According to the West, Russia and China are trying to create strong military alliances in Asia in order to improve bilateral cooperation in the field of security as well as to limit the power of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In this context, it is claimed that the security structure of the West was challenged by Russia through its formation of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and by China forming the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Western powers, namely the Anglo-Saxon states are trying to expand the jurisdiction of NATO by claiming that Russia and China threaten the rules-based international order and thus global security. Beijing, which opposed the influence of NATO most particularly in Asia, gradually started to agree with Russia’s security concerns and took a stance supporting Moscow in the beginning of the Ukraine War.
China might have seen Russia’s Ukraine War as an opportunity to destroy the Western-led international system or to promote its own sense of security to the world. What Russia and China agree on is that the West acts with the Cold War mentality. According to this idea, the security structures of the West (NATO, Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), and AUKUS) pose the risk of political blocking and make the world unsafe. Another security issue that the two countries agree on is to constantly fight against the West in solidarity, whether it be the time of war or peace. The point where the two countries differ in thought is the security arguments they use in the fight against the West and the security strategies they need to follow.
To clarify the issues they agree on; first of all, the two countries advocate combating NATO’s enlargement together. According to them, Western powers endanger the security of the neighboring states in order to establish their own security. Russia calls this the “indivisible security principle”. China also initially supported this idea; however, it has since separated its security strategy from Russia. Second, China and Russia agree to use hybrid warfare or fourth-generation warfare methods where the distinction between war and peace against the West is blurred.
Western officials have made statements supporting this idea. For example, General Wayne Eyre, the Chief of the Canadian Defense Staff, said that Russia and China do not differentiate between peace and war and actively try to challenge the West. Again, according to former Prime Minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, the means of fighting against Russia have changed, and the line between war and peace has blurred. Referring to Mark Leonard’s book, Stubb said, “We live in an age of non-peace.”. Indeed, it can be said that the anarchic order in the world has become evident and that the peace environment has gradually disappeared due to the war being carried out by Russia and China against the West by using many tools such as currencies, energy, information and technology.
Their difference in approach is about their security concepts and strategies. In fact, this also applies to NATO member states. It became more evident after the Russia-Ukraine War how difficult it is to develop a uniform understanding of security even within Europe. Although they are members of the same alliance, states can exhibit hostile attitudes towards each other. For this reason, even within the strongest military-defense alliances, it is very difficult for states to have the same, similar or overlapping security interests. From this point of view, while Russia and China advocate fighting against NATO, it should be considered natural for them to think differently about their methods. China turning to separate its security concept from Russia is closely related to the course of the Ukrainian War. More specifically, as the Ukrainian War progressed, Beijing saw that their thoughts in the field of security were different from Moscow, that they essentially defended a different security concept, and experienced this difference personally.
The war in Ukraine has been an opportunity for China to review its military cooperation with Russia and security strategies. About two months after this war, Chinese President Xi Jinping first mentioned the Global Security Initiative at the Boao Forum for Asia. This initiative, which China offered as an alternative to the Western-led security order, remained ambiguous in terms of concept and content in the early stages, and Beijing tried to fill this initiative throughout its operational life. The first of these efforts was seen at the BRICS Leaders Summit held in Beijing in June 2022. During the summit, Jinping frequently emphasized the expansion of BRICS and global security, and called to stay away from “block politics” and “Cold War mentality”. Beijing argued that the expansion of BRICS within the framework of multipolarity would be a contribution to the Global Security Initiative.
Later, China acted on the assumption that the SCO would contribute to China’s security concept. In this sense, Jinping frequently mentioned the Global Security Initiative in the sessions and bilateral meetings of the SCO Leaders Summit held in September 2022 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Azerbaijan, Belarus, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan gave the message of their readiness to work with China with their use of a supportive language regarding this initiative. Russia has previously supported Jinping’s security vision and stated that it is “very important”. Allegedly, only India and Tajikistan did not support the initiative among the SCO members.
It was observed that the security concept and strategies that China has explained to the interlocutors at both the BRICS and the SCO summits were different from those of Russia. In fact, this concept was initially viewed in the same regard as the “indivisible security” principle that Putin used to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, according to the Beijing administration, states cannot jeopardize the security of other states in order to ensure their own security. Currently, China plans to build a total security system in the world by opposing NATO’s expansion; however, it advocates a different thesis from Russia when it comes to the management of this system. In other words, China tries to present a concept different from the Russian security theses to the regional states, especially to the members of the SCO, and then to the world. China makes regional states feel how dangerous Russia’s security-related theses can be. For example, Jinping pledged support for the independence and territorial integrity of Kazakhstan during his Astana visit before going to the SCO Summit. In this respect, Beijing gave Astana the message “I am with Kazakhstan against the Russian danger”.
Unlike Russia, China claims that in order to ensure global security, states must first ensure their own domestic security. For this, the Chinese leader emphasizes that the law enforcement forces of the countries should be strong in the fight against terrorism. In this context, the SCO proposed the establishment of a China-SCO base to provide counter-terrorism training to the military personnel of the member states of the SCO. This way, Beijing will be able to set an example for the SCO states in the field of security and take over the present leadership of Russia in Central Asia. In this regard, Beijing might be aiming to eliminate the need for the CSTO and Moscow by reminding the regional states how important it is to ensure their own security.
As China’s Global Security Initiative is slowly shaping, the emerging security strategy looks like the following: The way to ensure international security is for states to provide security within their own borders. In this respect, China’s security strategy is inward-looking and based on the security of states. It is against any blockade through supranational organizations. On the other hand, Russia’s security strategy is outward-looking. It is based on protecting (ensuring) the safety of its immediate vicinity through power. As in the case of the CSTO, supranational organizations can be used as a means of ensuring the security of states when necessary.
As a result, China has begun to decouple its security concept and strategies from Russia in relation to the course of the war in Ukraine. The greatest contribution of the Russia-Ukraine War to China may be this new security concept.
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“Military Chief Warns China and Russia Are ‘At War with The West’ And Canada Is Not Ready”, National Post, https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/military-chief-warns-china-and-russia-are-at-war-with-the-west, (Date of Accession: 10.10.2022).
“NATO Found ‘Renewed Purpose’ Amid Ukraine War, Says Former Finnish PM”, Euractiv, https://www.euractiv.com/section/defence-and-security/news/nato-found-renewed-purpose-amid-ukraine-war-says-former-finnish-pm/, (Date of Accession: 10.10.2022).
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“Xi Kicks…”, ibid .