Russia has asked China for military equipment since its Feb. 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the Financial Times and Washington Post reported, citing U.S. officials. Russia, which calls its action in Ukraine a “special operation,” and China have tightened cooperation as they have come under strong Western pressure over human rights and a raft of other issues. Beijing has not condemned Russia’s attack and does not call it an invasion, but has urged a negotiated solution.
That Russian forces are running out of supplies, spares and oil has heightened the tensions in India. The biggest Indian fear is the cutting of the arms spares supply chain after massive western sanctions on Russia and the diversion of hardware by Moscow to the Ukraine front, the Hindustan Times report further noted. The Russian T-90 tanks, Su-30MKI fighters and under maintenance INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier, are all reliant on the original equipment manufacturer based in Moscow.
Russia-China collaboration took off in 2014 after the forcible annexation of Crimea and the ensuing war in eastern Ukraine and has since grown into a variety of domains. In response to the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia, the European Union, United States have introduced various trade sanctions against Russia which have been extended and further strengthened.
The current official Western view is that sanctions are a way to punish Russia for violating the rules of the international order and to thereby correct its behavior in the future. The Russians believe the sanctions are designed to weaken Russia and reduce its ability to defend itself. “Sanctions haven’t broken the country’s macroeconomic stability,” said Alexandre Abramov, a finance specialist at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. “But sanctions are cutting off the path to development. In terms of accelerating growth rates, enacting effective structural reforms — sanctions are sapping the country of these possibilities.”
Since sanctions began to bite, and sharp decline in global oil and natural gas prices, Putin has reached out to China to fill the investment gap, drawing up a $400bn gas supply deal, a potential $230bn rail link, fighter jet sales and deals to bring China’s UnionPay payment system to Russia’s banks. Western sanctions on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis have fuelled the deepening ties between them.
Since then, Russia and china have developed all-round strategic partnership, which covered political, economic, security and diplomatic issues. According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, Chinese companies invested more than $100 million in Russia between January and April in 2019. “We see a serious interest in Russia-China cooperation from business circles of both countries,” said Vitaly Monkevich, president of the Russian-Asian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RAUIE).
The new dynamic has been corona or Covid pandemic. But while the pandemic has made China an even more vital economic lifetime and market for Russia, Moscow has become a more needed partner for Beijing as it collides with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration over a wide range of issues: from a trade war to problems involving Hong Kong and rights in the South China Sea.
“On nearly every front, Russia and China have been coming closer,” Artyom Lukin, a scholar of China-Russia relations at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, told RFE/RL. “We are seeing the long-term trend of China’s rising economic importance for Russia.” “Before Trump, China was cautious to embrace Moscow geopolitically to the fullest extent, but Beijing has determined that U.S. pressure won’t let up, so they have no choice but to move closer to Russia,” said Lukin. “Today, it is China, not Russia, that is more interested in forming this quasi-alliance.”That is especially true as Mr. Xi faces a range of issues at home, most notably an economy that has slowed amid a reeling property market, weakening consumer demand and other factors.
Perceptions in Moscow and Beijing that Washington is trying to put pressure on Russia and China have prompted both countries to coordinate on a range of issues, analysts said. Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization recently have accused Russia of amassing troops on its border with Ukraine as a prelude to invade its smaller neighbor. Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven—which is made up of the world’s largest developed economies—have warned the Kremlin of severe consequences if Russia invades Ukraine, which Moscow denies it is planning.
China, meanwhile, has faced criticism over its suppression of a largely Muslim minority group and other human-rights abuses, characterizations that Beijing rejects. The Biden administration said this month it wouldn’t send U.S. officials to attend the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in February.
China and Russia have agreed on a road map to deepen co-operation on military patrols and exercises, Russia’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 23 November 2021. The ‘road map for military co-operation for 2021-2025′ was approved in a video conference chaired by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe, said the MoD. The agreement was announced a few days after the two countries’ air forces held joint patrols over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea that featured Chinese H-6K (pictured) and Russian Tu-95 bombers.
“China and Russia are facing renewed threats from their neighbors 70 years after the end of WWII. The two countries’ past contributions in WWII have also been undermined by the West. There is a need for the two countries to unite and provide support to each other,” said Wang Haiyun, former military attaché at the Chinese embassy in Moscow.
The current changes in the global innovation landscape and geopolitical environment have created an important strategic opportunity for China and Russia to counter American military and technological dominance. “Russia and China have established in recent years a relationship that is more than a simple strategic partnership, which will be further promoted, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at his annual year-end press conference.
