With tensions growing on their country’s Western borders, Russians are increasingly looking eastwards for international friends, new research claims, as more and more people in the world’s largest country think favorably of China.
A poll found that almost three out of four Russians express favorable views of China, while 57 percent believe that the two nations will grow closer as allies over the next decade. The Chicago Council, a US-based think tank funded by groups like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation, conducted the research along with Moscow’s Levada Center, which is registered as a ‘foreign agent’ by the Russia’s Ministry of Justice over links to overseas funding.
Sixty-seven percent of Russians surveyed said that China now enjoys more respect in the world than it did at the start of the 2010s. Chinese respondents were apparently more critical of America’s performance over the decade, however, with fewer than one in ten believing the standing of the US in the world had improved.
Amid growing political tensions with the West, fewer than half said that Russia had become better-respected over that period, which has seen a series of sanctions and political spats since the 2014 reabsorption of Crimea.
At the same time, respondents were optimistic about the ability of the Russia-China partnership to improve Moscow’s influence internationally. Fifty-five percent of those polled said friendly ties with Beijing were helpful for Moscow, while only one in three said it reduced the chances of improving relations with American leaders as well.
However, the analysts note that throwing its lot in with China in the face of shared tensions with the EU and US isn’t without risk for the Kremlin. If ties between Beijing and Western nations begin to thaw while those same countries remain frosty to Moscow, there are no guarantees that a meaningful relationship could endure.
Despite this, Chinese President Xi Jinping has previously assured his counterpart, Russian President Vladimir Putin, that strategic cooperation “can effectively resist any attempt to suppress and divide the two countries.” President Xi once described Putin as his “best friend,” and the two have built a close working relationship that flies in the face of past suspicion between their predecessors.
Although both nations adhered to ideological versions of state communism, Chairman Mao Zedong’s China fought a brief but bloody border war with the Soviet Union over the demarcation line in Far East Asia.
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