The ‘Pivot to the East‘ and China in Russian Discourse
Using the approaches of critical geopolitics, the authors compare Russian official, expert and media discourses on RussianChinese relations and China including such issues as its domestic and foreign policies, its role in the world, economic development and military potential. To study the official political discourse, more than 300 official documents were collected, including speeches, presentations and interviews by Russian leaders from 2012 to 2019. The screening of the Vesti news programme at the "Russia-1” state federal TV channel served a basis for the media discourse analysis. A scrutiny of about 2,900 articles on China and Russian-Chinese relations found in course of screening of 2012–2019 issues of the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a daily federal "intellectual” newspaper destined to highly educated audience that pays much attention to foreign policy, was selected as a source of information on the expert discourse. The authors conclude that there is a clear gap between the official and expert discourse on China. While most of the participants agree that there is no alternative to a partnership with the great eastern neighbour, many experts express their concerns about the growing asymmetry in the two countries’ potential. This difference arises from the lack of confidence at the grassroots level as well as from the fact that some Russian partners seek to excuse their failures by blaming them on China’s unwillingness to compromise. In conclusion the authors consider the influence that different discourses have on Russian public opinion using the results of national surveys and focus groups. They show that part of the elite itself, accustomed to certain doubts about the possibility of strategic cooperation with China, reproduces a sceptical attitude towards the Chinese partners.