The foreign image of Russia and China

08:03 by Hubert Fromlet, Kalmar

Most countries in the world care about their international image. But how do Russia and China think in this respect? 

Russia is looking for more international recognition

There is no easy answer to the question above. However, my feeling is that at least Russia currently is looking for better international participation and recognition. For this reason, the SCO conference – more exactly the conference of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a quite unknown regional Eurasian political, economic and security organization – in Samarkand/Uzbekistan this week served as an excellent occasion for Russia to meet a number of other countries,. Russia got the opportunity to show up internationally at a major meeting together with seven other Asian SCO-member countries (China, India, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan and ten Observer States and Dialogue Partners).

The most important event during the SCO conference was without doubt the summit with Russia and China – i.e. the meeting of President Putin and President Xi Jinping. Certain experts even think that the enlarging cooperation between Russia and China – or in reality rather vice versa – in the longer run may lead to a visible empowerment of a changing political world order and, consequently, declining global influence of the U.S. and the EU. This is exactly what China and Russia finally want to achieve – with China as the stronger partner.

Altogether, we should not neglect that Russia may find ways that will lead to less international isolation both in the short and in the medium run. Russia certainly wants to get there, in my view particularly for economic and national development reasons.

China does not care about its international image when against the CP

It always strikes me when Western interpreters of China’s politics come to conclusions that are set in line with their own Western logic. However, Chinese logic is often unlike Western logic. My experience from many years of China observation is certainly that Chinese political decision-makers do not care about their domestic or international image when the political system at home or certain Chinese political objectives and decisions are questioned or attacked by other governments.

For example, the common Western view that China may improve its environment for pure image reasons in a more determined way than many observers in our part of the world believe, is simply naïve or incomplete. One should at least add that China’s fight for an improved environment only will be favored when such policy decisions are not counteracting even more important political priorities. China’s (foreign) image does not play a role in such a context.

Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
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