China will continue to strengthen military to military relations with Russia to address new security challenges in the world, said Air Force General Xu Qiliang, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. China and Russia also will jointly protect the security interests of both countries and maintain regional strategic balance, Xu added. We discussed the critical dependence of the economy, and, in general, the political, economic, military and defense administration of the country, on the external impact on the information environment,” he noted.
China and Russia have seen rapid development in industrial, economic and technological cooperation, said Viktor Kladov, head of the Russian company’s international cooperation department, in an interview with Beijing’s Economic Observer. Putin discussed at SPIEF 2016 for the Eurasian Economic Union and China to conclude free trade agreements with each other.
Trade between China and Russia jumped 26.2 percent year-on-year to $24.7 billion dollars in the first four months of 2017, according to China’s General Administration of Customs. In addition to oil and gas, Russian analysts saw the possibility of expanding bilateral trade to more areas. “RAUIE members often turn to us with requests for export of sunflower oil, honey, ice cream, confectionery and alcohol … We see a great potential for the development of exports other than raw materials,” said Monkevich.
During the summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — held in the Russian city of Ufa in early July, the heads of state in both organizations also published “Vision 2025” and decided to start talks on trade, energy and technology cooperation. They also agreed to push for the creation of a development fund and a development bank under the SCO, said the report.
The development of transport facilities is one of the key problems Russia faces, given its vast territory and low quality of roads and railways. “Chinese investment and joint projects will play a major role in the vast areas of Siberia and the Far East, as well as in other parts of Russia,” said Sergei Luzyanin, director of the Far Eastern Studies Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Russia and China signed a memorandum of cooperation on the development of a high-speed rail network in mid-October that included construction of a high-speed rail line from Moscow to Beijing. The planned high-speed railway stretching some 7,000 kilometers between
Moscow and Beijing will cost about 7 trillion rubles ($153 billion) to build, over half of the sum, or 4 trillion rubles ($87.5 billion), is expected to come from Chinese investors, said Alexander Misharin, who heads Russian Railways’ subsidiary High-Speed Rail Lines, news agency TASS reported. Overall, in 2014, bilateral trade was worth $95.3 billion and the intention is to raise this to $100 billion as part of a plan to reach $200 billion by 2020.
China and Russia probably achieved their target of $100 billion in bilateral trade in 2018. To meet a more ambitious target of $200 billion by 2024, AI will play a role, analysts said. Chinese Ambassador to Russia Li Hui said in an interview in October 2018 that the two countries should increase the quality of bilateral cooperation and treat the digital economy as a new growth engine. AI was identified by Li as a factor along with big data, the internet and smart cities.
One such area of late has been efforts to limit reliance on the U.S. dollar, a process called de-dollarization. The U.S. dollar holds a powerful place in the global financial system as the world’s reserve currency and de-dollarization has become a priority for both China and Russia to protect their bottom line and push back against American dominance. Replacing the dollar in trade settlements became a necessity to circumvent U.S. sanctions against Russia and efforts have gained speed following Washington’s imposition of tariffs on Chinese goods. New data from the Bank of Russia shows that in the first quarter of 2020, the dollar’s share of trade between Russia and China fell below 50 percent for the first time on record, a notable change given that the dollar comprised more than 90 percent of trade in 2014.
Russian and China cooperation on New Silk Road (One Belt, One Road) mega-project
Most of the infrastructure projects take place under the auspices of the Belt and Road Initiative. For example, one of its institutes is Russia-China Investment Fund, a private equity fund established jointly by the Russian Direct Investment Fund and China Investment Corporation, which equally committed USD 2 billion. One of the economic result of the BRF for Moscow is the establishment of China-Russia Regional Cooperation Development Investment Fund “to promote cooperation between China’s Northeast and Russia’s Far East.”
Russia is considered to be a major partner and a key driver of the BRI. The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China in 2013 consists of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. It aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes.
China has made Russia a stakeholder in its New Silk Road (One Belt, One Road) mega-project. Russia and China working to merge the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union and the Chinese-led Silk Road Project into a single whole as part of their joint “Greater Eurasia” project in which they ultimately want to involve Europe too.
President Xi Jinping of China, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Elbegdorj Tsakhiaof Mongolia approved of the Russian, Chinese, Mongolian Tri- lateral Cooperation Plan: “On politics, we need to promote mutual trust, and unite our destinies. In terms of economic cooperation, the three sides must continue to join separate regions in collective collaboration. For society, the three sides should pay close attention to the populace and their communication and exchange. For international affairs, we must promote collaboration to sustain world peace and stability.”
Chinese and Russian companies will be involved in the two countries’ economic and trade cooperation, after Moscow and Beijing signed a joint statement on integrating China’s Silk Road Economic Belt initiative with the building of the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in 2016.
