KU/Fort Leavenworth Conference: “China and Russia: Architects of a New Global Order?”

Last week, I had the good fortune to participate in the conference “China and Russia: Architects of New Global Order” organized by the Kansas University Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies (CREEES) and the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) at Fort Leavenworth. The wide spectrum of research presented (more on this in a moment) was well complimented by the diversity of panelists with academia, the Defense Department, and various thinks tanks all well represented.

For those who were unable to make it to Lawrence, CREEES has quite helpfully posted a series of videos of the panel presentations as well as the subsequent Q&A periods (15 videos in all).

The first panel of the day focused on Russia and China as architects of regional orders. Brian Carlson of Johns Hopkins walked us through the differing responses of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to three recent security crises, the variables explaining these divergences, and the implications for the future of the SCO. Njdah Asisian from Ft Leavenworth looked at the global implications (particularly as regards the question of Iran) of Sino-Russian Relations. Finally, your humble correspondent presented his new research on the institutional development of the Eurasian Customs Union and the SCO in order to explain Russia’s recent volte face on various proposals by Beijing which would increase economic integration between the Central Asian states and China – e.g, Dmitri Medvedev’s announcement in December that Russia would support an SCO Development Bank etc.

Moving from institutions of regional order to specific issues in the Sino-Russian bilateral relationship, the second panel maintained a strong focus on security elements. Ray Finch of the FMSO and Youngjun Kim from KU discussed the differing perspectives held by Moscow and Beijing of North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-Un. Subsequently, Jeffrey Kubiak and Christopher Marsh from the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies discussed their recent work in opening up “the black box” of Russian and Chinese elite narratives of the “Strategic Partnership” between the two countries. Finally, Timothy Thomas of the FMSO discussed the differences within the Russian and Chinese conceptualizations of cyber warfare – a topic of particular importance in recent months  – as noted in this week’s New York Times.

The two keynote addresses are of particular value for those looking for a clear, thorough summary of contemporary East Asian security (Robert Ross of Boston College discussed China’s nationalist turn and the state of US-China relations) and the challenges which will confront the US government’s so-called “pivot to Asia” (Jeffrey Mankoff of CSIS).

For those seeking to get “up to speed” on Sino-Russian relations and their implications for Central Asia and the United States – a few hours spent viewing the conference proceedings are well worth the time.