We are in an era when the risks of major-power conflict are growing. The most likely contenders are commonly seen to be China, the rising power, and the US, the formerly dominant power that’s now in relative decline. The other worrying contingency is conflict between Russia and US-led NATO.
But what about the third possibility: the prospect of China and Russia collaborating to challenge American power? Zbigniew Brzezinski warned that the most dangerous scenario for America would be a grand coalition of China and Russia united not by ideology, but by complementary grievances.
My new ASPI special report, released today, examines Russian and Chinese concepts of great-power war in the 21st century, their views of the West and its military capabilities, and the risks they might take to regain what they see as their lost territories in places such as Taiwan and Ukraine. It also looks at how America might react, the implications of all this for the West, including Australia, and what sort of armed conflict might be involved.
China and Russia are the two leading revisionist powers leagued together in their disdain for the West. Both these authoritarian states see a West that they believe is preoccupied with debilitating political challenges at home.
Russian President Vladimir Putin dismisses what he sees as a Europe that is weak and divided. Chinese President Xi Jinping believes that China is well on its way to becoming the predominant power in Asia, possessing an alternative and more successful political and economic model to that of the West.
China and Russia are now sharing an increasingly close relationship, especially militarily. If the China–Russia military partnership continues its upward trend, it will inevitably undermine the international security order by challenging the system of US-centred alliances in the Asia–Pacific and Europe.