The History Behind Growing China-Russia Relations: A Conversation with Dr. Joseph Torigian

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In this episode of the ChinaPower Podcast, Dr. Joseph Torigian joins us to discuss the historic and strategic dimensions of the China-Russia relationship. Dr. Torigian begins by describing the evolution of the China-Soviet relationship from its height as a formal alliance during the Cold War, to ideological disagreement, and then strategic competition. He explains how differences in perception led to mixed signals and Mao Zedong’s distrust of Soviet leadership and intentions. Dr. Torigian also discusses how China and Russia gradually repaired their relationship following the end of the Cold War. He argues that, through the anomalous relationship between President Xi and President Putin, both countries share a common set of perceptions and have aligned themselves strategically and flexibly. Lastly, Dr. Torigian explores how the relationship may evolve, the effects of remaining tensions, and the forces that are pushing both countries towards continued strategic alignment.

Dr. Joseph Torigian is an Assistant Professor at American University’s School of International Service. He studies the politics of authoritarian regimes with a specific focus on elite power struggles, civil-military relations, and grand strategy. Dr. Torigian’s philosophy as a scholar is to select topics based on the widest gap between the under-utilization of available documents and their theoretical and empirical importance, extract broader lessons, and use those lessons to help us to understand two nations of crucial geopolitical importance – Russia and China. His research agenda draws upon comparative politics, international relations, security studies, and history to ask big questions about the long-term political trajectories of these two states. In particular, Dr.Torigian is interested in how leaders in those countries create security against threats from within the elite, their own people, and other states.

Bonny Lin
Director, China Power Project and Senior Fellow, Asian Security