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The Sino-Russo Rundown

Two Futures for Russia and China—And How the United States Should Respond

Members of an honour guard stand in formation ahead of a welcome ceremony for Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, October 11, 2011. Jason Lee / Reuters

Russia and China seem to be growing closer by the day. In May 2015, Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited Russia. As China’s official media opined at the time, “China and Russia are deepening and celebrating their old friendship marked by successful cooperation and win-win results, while simultaneously adding new facets to their strategic partnership.”

Maybe, maybe not. There are two schools of thought about the likely trajectory of the Sino-Russian relationship. The first, which could be called the “fatally flawed” school, includes former senior U.S. officials and luminaries, such as Joseph Nye. It holds that the Sino-Russian relationship is a marriage of convenience—riven with mistrust—and consequently, as one author wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “China and Russia are unlikely to forge a sustained strategic partnership.” The second school of thought could be called the “mighty axis” school. It tends toward the view that China and Russia

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