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Many areas where Russia and China now cooperate—transportation infrastructure, energy, telecommunications, and high-tech military sales—had been de facto closed off to Russia’s Chinese partners just a few years ago, because Moscow has focused more effort on engaging Europe as its priority economic partner, source of international financing, and provider of cutting-edge technologies.

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For the West, this shift also has implications for the competitiveness of Western companies as Chinese firms gain market share in Russia.

The technological advances Chinese companies may gain by working in Russia could make Chinese manufacturing, weaponry, telecommunications, hydrocarbon exploration, and drilling capacities more innovative and competitive on a global scale.

Yet there are clear negative implications for Russia from this shift.

Beijing clearly now holds the economic and political power in the bilateral relationship.

Bilateral ties between the two countries have become highly personalized with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping directing commissions, officials, and state corporations to develop financial and trade deals.

As a result, bilateral ties between the two countries have become highly personalized with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping directing government commissions, sitting officials, and heads of state corporations to develop financial and trade deals—most of which are large-scale, top-down investments of Chinese money into key sectors of the Russian economy.Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow and Beijing have transformed their relationship from being Cold War adversaries to become pragmatic partners with a common goal of pushing back at a Western-dominated international system.Their relationship is tactical and opportunist but marked by increasingly compatible economic, political, and security interests.Thus far, Russia and China have successfully managed their differences in Central Asia, the Russian Far East, and the Arctic, but potentially divergent interests remain over the long term.Some Russians now quietly express concern about Beijing’s growing geoeconomic and geopolitical ambitions in the Asia Pacific region.Along with a heavy dose of anti-Chinese propaganda, this history of Cold War tension along the Soviet-Chinese border helped ingrain Sinophobic stereotypes among the general population of former Soviet Central Asia and the Russian Far East—tendencies that still linger in popular consciousness today.

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