In recent years Russia and China have raised their cooperation to unprecedented levels. Russia dates the turning point in their relationship to 2014 when, the Kremlin argues, it was forced by the West into a ‘pivot’ towards Asia. In reality, the change was self-inflicted. It was Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the subsequent war in Eastern Ukraine that froze relations with the West.

If the turning point is contested, the nature of the relationship between Russia and China is even more fraught with misconceptions.

Western commentators and decision-makers often argue that Moscow and Beijing are forming, if they have not already formed, a ‘strategic alliance’ aimed at destabilizing the liberal, rules-based world order.

This misses key dynamics and issues that drive – but also undermine – the bilateral relationship.

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