The Axis of No - How the Arab Spring made accidental allies out of Moscow and Beijing.
Remember the Soviet-Sino split? Moscow and Beijing don’t appear to. On the current developments in the Middle East and North Africa, at least, China and Russia have been increasingly coming together. At the U.N. Security Council, they either oppose Western initiatives or voice their reservations. To some, this looks like solidarity between two authoritarian governments; to others, a coordinated effort to dilute, and eventually dismantle, U.S. and Western domination of global politics. Although both these elements are involved, the reality is broader, and it needs to be better understood by Western publics and policymakers.
To begin with, there is no ideology involved. Although China still calls itself communist, it has long rejected the Maoist dogma, including in its foreign relations. Russia ditched communism exactly two decades ago. It is true that both countries are authoritarian, even if one is of a milder, and the other of a harsher variety. However, there is no such thing as an “authoritarian internationale” to inspire solidarity between the ruling autocracies. (Nor is there such a thing in the Middle East, if one looks at how Qatar has dealt with Muammar al-Qaddafi, or how Saudi Arabia is dealing with Bashar al-Assad). Both Russia and China are, above all, pragmatic.
There is also precious little regional geopolitical competition between them. China’s global interests are essentially economic. It depends on Iran, for example, for a quarter of the oil it imports from the Middle East. Chinese companies are engaged in a number of projects throughout the region. The war in Libya left some 20,000 Chinese workers stranded. A similar number of Russian tourists were marooned in Egypt as Mubarak’s regime fell. Moscow of course has vested interests beyond caring for its vacationers, as a supplier of arms or nuclear energy technology to several countries, but it is definitely not in a race with Washington for regional pre-eminence.