The aim of member-states of the EEU currently comprises Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, which came into effect on January 1, 2015, is to ensure the free movement of goods, services, capital and workforce on their common turf. The EEU common market is of significance for the Silk Road Economic Belt, which calls for closer diplomatic coordination, standardized trade facilities, and free trade zones.
Economic cooperation is the main priority and key point for all three sides involved. This means completing the Silk Road and further driving all of Eurasia’s development. The road will help local regions and areas in each country grow each other’s’ economies.
However, recently China’s soaring power in Central Asia has been diluting Moscow’s economic and military institutions, which were built to reintegrate this region with Russia after the break-up of the Soviet Union, according to Professor Alexander Lukin’s latest article in the Washington Quarterly Economically, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been overshadowing the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Despite an agreement on linking the two projects, Beijing and Central Asian members prefer to negotiate on a bilateral basis, essentially undermining Russia’s EAEU leadership role.
In the energy sphere, Russia has displaced Saudi Arabia as China’s biggest oil supplier and Gazprom — Russia’s massive gas company — plans to more than triple gas deliveries to China through its new pipelines, amounting to nearly half of current Chinese demand. Russia is also looking to capitalize off of the U.S.- China trade war by increasing its exports of food and minerals at the expense of the United States and other Western nations.
Earlier Russia entered into a historic contract with China, an estimated $400 billion gas deal to supply 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually over three decades starting in 2018. China, with its rapid economic growth, is already the world’s largest energy consumer. As of 2016, China was also the world’s largest net oil importer and a growing natural gas importer, ranked fifth in the world. In 2016, Russia became China’s largest supplier of oil. As per EIA’s base case projection, in 2035 Russia could satisfy about 85 percent of China’s oil import requirements (8.1 of 9.7 million b/d) and all of China’s needs for natural gas imports (6 Tcf).
The EIA estimates that as of 2015 Russia has proved reserves of 80 billion barrels of oil and 1,688 Tcf of natural gas (the world’s largest reserves of gas). In 2015, it produced 11 million b/d of oil and 22.4 Tcf of gas, of which 7.5 million b/d of oil and 7.3 Tcf of gas were exported. By 2035, the EIA forecasts that Russian energy production will rise to 11.8 million b/d of oil and 29.3 Tcf of gas, of which 8.1 million b/d of oil and 12.3 Tcf of gas will be exported.
China shares a 4,179 kilometers (km) land border with Russia, so pipelines connecting Russian oil and gas fields to northeastern China would be secure and energy flows could not be effectively shut down by the United States. China majority of oil and gas imports is over sea lines of communication (SLOCs) and through maritime choke points are controlled by U.S. navy and are susceptible to naval blockade.
China is intensifying cooperation with the Russian Federation in security, trade, energy supplies, artificial intelligence, 5G, space research, and biotechnology. The U.S. and the European Union’s decoupling from business with China and imposing economic sanctions on Russia push the two countries to examine the potential of their strategic cooperation more closely
Chinese and Russian leaders recognize emerging technologies as critical to both countries’ economic development in order to achieve a competitive advantage relative to the United States. In this moment of pandemic-initiated global economic disruption, the digital economy is seen as vital to stimulate future growth. China and Russia have been discussing key projects and developing a roadmap for the “Year of Russian-Chinese Scientific, Technical and Innovation Cooperation,”
China’s market and resources have outpaced Russia, while Russia has certain technical expertise that China still lacks. Their respective comparative advantages are therefore complementary. “We can use our best qualities, expanding our technological potential and competitiveness,” in the words of China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, while Putin has emphasized Russian advantages in “mathematics and everything related to it.”
The purpose of building BRI infrastructure is to accelerate Sino-Russian partnerships in science and technology and facilitate technology transfer. In 2020, the two countries announced the construction of the first Sino-Russian Innovation Complex, a joint venture of Tus-Holdings, Russian Direct Investment Fund, Tsinghua University, and Lomonosov Moscow State University. The purpose of this Innovation Complex is to prepare for future joint research and development centers, university labs for basic research, and science parks.
Under the framework of the Belt and Road initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union, AI, the internet and IoT can flourish in a world without national borders. Different applications for AI include aeronautics and aerospace, Russia’s Glonass and China’s BeiDou satellite navigation systems, and allowing AI to harness advanced human experience in manufacturing,” Zhao said.
In June 2020, Huawei indicated that despite the ongoing global pandemic, it is still ready to offer the Russian information and communications market its own unique technological capabilities, the development of joint hardware and software solutions with Russian suppliers, as well as the organization of joint production. The Chinese behemoth will also continue to invest in local Russian research and development, develop a partner ecosystem and educational programs, thereby claiming to render a significant and lasting contribution to the development of the Russian high-tech industry.
