Roads and Risks for a Sustainable Global Power
Chapter 4: China and Russia: divergent visions of multipolarity
Recent Chinese approaches to multipolarity have focused less on completing poles of power than on multilateral, cooperative mechanisms that lessen direct conflict and diffuse power in an inter-polar world. Russian and Chinese visions of multipolarity have differences that make coordination of a shared ‘Eurasian agenda’ complex, gradual and contested. Russia uses multipolarity as a means to counter pressure from the US and to assert its claim to being an essential player in Eurasian affairs. China prefers to see power-sharing channelled through ‘multilateralism’ (duobian zhuyi), presented as a win–win mutuality with shared gains rather than clashing interests. Although multipolar world-order models and great power management (GPM) theories have a place in Russia’s foreign and security perspectives, China is unlikely to be content with either a tri-polar global order (comprising the US, Russia and itself), or a power diarchy with Russia to manage Eurasian affairs. China has sought to build a network of bilateral, multilateral and ‘new great power’ relationships that could lay the basis of a future, functional multipolarity, operating at global and regional levels.
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