Russia and the post-COVID World. Second online session of «Primakov Readings»

On Thursday, June 4, at 14:00 an online session of the Primakov Readings on the topic "China-US: Is there a threat of transformation of the emerging bipolarity into the Cold War 2.0?" was held within the framework of the joint project of IMEMO and Interfax.
The event was attended by:

  • Alexander Lomanov, Deputy Director for Scientific Work of IMEMO, Dr. of Science;
  • Sergey Rogov, Scientific leader of the Institute for US and Canadian studies RAS, Academician of RAS;
  • Anatoly Torkunov, Rector of the MGIMO of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Academician of RAS.

Moderator — Mikhail Shvydkoy, Special Representative of the Russian President for International Cultural Cooperation.
In his opening speech A. Dynkin pointed out that the new bipolarity is becoming an important constant of the post-coronavirus world for all the twenties. What threats, what risks, what opportunities does this trend bring for Russia? How is the architecture of the world order changing? These questions will be discussed by panelists at today’s event. Traditionally, "Primakov Readings" are attended by researchers with a very high scientific reputation. Such approach is not a whim, it is a tribute to Primakov’s traditions, the highest professional standards, which Evgeny Maximovich left to us.

М. Shvydkoy noted that this topic is very relevant for Russia. What is Russia’s role in the world, its relations with China, and the extent of its participation in the coalition of countries created by American President D. Trump? The US is trying to create a new configuration in which Russia would take a position against China. Does Russia have a choice under these conditions?

According to A. Lomanov, the global crisis has not led to the normalization of Sino-US relations. China’s future depends not only on itself, but also on relations with other states. China is determined to pursue a policy of reform and domestic development. This will allow it to outperform the United States in many ways. China’s domestic policy is characterized by caution and restraint, which may lead it to achieve significant economic success by the end of the year. Such development is unlikely to be expected from the US.

China strives for leadership in high technology — it is mainly about civil technology and its sales. At present, there is resistance to the spread of these technologies around the world: access to them is declining dramatically. As for US-Chinese trade, it is no longer a stabilizer in bilateral relations. Many ties between China and the US have been frozen, so there is "nothing to lose" for Beijing. But as long as it’s not about finance.

In his speech S. Rogov emphasized that today the relations between the USA and China have become the central conflict axis in the formation of the system of international relations. According to the Academician, the term "new bipolarity" does not quite correspond to reality. In the current US-Chinese conflict there are elements of a clash of civilizations. Previously, China was a country where preachers were sent, then there were attempts to "open the door" to this country. Remembering history, it should be said that at the end of the 19th century, transcontinental railways were built in the United States by the Chinese. After that, anti-integration laws were introduced against them, which survived until the mid-20th century. The current propaganda campaign has certain civilization elements with a hint of a "yellow threat", taking into account the aggravation of anti-racial sentiments in the United States.

Today the US is still a center of power, but it is premature to say that China is a Pole. It has not taken the place of the Soviet Union and is not at the head of some block. There is a certain hierarchy in the modern international relations, in which the US plays the leading role. Together with China and the European Union, they form the "big three". However, Europe remains in question, as it may sink to another echelon in the near future. The second echelon is Japan, Brazil, Russia and India. At the same time, it should be kept in mind that India may enter the first echelon already in the next decade.

The US is afraid of losing the means of military pressure on China. At the same time, they understand that they cannot stand up to China on the ground. As for nuclear forces, the US and Russia still maintain parity. But China is increasing its nuclear capability, which may pose a threat to Russia’s security in the future. Recently, the US has withdrawn from a number of nuclear arms deterrence treaties.

China obviously cannot play the role of the second Pole that the USSR played, although it aspires to do it, says A. Torkunov.

There has been a qualitative shift in the American approach to China — from its deterrence to systemic rejection. The document "US Strategic Approach to China" outlines a systemic approach to China in economic, political and ideological areas. Americans, especially now, during the Coronavirus pandemic, have realized that China is a very powerful economic rival. Therefore, the "who wins" game will continue and other countries will be drawn into it.

As for the direction of China’s development, it should be noted that it implements its concepts of Belt and road and Go out policy. This, in particular, implies China’s expansion to unite the countries of Southeast Asia and not only that. The US reproaches China for its Big brother policy. The countries of the region, being financially dependent on China, do not want to find themselves politically dependent as well. India fears China’s One belt, one road project and is inclined to cooperate across the region. Indonesia also tends to cooperate with ASEAN.

According to the Academician, Russia’s position is to implement a multi-vector policy, including Indian and Japanese direction, but not against China. With China we should take the position of a strategic partner, while discussing world problems in a broader format.
"Primakov Readings Online" is a new joint project of IMEMO and Interfax. Within the framework of the project, a series of online meetings of experts, political and public figures will be held at the agency’s platform to discuss topical issues of international relations and world economy during the crisis.

The project is carried out with the support of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, Gorchakov Fund and World Trade Center of Moscow.
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