Russia has begun work on one of the world’s largest polymer plants, an $11 billion project that has its sights set on the Chinese market as economic ties between Beijing and Moscow grow.The project — located in Amur, near the Chinese border in Russia’s Far East — is being developed by Russia’s Sibur Holding petrochemical company along with China’s giant Sinopec Group, which will hold a 40 percent stake in the initiative. It is scheduled to begin production in 2024.
Chinese-Russian technological alignment has been particularly apparent in the sector of biotechnology. Broadly, biotechnology refers to the manipulation of living organisms or their compounds to produce new products or services. Biotechnology is perceived to be “a key strategic technology for industrial growth” and is distinguished from other technological sectors for its capacity to alter the means of production across a variety of industrial sectors. Examples of the sectors include pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and food processing, and extend to dual-use technologies.
Biotechnology is a strategic sector for China. The Made in China 2025 Initiative sets the goal of manufacturing high-tech products, including innovative medicines. The plan introduced targets for Chinese pharmaceutical firms to advance in biotechnology innovation and increase exports. About half of all industrial parks in China focus on the development of pharmaceuticals. By 2018, China established 111 biotechnology science parks. Although China still lags behind the U.S. in biotechnology innovation, analysts concede that it is rapidly progressing and closing this gap.
In turn, Russia has rich natural resources, but over 80% of biotech products are imported, and Russia’s share in the global market of biotech products is below 0.1%. Russian biotech is a sector that experienced massive brain drain after the break-up of the Soviet Union, with many scientists leaving for Western countries and Israel.
Yet, Russia sees biotechnology as a priority area for its future. For example, the State Program for the Development of the Pharmaceutical and Medical Industry until 2020 (PHARMA 2020), published in 2014, attempted to reduce Russia’s dependency on foreign medical technologies. Moscow approved PHARMA 2030 in December 2021. The main difference between PHARMA 2020 and PHARMA 2030 is a call for an upgrade from import substitution to an innovative model of production. According to data from the Eurasian Economic Commission, Russia’s innovative companies include few active players: Generium, ChemRar, Biocad, and Pharmapark.
While Russia and China are signing joint agreements to develop high-tech research centers and initiatives, the Russia outlook has become sucpicious because on China’s continuing espionage incidents. A Russian scientist has been detained in Siberia for allegedly passing technology to China, Russian media reported in Oct 2020. Alexander Lukanin, a 64-year-old scientist from the Siberian city of Tomsk, was detained on Tuesday after returning from China were he had been working at a local university, according to MBKh Media, a news outlet founded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.In August 2020, Russian security services announced the arrest of the president of the St. Petersburg Arctic Social Sciences Academy, who was accused of passing classified submarine detection information to Chinese intelligence.
In Dec 2019 an apparent rift occured between the two when Russian state defense conglomerate Rostec accused China of illegally copying Russian military hardware and weapons. “Unauthorized copying of our equipment abroad is a huge problem. There have been 500 such cases over the past 17 years. China alone has copied aircraft engines, Sukhoi planes, deck jets, air defense systems, portable air defense missiles, and analogues of the Pantsir medium-range surface-to-air systems,” said Yevgeny Livadny, Rostec’s chief of intellectual property projects. Mr. Livadny appeared to be referring among other things to alleged Chinese intellectual property theft after Russia sold to China in 2015 six S-400 anti-aircraft systems and 24 Su-35 fighter jets for US$5 billion. However, experts opinion that Chinese technology theft is unlikely to persuade Russia any time soon to forego the strategic advantages of its geopolitical cooperation with China.
China and Russia are forging stronger ties in space technology with Russia offering to supply rocket engines to China in exchange for Chinese microelectronics, according to the head of Russia’s state space corporation. At the MAKS 2019 Moscow air show in August 2019, Dmitry Rogozin, Director General of Roscosmos, said Russia was also keen to use its rocket technology to launch Chinese satellites.
Chinese are known to rely heavily on Russian liquid fuel technology for their rocket engines both for their ballistic missiles and for their space programme, which in general appears to rely heavily on Russian technology, even for design of space vehicles. CHINA and Russia are expected to formally announce a new deal that would see Beijing buy powerful rocket engines (RD-180) from Moscow, in a landmark agreement between the two world powers. If an agreement is reached, the engine would increase China’s lift capacity, which is needed for manned lunar and deep space missions.
China’s most advanced rocket, the Long March 5 series, designed to send up to 25 tonnes to lower-Earth orbit, double the capacity of its workhorse, the Long March 3, has been riddled with problems. The failure of its second flight in July 2017, is attributed to rocket’s new YF-77 booster engine, the China’s first cryogenic rocket engine. The engine was redesigned last year, but after repeated cancellations and delays, the next launch is not expected until the first half of next year.
