Rapid convergence between China and Russia heralds problems for the European Union and Estonia, experts attending the Lennart Meri Conference found. However, allied relations between the two countries should not be overestimated.
The Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok coincided with the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn this year and once again emphasized the common interests of China and Russia and their convergence. Presentations covered favorable reception of Russian goods in China and a new online platform Russians use to purchase various Chinese products.
Chinese military units can be seen attending joint training exercises in Russia and vice versa. Political cooperation between the two countries is especially evident.
"To believe Chinese propaganda publication Global Times that threatens Lithuania with joining forces with Belarus and Russia to punish Lithuania's Taiwan policy, we have cause for concern," said Frank Jüris, research fellow at the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute.
Director of the Center for Russian Europe Asia Studies Theresa Fallon described cooperation between China and Russia as Europe's worst nightmare. "Many European countries do not even want to think about Russia and China working together. For example, France would see them as far from one another as possible," she said.
Even though China and Russia set themselves in contrast to Western values, their friendship is pragmatic rather than ideological, experts find.
"Both see the relationship in an instrumental light and as a chance to amplify their positions and boost influence, for example, through military cooperation," Jüris said.
The expert added that China is not interested in an intimate allied relationship with Russia so as not to deter other countries. Neither country is believed to help the other in case of a military conflict.
Theresa Fallon added that China and Russia are competing for influence in Eastern Europe. The experts concluded that Europe should stand more united in opposing Chinese and Russian efforts and not be intimidated by China's militant rhetoric.
"China's pockets aren't as full as they used to be, meaning its ability to develop and manage cooperation has suffered," Fallon said.
On the other hand, the Sino-Russian relationship is not forecast to deteriorate any time soon either.
Editor: Marcus Turovski