The Belt and Road Initiative and the Future of Sino-Russian Relations in Central Asia

Sino-Russian relations in general, and in Central Asia in particular, have been relatively stable since the end of the Cold War due to the convergence of a number of key structural, regional, and domestic factors. These have remained relatively consistent over time, and demonstrate the interplay between “thick” (normative) and “thin” (interests) variables consistent with the concept of an alignment rather than an alliance. However, we argue that Beijing’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) is likely to bring to the fore the central dilemmas typical of the “alliance game” of international politics – hedging, accommodation, and entrapment – as China’s trans-Eurasian connectivity agenda fundamentally challenges Russian preferences across the strategic, economic, and normative domain of its interests. The article then explores these dilemmas via the discussion of a number of possible future scenarios for SinoRussian relations and their implications for regional order in Central Asia.

Authors: Michael Clarke,Matthew Sussex