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What does Russia and China’s cybersecurity pact mean for the US?

May 9, 2015 at 5:47 PM EDT
Leaders in China and Russia signed 32 bilateral agreements, including a “nonaggression pact” between the countries in cyberspace earlier this week, which comes at a time of severely strained relations between Russia and the West. Orville Schelle, the director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society joins Hari Sreenivasan from Berkeley, California, to discuss the implications.
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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: As we mentioned, the Chinese leader was in Moscow today as Russia paraded its military hardware through Red Square. Just yesterday, the two countries signed 32 agreements, including what’s being described as a nonaggression pact in cyberspace. All this, at a time of severely strained relations between Russia and the West.

Are we going back to the future, with Russia and China lined up against the West?

For more, we are joined now from Berkeley, California, by Orville Schell. He’s the director of the Center on U.S. -China Relations at the Asia Society.

So, Orville, what is the strategic advantage for the alignment of Russia and China again?

ORVILLE SCHELL, ASIA SOCIETY: Well, I think both Russia and China find themselves at odds with the West. Of course, Russia and Putin in the Crimea and the Ukraine, and China in the South China Sea, and the Diaoyu/Sensaku Islands with Japan.

So, their tendency, I think, when they find they met with this Western resistance is to team up. However, one should be careful to note they have not always had a very close and friendly historical relationship.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what are some of the economic consequences? Is there investment or potential investment between China and Russia, China putting money into Russia or the other way around?

ORVILLE SCHELL: Well, the Chinese have a habit of moving into vacuums where the West will sanction a country, whether it is Sudan or Iran, other such countries, Venezuela, because it is an opportunity, and I think they view Russia very much this way. Russia has energy, China needs energy, and China has now very — is very keen to both, sort of, consolidate the relationship with Putin, give him loans, make oil and gas deals. They signed some deals for weapons and new S400 missile that Russia is now selling to China. So, things are getting much, much closer than they were before.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Expand on the military relationship as well. When these two countries decide to align, there is that — not just an enemy, a specific enemy but as large the European Union and the United States and the West seem to be in a different camp, especially in terms of Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine.

ORVILLE SCHELL:  Well, militarily speaking, the West has never sold any amount of weaponry to China. It’s almost all comes from Russia. So there, advanced fighter jets, their missile systems, avionics, things like that have largely come from Russia and some from Israel.

Now, they are really beefing up this relationship, and each has something to give to the other and they share 5,000-mile border. There is tremendous amount of trade-in natural resources coming from Russia and China. So there is kind of a natural symmetry there.

More than that there is a psychological symmetry, both feel they were big empires, you know, that were somehow dismembered, through the predatory actions of the West and Japan, and there is kind of a victim culture that both share, which I think psychologically speaking drives them close together.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Orville Schell of the Asia Society – – thanks so much.

ORVILLE SCHELL:  Pleasure.

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