Unusual alliance


On September 8, 2020, the fourth and last Internet debate took place as part of the project "Ost / East: Polish-German debates about the East". This time the focus of the discussion was on the influence of Russia and China in the region, their cooperation and competition and its impact on the relations of the European Union with the region.


Czwarta debata wschodnia

The debate was attended by Helena Legarda, China's security and foreign policy analyst from Mercator Institute for China Studies, and Marcin Kaczmarski, researcher of international relations, lecturer at the University of Glasgow. The interview was moderated by Adam Balcer, program director of the College of Eastern Europe. Jan Nowak Jeziorański.

The interlocutors wondered how Poland relates to China's presence in the region and how Germany relates. Pointing to the existence of close ties and mutual ties between Russia and China, the participants of the debate considered where and in what areas do these countries cooperate, and in what areas do they compete with each other? No less important was the panelists' attempt to find an answer to the question of what are (and may be) geopolitical and economic consequences of these relations for the region.

Helena Legarda noticed that relations between Russia and China are not a typical alliance, they are more a marriage of common sense and convenience, the durability of which is determined by common interests in the field of security, economy and politics. China is constantly increasing its involvement in the countries of Central Europe and Eastern Europe in terms of trade and investments, and is also trying to cultivate its relations with European political elites. This is Beijing's method of increasing its presence and influence in Europe, with particular emphasis on countries that once belonged to the Eastern Bloc. Most countries in the region, however, are afraid of the political risk that may be associated with close cooperation with China, the more so as they do not comply with the standards set by the EU.

Marcin Kaczmarski distinguished three features which, in his opinion, characterize Russian-Chinese relations: constantly developing cooperation, increasing asymmetry between both partners (in favor of the economically stronger China) and maintaining restrictions (and adding new ones) in bilateral exchange, which hinder or even prevent building a strong, stable alliance. From Poland's perspective, the relations between Moscow and Beijing do not have much importance for the region. The reason for this state of affairs is that Kaczmarski sees parallel activities between Russia and China in Europe, i.e. the lack of coordination and joint activities - instead of cooperating, they exist side by side.

The full debate is available to watch online via New Eastern Europe’s YouTube channel.