Lo, Bobo (2017) A Wary Embrace. A Lowy Institute Paper. Melbourne & Sydney: Penguin Random House Australia. xxiii + 188 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-14-378600-9

Pavel K Baev

PRIO

In this compact and thoughtful book, Bobo Lo starts an argument primarily with himself. His earlier book Axis of Convenience (Chatham House & Brookings, 2008) remains a key reference point in academic and political debates on the trajectory of China-Russia relations. His argument was that the two ’emerging powers’ were engaged in pragmatic rapprochement and would not progress to building anything resembling an alliance – and he insists that it still holds true. It was impossible to predict that Russia would turn into a declining rather than emerging power and opt for projecting its military power in such aggressive way that a new confrontation with the West would determine its position in the world order. It was more predictable that China would continue to grow and expand its global influence, even if the sustainability of this unprecedented upward trend has been questioned for years – and remains a looming question mark. There is now solid evidence for the proposition that Beijing prefers to stay clear from the confrontation that Moscow is so deeply committed to, so the mutual pledges to upgrade the ’strategic partnership’ cannot signify any real alliance-building. What constitutes presently a major new variable is the impact of the ‘Trump factor’, and it is examined to the degree possible at the start of this severe self-destruction of US leadership. The assumption in this paper is that this impact would remain limited, and the on-going escapades do not disprove it, even if China is now able to claim championship in defending the agenda of globalization, including climate change. Russia has a different agenda, so for China the value of this shrinking but ambitious partner is equivocal.