Nico Popescu of the European Council on Foreign Relations examines Chinese attitudes towards post-Soviet Russia, including its leadership and its place in BRIC:
A colleague of mine and I asked the Chinese how do they see the break-up of USSR. Here is the answer we got:
‘We had a big debate about whether this is good or bad for China. Some ideological people were saying this is bad because it undermines the attractiveness of Communism. But the pragmatists were saying this is good for China. And it is true, after the break-up of USSR we have very good relations with Russia. Better than ever before.’
The untold part of the answer is of course the fact these ‘better than ever’ relations are build on a very different balance of power and a Russia that is much weaker than USSR. As I wrote previously, Chinese views on the post-Soviet space do not differ much from those in Europe or the US. They differ in style (China is more deferential to Russia), but not in substance.
It is also apparent that the stronger China got, the better its relationship with Russia became. Another Chinese also suggested that China-Russia energy relations have been ‘unlocked’ by the economic crisis, since Russia’s need for cash opened the way for the USD 25bn loan-for-oil deal with Rosneft. A Chinese professor put it in the following terms: ‘How can you have a good sleep when you sleep with a bigger man?’ That referred to USSR, but not to Russia.