Igor Komarov, director general of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said: “We are speaking about practical spheres such as engines. Chinese partners are interested in such directions as purchasing engines as well as creating perspective engines and carrier rockets including heavy-lift launch vehicles.”
Although China has its own orbital station, is interested in gaining access to the Russian part of the ISS, since it has no practical experience in sending Chinese astronauts into space for a long duration. The implementation of such a project is unlikely in the future, because the United States blocks access of the taikonauts to the ISS (access for astronauts on board is regulated by all the participating countries). The creation of a Russian-Chinese orbital station was suggested as an alternative solution, but the People’s Republic of China (PRC) already has its own, while the Russian Federation has plans to launch its own and both countries do not show much interest in a joint project, since from the point of view of technology, Russia and China are independent in this field.
China was also keen to begin producing Russian space rockets on its own territory, news agency RIA Novosti reported. “China is willing to develop cooperation in engine building [and] urges to consider the idea of setting up joint production. We are more interested in commercialization. We intend to sell engines,” Denis Kravchenko, deputy general director of the United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC), told Sputnik. Deputy Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that both parties share “deep mutual understanding and mutual interests” in space-related projects.
Russia-China Moon Base
Russia and China unveiled a roadmap for a joint International Lunar Research Station in June 2021 to guide collaboration and development of the project. The ILRS is planned to be developed concurrently but separate from the United States’ Artemis lunar exploration program.
Wu Yanhua, deputy head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), introduced the science objectives, facilities and transportation, lunar surface infrastructure, development phases and cooperation frameworks for the venture. The first phase of ILRS, noted as reconnaissance, involves gathering data and verifying high-precision soft-landings across 2021-25 with the Chinese Chang’e-4, -6 and -7 missions, Russia’s Luna 25, 26 and 27 and possible missions of partners.
The second “construction” phase consists of two stages (2026-30, 2031-35). The first involves technology verifications, sample return, massive cargo delivery and the start of joint operations. Planned missions are Chang’e-8 and Luna 28 and potential international contributions.
The second stage looks to complete on-orbit and surface infrastructure for energy, communications, in-situ resource utilization and other technologies. Missions named ILRS-1 through 5 would focus respectively on energy and communications, research and exploration facilities, in-situ resource utilization, general technologies and astronomy capabilities. Russian super heavy-lift launch vehicles are listed to launch the missions. The final “utilization” phase beyond 2036 would see the start of crewed landings. CNSA later published English and Chinese versions of the roadmap on its web pages while Roscomcos shared a presentation video on Twitter.
The development follows Brazil becoming the 12th nation to join the Artemis Accords, the U.S.-led effort to establish norms of behavior for space exploration. Marco Aliberti, a resident fellow at the European Space Policy Institute in Austria, told SpaceNews that ILRS development “signals the progressive bifurcation of the international space community around two contending – and potentially conflicting – pathways for future lunar exploration activities.”
Russian and Chinese military forces cooperate on a regular basis within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Collaboration on security issues would benefit both sides. Russia in fact is seeking foreign investment because of the sanctions imposed by the international community following the crisis in Ukraine. China instead hopes to obtain up-to-date weapons, to mark its status as a world power.
In 2016, the Russian share of Chinese arms imports grew to over 64 percent, but remained well below levels achieved at the height of Russia’s arms sales to China. In recent years, China has acquired Russian engines for its newest fighters and bombers, as they are more reliable and have better performance than Chinese versions. According to Dr. Kashin, all three of China’s indigenous fourth-generation* fighter lines use Russian engines, and China appears to be interested in outfitting its prototype fifth-generation† J-31 fighters with next-generation Russian engines.
Russian aerospace and military industry, have decided to purchase electronic components worth several billion dollars from China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), reversing earlier decision of not using components produced in China, according to Izvestia, referencing a source close to Roscosmos, Russia’s Federal Space Agency.
China’s military-industrial complex is the most promising sector for cooperation with Russia, as its defense complex is more diversified, said Vasily Kashin, senior research fellow at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Kashin raised the example of a joint-venture project of LED production in cooperation between Russia’s state-run hi-tech company Ruselectronics and China Electronics Technology Group Corp. He also mentioned a strategic cooperation agreement between Russian mining and energy company En+ Group and China North Industries Group Corporation.
Joint Military Drills
The most significant aspect of the relationship, the two have held 30 major joint exercises since 2003. Stephen Blank, a senior fellow with the American Foreign Policy Council, for Second Line of Defense calls special attention to the joint air and missile defense exercises the two held in 2017, saying it “suggests an alliance” because it required both nations to “put their cards on the table and display their c4isr.”
