Russia’s approach to South China Sea territorial dispute: it’s only business, nothing personal
The territorial dispute in the South China Sea (SCS) affecting China and several ASEAN countries has already resulted in drawn-out political tensions in the region. However, one aspect of the dispute is rarely discussed: its influence on Sino-Russian relations and its possible role as a case study in analysing the character of these relations. While Russia moves closer to China in the dispute it still refrains from support of its territorial claims and develops close relations with some of China’s regional opponents such as Vietnam and India. This article describes most recent Russian economic and political activity in the region involving these countries with the aim of clarifying whether the Russian approach to problems in the SCS can be understood as an attempt to balance, bandwagon or hedge against growing Chinese influence, or whether Moscow’s approach is guided by different considerations.
This article concludes that Russia’s approach towards the South China Sea dispute is determined mostly by Moscow’s economic interests and cannot be seen as a case of either balancing or bandwagoning China or hedging against it.