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Russia and China: Countries with Interests Beyond Messing with Texas

[ 7 ] October 19, 2011 |

My latest at WPR takes a look at the Russia-China arms trade:

By the middle of the last decade, however, the factors that made the relationship so strong had begun to subside. The sophistication and reliability of Chinese military equipment improved, while the quality of Russian industrial production declined. Some Russians also began to express concern about the growing military might of China, with which many border issues remain unsettled. By contrast, the military relationship between Russia and India appears to have remained relatively healthy, even in the face of recent disagreements over the price and delivery schedule of a refurbished Russian aircraft carrier.

TheĀ problem of intellectual property rights also looms large in the Sino-Russian arms trade. Russia remains concerned that China will not respect Russian intellectual property rights for arms transferred to China or licensed for Chinese production. Those concerns are well-founded. China’s lack of respect for intellectual property rights in civilian fieldsremains a sore spot with the United States. Moreover, China has clearly copied Russian weapon systems that were transferred in the past. While Russia and China have engaged in repeated discussions over intellectual property concerns in the past four years, China’s ability and interest in complying with Russian requirements remains suspect. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Russia now views China as a major competitor in the international arms market. If Russia believes that sales to China will actively undercut the position of its exports to the rest of the world, then the future of Russia-China arms trade seems grim.

The major problems afflicting the Russia-China arms relationship can, in large part, be traced to China’s growing power and influence. Russian desperation and Chinese weakness produced a great match in the 1990s, but as the situations in Moscow and especially Beijing have improved, tensions have inevitably developed. The problem lies not simply with Russian fears of Chinese power, but also with China’s “natural” desire to play a global role commensurate with its strength. For China, this means becoming a major player in the international arms market, not to mention ignoring demands from Moscow and Washington that it reform its intellectual property policies.

Comments (7)

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  1. J. Otto Pohl says:

    The Chinese strategy is of course to only import weapons for the purpose of reverse engineering and producing them. India has not had a record of doing this on an extensive scale like China. Ideally the Chinese would import one of every high tech good in the world and then start producing and exporting its own cheaper versions. This is not new. Cheap Chinese AKs have been around for a long time as have knock offs of Soviet tanks and other larger weapons.

  2. Charlie Sweatpants says:

    “China would have a strong incentive to moderate its behavior in order to prevent a re-establishment of the embargo. A stronger relationship with the EU gives China something to value, which consequently gives the EU — and by consequence the United States — something to threaten.

    U.S. policymakers have in general focused primarily on the potential downsides, and as a result favor the maintenance of the embargo. However, the dual prospect of making China more dependent on the EU and driving a further wedge between China and Russia should appeal to strategic planners in Washington. Instead, U.S. policymakers might be letting short-term costs distract them from long-term benefits.”

    After all that stuff about the Chinese ignoring Russian intellectual property concerns, why wouldn’t those same things count as a major negative to the end of the EU arms embargo? If the PRC insisted on licensing designs as a condition of purchase (which they’ve done aggressively with Russia), and they don’t care about copying things (which they don’t), how would a reinstatement of the embargo provide anything but token leverage over Chinese actions?

    Furthermore, why would the EU want to risk pissing off the Russians over a few billion dollars a year in weapons sales to China? I see the strategic appeal to Washington, but Brussels can get by without Chinese weapons money, they can’t get by without Russian natural gas, and even a relatively minor price increase due to Russian pique would cost them a ton.

  3. mpowell says:

    Love the post title.

  4. c u n d gulag says:

    Never mind intellectual property rights, the Russians need to realize, and as Little Boots Bush learned much to his chagrin, that the Chinese aren’t afraid to play a little ‘bump and run’ in order to capture and copy some technology.
    Here, after our plane went down with a little help from one of theirs, is where they had an opportunity to copy some of our AWAC’s-like techonology:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S.-China_spy_plane_incident

    The Russian/Chinese border disputes, which have been going on for centuries before the USSR and PRC even existed, were recently settled – again.

    But you can bet there are border fly-by’s every second of every minute of every day. So, there’a always some potential for some trouble.

    So, I still think this is a huge potential trouble hot spot, and not just militarily, but also economically and environmentally, due to oil, gas, minerals, and clean water.

  5. dilbert dogbert says:

    Reminds of a relationship between Israel and the US.

  6. Ken Houghton says:

    Gosh, and two days ago, Jeff Immelt was assuring a roomful of Reuters reporters and others that he wasn’t at all worried about China possibly stealing the design of the turbines and engines he can sell them.

    Tell me again how capitalism works with such Captains of Industry at the helm?

  7. Anderson says:

    I’m so happy that Russia now embraces intellectual property in weapons design. Never mind Klaus Fuchs and Julius Rosenberg.

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