China-Russia Military Relationship

Photograph of Xi Jinping and Vladmir Putin walking in front of two lines of armed Chinese soldiers

The China-Russia Military Relationship

Assessing the evolving Sino-Russian alignment

Unconventional allies

Although China and Russia are not working towards becoming traditional allies, their alignment is strengthening China’s military position in Asia. A new theoretical and empirical framework helps understand the nature and purpose of the relationship between the two powers and its implications for U.S. strategy and planning.

Research Focus

Are China and Russia aligning militarily against the United States? Scholars and policymakers alike are becoming increasingly concerned that the nightmare of a China-Russia bloc will soon become a reality. U.S. allies in Europe and Asia echo the concern that the two countries are forming a countervailing coalition against the United States and its allies. Yet, there is no consensus about whether the Sino-Russian relationship is indeed a cause for concern. 

The most recent scholarship on the Sino-Russian alignment does not address China's balancing strategy because it largely focuses on secondary states' response to China's rise. In addition, most attempts to measure alignment use broad metrics based on the U.S. experience with its junior military partners, which may not apply to contemporary great power alignment.

The China-Russia Military Relationship project proposes a new framework for understanding the nature and purpose of the China- Russia strategic alignment. It outlines a new method for evaluating and weighing observations about security cooperation between great powers – one that is internally consistent and empirically valid. This line of research aims to provide a firm theoretical foundation for measuring alignment degree, scope, and impact, using metrics more appropriate to great powers. It then evaluates the China-Russia relationship within this framework.

Preliminary findings indicate that China is pursuing a limited subset of alignment activities with Russia that would impact U.S. military operations in critical contingencies and thus should not be discounted. This research has implications for Chinese foreign policy, regional security, alliance politics, and balancing theory.

Lead Researcher


Oriana Skylar Mastro

FSI Center Fellow

Oriana Skylar Mastro

FSI Center Fellow

Featured Media

President Biden presses Chinese President Xi Jinping on Russia
KTVU Interview
Oriana Skylar Mastro on KTVU with a host of the show "Mornings on 2"


Beijing Is Used to Learning from Russian Failures
Foreign Policy, April 2022

Russia and China Team Up on the Indian Ocean
The Lowy Institute, December 2020