in this conflict, and how these development are perceived in Delhi and Tokyo.

Among the speakers at the event were MGIMO Rector A.Torkunov, the Deputy Director for Research, Head of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies of IMEMO at the Russian Academy of Sciences A.Lomanov and the Scientific Director of the Institute for U.S and Canadian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences S.Rogov.

A.Torkunov gave a talk to the audience, noting that today China is not yet ready to play the role that the Soviet Union played during the Cold War, although it certainly has this ambition. The Rector added that the U.S’s approach to China has changed a great deal: the United States has gone from simply containing China to systematically rejecting it in its current form and its ambitions to restore its sphere of influence in Asia and become a global power. A.Torkunov described the document "The US Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China", which is not only a manifesto but also an attempt to show that the American approach is optimal and is quite critical of China. “It is obvious particularly now, during the pandemic, in troubles times, that the Americans have realised to what extent China has become a very powerful economic competitor for the United States. China, is actively promoting the concept of “One Belt – One Road” and the brand “Made in China 2025”, with attempts to unite a large group of countries around itself, primarily in Southeast Asia” explained the Rector.

A. Torkunov pursued his analysis, noting that the Americans go against the Chinese initiative, and criticize the policy, which makes neighbouring countries depend on China. It is also clear that the countries of the region are growing increasingly concerned about accumulating serious debts towards China and being subject to its political influence. India has expressed serious reservations about the “One Belt – One Road” project as some of the initiative’s logistic routes go through disputed territories (particularly Kashmir), and the new regional routes connect participating countries with China, but not between themselves. This and a number of other factors have encouraged India to take a more positive stance about a project, which was once promoted by Japan: the development of the Indo-Pacific region. Moreover, while India gives priority to economic cooperation, it does not exclude the possibility of political interaction, as the country has a lot in common with Japan. The Rector added that a number of ASEAN countries have similar concerns about Chinese projects. Russia, which has embraced a multi-vector foreign policy, should maintain its strategic partnership with China, and at least take part in discussions surrounding alternative projects, as it is also a partner of India and Japan, he concluded.