The systems and techniques related to c4isr equip decision-makers and soldiers with actionable information, enabling them to accomplish their goals. Such information is among a nation’s most sensitive, so seeing Russia and China share it with each other indeed indicates a rare camaraderie between them.“[T]his alliance is not merely a political relationship but one of active military collaboration,” Blank wrote.
The large-scale Vostok-2018 exercises ran on September 11-17 2018, under the command of the Russian defense minister on the soil and in the waters of Russia’s Far East and in the neighboring waters of the Pacific Ocean. Officially, the exercise involved 297,000 Russian service members, about 36,000 tanks, armored fighting vehicles and other vehicles, and up to 80 ships and support vessels, and more than 1,000 aircraft (YouTube, September 6), complemented by 3,200 Chinese soldiers and an unknown number of Mongolians. This represents a third of all active-duty servicemen and 72 percent of all combat-capable aircraft of the Russian Federation, according to IISS’s 2018 Military Balance.
The centerpiece of this year’s Vostok exercise was at Tsugol, Zabaikalskiy Krai (Mil.ru, September 19), where the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) participated. At Tsugol, two opposing sides—a blue “western” force and a red “eastern” force—were established for the primary exercise. The forces of the VVO and the PLA formation constituted the red force, while elements of the Russian Central Military District (TsVO) formed the blue force (Bmpd.livejournal.com, September 7).
The Chinese Defense Ministry has announced that Beijing and Moscow had made a new breakthrough in missile defense cooperation during joint drills. During the drills, the Russian and the Chinese military forces simulated a variety of air-defense scenarios without using any military units. The Chinese Defense Ministry noted that successful joint drills showed the positive efforts of two countries to support mutual interests in the area of security and regional strategic balance and demonstrate high-level strategic partnership.
Earlier China and Russia held their first computer-assisted missile defense drill at the Central Research Institute of Air and Space Defence in the Russian capital. “The exercise will aim to practice combined operations of Russian and Chinese air and missile defense task forces to provide protection from accidental and provocative attacks of ballistic and cruise missiles,” it adds. The Russian defense ministry also noted that the drill is not directed against a third country. The drills come in the wake of North Korea missile launches and a nuclear test in violation of UN resolutions.
Vasily Kashin, an expert on China’s military at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow said, “The ability to share information in such a sensitive area as missile launch warning systems and ballistic missile defence indicates something beyond simple co-operation.” They have also issued a statement urging the United States and South Korea to desist from stationing the so-called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on the Korean Peninsula.
In May 2015, China and Russia began their first joint naval drill in the Mediterranean Sea. The ten-day exercise displayed their power and cooperation in the American-dominated Mediterranean, around which neither Russia nor China has any coastline. The exercise involved anti-submarine, air defense, and anti-ship missile simulation exercises to prepare the navies against attacks from the air and sea, according to Zhang Junshe, a research fellow at the Chinese Naval Research Institute, China News Service reported.
Russia and China are planning joint military exercises in the waters and airspace of the Sea of Japan. The exercises are a part of increasing defense collaboration between the countries. The drills will “aim to improve China and Russia’s capacity in coping with maritime security threats,” the Chinese state news agency Xinhua quoted Yang saying. “Navies of the two countries will join forces to simulate anti-submarine combat, air defense and other relevant missions.”
During a visit to Beijing in September 2015, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said, “The most important issue of the Russian-Chinese military cooperation are the … military exercises. They contribute to improving combat training of the Armed Forces of [the] two countries, and demonstrate our readiness to counteract modern threats.”
40-ton class heavy helicopter jointly developed by China, Russia to be delivered by 2032
The 40-ton class heavy helicopter, jointly developed by China and Russia, is expected to be delivered by 2032, said Wu Ximing, a Chinese political advisor and chief designer of helicopters for the Aviation Industry Corporation of China.
Joint production of the first prototype is scheduled to occur in China within two years , and over 200 helicopters could be built by 2040. Before the intergovernmental agreement was signed, a deputy chief engineer at Avicopter, AVIC’s helicopter wing, indicated China would be responsible for the avionics systems and materials, with Russia working on the design, transmission, and de-icing equipment. The helicopter will improve the PLA’s ability to conduct transport and evacuation operations in extreme terrain and weather conditions
“Russia is more experienced in the transmission system when it comes to 40-ton class helicopters, as Russia’s Mi-26 is of the 56-ton class. Our goal in the cooperation is to learn from Russia’s strong points and close the gap,” Wu told the Global Times at a press conference in March 2019 featuring Chinese legislators and political advisors in the field of aviation. Wu said that China lacks experience in technologies related to the transmission system.
