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Eurasia’s Coming Anarchy

The Risks of Chinese and Russian Weakness

Show of weakness: police officers in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, May 2014. PETAR KUJUNDZIC / REUTERS

As China asserts itself in its nearby seas and Russia wages war in Syria and Ukraine, it is easy to assume that Eurasia’s two great land powers are showing signs of newfound strength. But the opposite is true: increasingly, China and Russia flex their muscles not because they are powerful but because they are weak. Unlike Nazi Germany, whose power at home in the 1930s fueled its military aggression abroad, today’s revisionist powers are experiencing the reverse phenomenon. In China and Russia, it is domestic insecurity that is breeding belligerence. This marks a historical turning point: for the first time since the Berlin Wall fell, the United States finds itself in a competition among great powers.

Economic conditions in both China and Russia are steadily worsening. Ever since energy prices collapsed in 2014, Russia has been caught in a serious recession. China, meanwhile, has entered the early stages of

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