Ambitions Dashed: Why Sino-Russian Economic Cooperation Is Not Working

Economic cooperation between Russia and China is widely seen as the backbone of an emerging global alliance between Moscow and Beijing. Since 2014 and the emergence of the current rift with the West over Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the Kremlin has been eager to promote the idea of strengthening economic ties with China as a viable alternative to strained relations with the West, and as a sign that a new, less West-centred global economic order is emerging. Concerns about this growing Sino-Russian economic activity have scared many Western politicians, who have rushed to appease Moscow to prevent its further integration with China. However, a cross-check of the implementation of the ambitious economic agenda set out in 2014 by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping shows that no real integration is happening and that fundamental problems lie behind this failure. This paper explains why Russia and China’s economic cooperation plans have failed since 2014 and are not likely to succeed in the future.