Russia’s state corporation Rostec is set to sign “the contract of the century” with China on the helicopter “in the coming two months” after four years’ talks on the project, Russia’s Tass news agency quoted Viktor Kladov, a Rostec representative, as saying in February. As a strategic cooperation project between the two countries, China has now reached agreements with Russia in technology, management and business-related fields, Wu said. Under the contract, at least 200 heavy helicopters will be built in China, Kladov said in 2017, Russia’s state TV channel RT reported then.
China is responsible for the helicopter’s design and production and Russia would be acting as a technical partner, Kladov said. The heavy helicopter, dubbed Advanced Heavy Lift, would have a weight-lift capability of 15 tons, a range of 630 kilometers and a top speed of 300 kilometers an hour, RT reported.
A heavy helicopter can usually be used to airlift heavy cargo and vehicles without the need of an airfield. For military use, a heavy helicopter can transport troops, armored vehicles, artillery and rockets. For civilian use, it can lift heavy engineering vehicles to sites where normal transportation routes could not reach in case of a natural disaster, military observers said.China will have a complete helicopter family covering from 500-kilogram class to 40-ton class, to satisfy all kinds of needs, Wu said
S-400 Missile System
China to become the first foreign country to purchase Russia’s advanced S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, overcoming latter fears that Beijing would simply copy the technology for a domestic analogue. In April 2015 Russia confirmed the $3 billion sale of four to six S-400 SAM system battalions to China, and plans to deliver them no earlier than 2018. The S-400 can engage multiple airborne targets at a range of 400 kilometers.
The S-400 will increase the range of China’s SAM force from the S-300’s 300 kilometers (approximately 186 miles) to 400 kilometers (approximately 249 miles)—enough to cover all of Taiwan, parts of the East China Sea, and parts of the South China Sea. In addition to an extended range, the S-400 features more advanced radar than the S-300 (currently China’s most advanced SAM system), can track more targets at once, and is increasingly resistant to jamming and other countermeasures used against it. The S-400 also could be used to help enforce China’s East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).
Russian Su-35 fighter jets
The purchase of 24 Russian Su-35 in the amount of about $2 billion is the second largest transaction between the Russian and Chinese militaries, the Carnegie Moscow Center wrote. “The Chinese Air Force will not only get new jets that could affect the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait, but may also allow the Chinese military to assess the progress and development of J-11.”
Su-35 utilizes passive electronically scanned array radar, added stealth capability, improved avionics, a pair of AL-117S turbofan engines with three-dimensional thrust vectoring technology* (allowing for added maneuverability), and potent jamming capabilities. “For Russia, the successful delivery of the fighter jets to China will further improve its position in foreign markets. It is expected that the next buyer of the Russian Su-35 may be Indonesia,” wrote Sputnik
LADA-class diesel electric submarines
In December 2012, Russia and China reportedly agreed on the framework for joint production of four LADA-class submarines (two to be produced in Russia and two in China), and signed the official agreement in March 2013 just prior to President Xi’s visit to Moscow—his first foreign trip since taking office.98 Since then, the deal has evolved.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, China is pursuing a joint design and production program with Russia for a new advanced conventional submarine based on the LADA-class. These submarines would help advance the PLA Navy’s underwater combatant fleet, as LADA-class submarines make less noise than China’s quietest submarines, the KILO-class, and have more advanced sensors and combat systems. In addition, China’s defense industry could absorb certain advanced Russian technologies and integrate them into the development of current and future Chinese systems.
In October 2014, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation signed an agreement with Rostec to promote joint development and production of dual-use technology, including electronic components, information technology, and new materials.
Russia and China plan to create the telecommunication equipment capable of countering potential external cyber attacks, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said following 21st meeting of the Russian-Chinese Commission on Preparing Regular Meetings Between the Heads of State.
In November 2014 at China’s Zhuhai Airshow, Chinese defense firms AVIC, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, and two subsidiaries of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation signed four agreements with Russian defense firm Russia Technologies (Rostec). The agreement between AVIC and Rostec covers potential collaboration in fixed-wing and helicopter manufacturing, engine production, aircraft materials, avionics, and other areas
“High-tech cooperation including AI will be the next highlight of China-Russia cooperation. Reciprocal and mutually empowering, such cooperation now covers the fields of talent, technology and manufacturing techniques. The cooperation has already shown some results,” according to Song Kui, president of the Contemporary China-Russia Regional Economy Research Institute in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province. Such cooperation will form a new type of China-Russia relationship, Song told the Global Times on Sunday. AI supremacy rests in having vast computer power, enough data for machines to learn from, and the human talent to operate those systems, experts said. China leads the world in AI sub-categories such as connected vehicles, and facial and audio recognition technologies, while Russia has manifest strengths in industrial automation, AI applications in defense, security and anti-surveillance, according to an article on tech news site 36kr.com on January 14. The Russian government is doubling down on AI investment, with a national AI roadmap expected to be released in mid-2019, while media reports have suggested related funding will almost double for the 2019-20 period to a total of $719 million.
