After much rhetoric on Russia's "pivot East", the year started with bad news for Moscow and its push to strengthen its ties with China. The Chinese stock markets are tumbling growth is slowing and the volume of Russia's trade with China offers little room for optimism. Are things really as bad as they seem?
There are profound, strategic reasons that have led to Russia's pivot to Asia, one of the most dynamic regions in the world. Given Russia's geographical positioning, it is advantageous to participate in China's growth and strategically important for Moscow to maintain sovereignty over its own Far East.
However, questions have been asked about the rationale behind this pilot – and its viability. With business ties in the West looking fraught, the Russian economy has been backed into a corner, the turn to Asia has been seen by some as an act of desperation from the former world superpower running out of options.
Russia's economy has been badly hit by plunging oil prices and western sanctions and needs to replace lost sources of revenue and funding, as a matter of urgency. High growth markets in Asia and particularly China offer an obvious alternative, with push-pull factors involved for Russia.