At different times, relations between Russia and China have evolved in different ways, but in recent years they have grown increasingly close, both against the backdrop of growing disagreements with the West and owing to the growing threat of international terrorism. The problem of terrorism is particularly acute in Eurasia, and the fight against it requires uniting the efforts of the most powerful countries on the continent, and the political agenda involved requires that Russia and the PRC periodically remind the West about their power and independent positions. It is not surprising that not only economic and political cooperation, but also cooperation between militaries is gradually consolidating between the two countries.
In the field of security, Russia and China have long interacted within the bounds of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), but military cooperation is not the main objective for the SCO. The two countries are bilaterally building up their cooperation in the field of defense. The PRC buys military equipment from the Russian Federation at relatively low prices, and assimilates Russian technologies, taking them as the foundation to build its combat vehicles. Information is exchanged, and joint exercises are held.
Soon after US President Donald Trump came to power, a “trade war” began between the United States and China – something which seriously exacerbated US-Chinese relations. It comes as no surprise that against the background of the economic blows that Washington and Beijing exchanged throughout 2018, China’s military cooperation with Russia began to intensify swiftly.
In September 2018, the Chinese military took part in Russia’s largest military exercise since Soviet times, dubbed Vostok-2018.
On July 22, 2019 it became known that Russia and China were starting work on a new military cooperation agreement that would call for much broader, deeper interaction than the old agreement from 1993 did. On the very next day, July 23, 2019, the first joint air patrol conducted by Russian and Chinese strategic bombers took place. Long-range aircraft capable of carrying regular missiles and nuclear weapons flew over the Sea of Japan, and approached the islands called the Liancourt Rocks (also Dokdo or Takeshima) – ones over which there is a territorial dispute between Japan and South Korea. Both countries were outraged, and declared that China and Russia had violated their airspace.