China Energy & Environment Geopolitics & Energy Security Oil and Gas Russia
Issue Brief September 29, 2016

Sino-Russian strategic energy ties

By Miyeon Oh

China and Russia do not have an established history of prolonged cooperative engagement. However, beginning in 2014, the two countries began laying the foundation for an enduring energy partnership. A secure energy relationship between China and Russia could have profound geopolitical effects in Asia, as well as in Europe. The ramifications of this relationship could alter the role and influence of the United States in Asia.

In this issue brief, Dr. Miyeon Oh, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center and Brent Scowcroft Center, provides critical analysis of the evolving relationship between China and Russia vis-à-vis energy trade. Examining the evolution of various energy agreements, Dr. Oh breaks her analysis into three stages: relations before the gas deals were signed, relations at the time of signing, and relations following signing.

As Dr. Oh states, “[e]nergy is fundamental to the rise of China and Russia as (re-)emerging powers but in different ways.” In spite of this, these countries have not yet established mutually beneficial energy agreements as both continuously adapt their negotiating position based on shifting geopolitical trends.

Critical to understanding the progress and setbacks in the finalization of natural gas deals between the two countries is a comprehensive understanding of Russia’s relationship with the West, and China’s preoccupation with growth and market stability. Dr. Oh’s brief offers a clear dissection of these issues as well as the lack of political will in each country to finalize deals which, while beneficial, amount to less than the best outcome for either nation.

Should relations between China and Russia continue to strengthen, they could play a crucial role in shaping natural gas markets. And while it is not certain that the trend will continue, Dr. Oh’s brief offers important analysis of the transactional Sino-Russia relationship.


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