Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, September 2018
Mikhail Metzel / TASS / Pool via REUTERS

In March of 1969, Chinese troops ambushed and killed a Soviet border patrol on an island near the Chinese-Russian border. Fighting on and near the island lasted for months and ended with hundreds of casualties. Fifty years later, the ferocity of the skirmish between Mao Zedong’s China and Leonid Brezhnev’s Soviet Union seems to belong to a very distant past—so distant, indeed, that many foreign-policy experts are convinced that an anti-U.S. alliance between the two countries is emerging. Yet even half a century on, such an assessment stretches the evidence beyond what it can bear. On closer inspection, Chinese-Russian economic, foreign policy, and military cooperation is less than impressive. The history of relations between the two countries is fraught, and they play vastly different roles in the world economy, making a divergence in their objectives all but unavoidable. In short, reports of a Russian-Chinese alliance have been

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  • LEON ARON is the Director of Russian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of Roads to the Temple: Truth, Memory, Ideas, and Ideals in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987–1991.
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