Russia-China joint efforts to build high-tech and strategic items despite Moscow being a supplier of natural resources and some defence equipment have not yet yielded desired results unlike Russia-India defence partnership.

This was argued at a recent paper published by the Moscow Centre of Carnegie, a leading global think-tank. The paper titled ‘What Does China’s Latest Five-Year Plan Mean for Russia?’ has been penned by Vita Spivak, a leading China expert.

“For Russia, it will be crucial to not only be able to choose missing elements from Chinese platforms, but also use its own technology elsewhere, or have access to alternative solutions other than Chinese products… Until now, the most important field in this respect has been military technology, but Chinese interest is now fading, not least due to China’s own successful military-industrial policy, which will be continued in the next five-year plan,” claims Spivak.

“Moscow is not yet prepared to sell its very latest weapons, Vladimir Putin told Russian parliamentarians in 2018. Russian experts believe that the best way to ensure that Russia remains a major supplier of arms to China is to focus on the joint development of weapons, just as Russia and India cooperated to manufacture BrahMos missiles. The problem is that joint efforts in even the far less sensitive field of civil engineering are plagued with difficulties. A joint Chinese-Russian project to develop a wide-body aircraft, for example, has so far resulted in nothing worth boasting about. Nor has much progress been made in the joint development of a heavy-lift helicopter. Whether the two countries could fare better on military projects remains to be seen,” points out Spivak.

It may be noted here that the jointly developed BrahMos missile by India and Russia have attracted buyers. Besides defence, India and Russia are also partners in building nuclear power plant in Bangladesh reflecting trust factor between the two sides whose relationship has hardly been marked by political differences.

China recently unveiled its fourteenth five-year development plan, covering the period 2021–2025. In the next five years, Beijing plans to pave the way for attaining two strategic goals: doubling GDP by 2035 (compared with 2020), and achieving the status of a high-income economy, according to the paper.

“…For Russia, the priorities outlined in the next five-year plan open up new opportunities on the one hand, while increasing the risks of an asymmetrical dependence on China on the other.”

China’s dependence on Russian oil may reduce and China plans to be carbon neutral by 2060. “…By 2025, the proportion of what the Chinese government refers to as “new energy vehicles” among new car sales in China is expected to reach 25 percent,” according to Spivak.

“Given its escalating confrontation with the West, Russia will become increasingly integrated into China’s tech orbit. The Rubicon in this respect will be the Kremlin’s final decision on whether to use Chinese or Western technology to develop 5G networks in Russia. Currently, Chinese companies look like the favourites: Huawei and ZTE are more willing to localize their technology in Russia in partnership with local companies than Siemens or Nokia,” the author points out but argues that it will also be important to have its own tech products that are of interest to China.