In late December 2019, Putin signed a decree about this “year of innovation cooperation,” which was initially intended to include 800 events.
This new effort will build upon a range of prior initiatives that have included tech parks, joint ventures, and research partnerships. For instance, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang mentioned in December 2019 that plans for future cooperation would include information and communication tech, as well as AI and the “Internet of Things.” To underscore this cooperation, in June 2020, China’s ambassador to Russia, Zhang Hanhui, remarked that for this initiative, both countries will strengthen scientific and technical cooperation in public health and biosafety, emphasizing developments in big data, AI, and cloud computing. While the novel coronavirus pandemic has disrupted what was intended to be an ambitious agenda, these activities have adapted and may be further adjusted.
Chinese companies have also expanded their activities within Russia, especially Chinese technology behemoth Huawei. For instance, in March 2020, Huawei opened a research lab specializing in AI at Russia’s Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, which will offer young Russian scientists paid internships. In early 2020, Huawei also announced its plans to open the Huawei Academy of Information and Communication Technologies at Russia’s Kabardino-Balkarian State University. In fact, this company is the most visible and committed foreign investor in Russia’s developing AI ecosystem. In June 2020, Huawei pledged to help develop this ecosystem via three pathways: by strengthening cooperation with Russian partners in developing joint AI innovations based on the Huawei OpenLab innovation laboratory in Moscow, training Russian developers based on the global Ascend Developer Community, and developing academic AI technology courses, while expanding its circle of Russian universities where this training will be carried out. This is one of many efforts by the Chinese company to take advantage of Russian universities’ desire to develop world-class programs and research.
he future of Sino-Russian scientific and technological cooperation is full of promise, or at least that is what senior officials from both countries claim in their portrayals of the partnership. There are already examples of apparent successes, such as the joint development of a fast-neutron reactor and collaboration on a wide-body long-range jet. At the same time, joint research and co-authorship between China and Russia has taken time to mature, largely due to practical obstacles, such as language barriers.
Passenger Plane ‘2020’
Russia and China are joining forces to create a new aircraft that they say will rival Boeing and Airbus planes. Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), a huge state-owned airplane manufacturer, announced last year that it planned to build a long-haul, wide-bodied airliner with Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, or COMAC.
In late March, UAC chief Yury Slyusar told newspaper Vedomosti that the plane would enter serial production by 2025 and hold between 250 and 280 passengers. He estimated the project’s cost at $13 billion. Officials have said they expect the bulk of the investment to come from China. The 18 representatives of 12 CASIC institutions engaged in the development and production of electronic components will visit Moscow to take part in a special workshop for Russian manufacturers in August. A parallel workshop will be held in St. Petersburg. “Establishing large-scale cooperation with Chinese manufacturers could become the first step toward forming a technology alliance involving BRICS member states,” Izvestia reported, quoting Andrei Ionin, chief analyst at GLONASS Union.
Russian hi-tech firm to team up with China to develop liquid rocket propellants
Russia’s rocket engine producer Energomash and the Sixth Academy of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation have signed a protocol of cooperation in the development and manufacture of liquid rocket propellants, the Energomash press office reported.Under the protocol, both sides can cooperate in the field of rocket engines by developing liquid rocket propellants using the oxygen-kerosene, oxygen-hydrogen and oxygen-methane propellant components,” the Energomash said in a statement.
The areas of cooperation in the sphere of rocket engines were defined by the protocols of sessions of the Russian-Chinese commission for cooperation in carrier rockets and rocket engines held in 2018 and were approved on September 28, 2018 in Beijing by a protocol of the 19th session of the sub-commission for interaction in outer space of the Russian -Chinese commission for preparing regular meetings of the heads of governments.
Russian state firm Rostec pushing for tech cooperation with China
Rostec also works with several Chinese companies on the modernization of China’s chemical industries, building equipment used in natural gas pipelines being built between the two countries and mining and petrochemical operations in Russia’s Far East region, Kladov added.
In addition, Rostec signed five strategic agreements with Chinese state-owned enterprises — China Poly Group, China Electronics Technology Group, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. and CATIC International Holdings — for joint projects in areas, such as energy-efficient technology, aircraft manufacturing and communications systems.
Constructive relations between Russia and China are important for international stability and security, the head of Russia’s General Staff of the Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, said after talks with his Chinese counterpart Fang Fenghui and Vice Central Military Commission Chairman Fan Changlong in Beijing Wednesday.
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