Russia and China Unite: Assessing the Sino-Russian Return

by AJ Milla

Though the post-Cold War era has seen many changes, the ghosts of old adversaries still linger. Two of these specters are Russia and China, whose on-and-off allyship now stands firmly in the “back on” camp.

Indeed, the friends-turned-foes-turned-friends-again have recently touted collaborative naval operations, highlighting the evolving nexus of their partnership–and realigning the balance of global power.

Washington, for its part, remains wary of this deepening friendship.

After all, the two eastern powerhouses–armed with vast nuclear arsenals, stealth technologies, and a common distaste for Western dominance–pose a considerable challenge to the US' position on the world stage. As such, it has become critical for the average American to understand the intricacies and implications of the Sino-Russian relationship.

To this end, this exploration dives deep into the dynamics of China and Russia: their military capabilities, their differences and similarities, and the tangible steps one can take to remain prepared in this uncertain landscape.

Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents

  • 01

    Sino-American Relations

  • 02

    Russo-American Relations

  • 03

    The Sino-Russian Alliance

  • 04

    Russian and Chinese Naval Threats

  • 05

    The Chinese and Russian Joint Naval Exercise

  • 06

    Strengthening Bonds

  • 07

    Your Nuclear Survival Kit

  • 08

    Final Thoughts

Sino-American Relations

Tea carrier at tunnel, circa 1867.

Tea carrier at tunnel, circa 1867. (Image courtesy of Library of Congress)

Russia and China are America’s favorite geopolitical fair-weather friends. For evidence of this, just look at the year 2020, when China and the United States exchanged over $615 billion in goods and services. This, notably, ranks China as our third-largest trading partner for exports, as well as our number-one importer.

And whether or not you enjoy TikTok, it’s certainly not their worst export–that honor probably goes to that timing belt your brother-in-law insisted he got a great deal on. (How is that automatic Transformer’s Camaro treating him?)

Chinese influence is a deep-seated part of American culture as well. While Chinese cuisine can be found in every major city and small town, their other historical contributions have been much more profound. Think where we would be without the transcontinental railroad, for example–a feat of infrastructure largely brought about by Chinese immigrants.

But as America and China ascended to superpower status, our relations began to strain. Scandals like the 1989 Tiennamen Square massacre, for instance, drove the United States to denounce and sanction the People's Republic of China. And more recently, concerns over China’s rising carbon emissions have drawn ire from around the globe.

Significantly, China’s true power lies in its titanic economy–spurring a dramatic increase in defense spending. Indeed, over the last decade, China’s military has experienced exponential growth. The Chinese Navy is one notable example of such expansion.

But while the physical presence of the Chinese military is worrisome, much of their proxy aggressions have come in the form of cyber warfare. In this vein, Chinese cyber incursions–like the campaign that allegedly stole F-35 warplane blueprints–have not only raised eyebrows, but also FPCON levels.

And, of course, we would be remiss to fail to mention China’s bioweapon capabilities. Casting our minds back to 2005, the Department of State identified at least two facilities as having possible links to weaponized biochemical research (neither of which was in Wuhan, reportedly).

Russo-American Relations

Russian bombardment on the outskirts of Kharkiv–March 1, 2022.

Russian bombardment on the outskirts of Kharkiv–March 1, 2022. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

Much like our tenuous friendship with China, Russia also toes the line between friend and foe. Lately, depending on which side of the fence you choose to reside, you’ve probably found yourself more entrenched than ever.

Don’t forget–there was a time when America found favorable accord with our Cold War enemy. Following the atrocities of September 11, 2001, for example, Russia was one of the first foreign countries to offer condolences and support. Indeed, Putin himself rang George W. Bush to pledge arms.

Although this would prove to be a fleeting moment of solidarity, Russia’s logistical support was ultimately crucial in the ensuing Global War on Terror–a curious juncture, as both countries found themselves engulfed in Afghanistan during different decades.

Then, the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine set the Russo-American zeitgeist back over thirty-one years.

That, after all, is how long it has been since the Soviet Union fell, causing a de facto thaw in the Cold War. As such, many Americans had put the thought out of their head: nuclear armageddon. For them, the last time we felt truly threatened by the red menace was when Ivan Drago killed Apollo Creed (sorry, spoilers).

Unfortunately, however, it's 2023, and the Russians are rattling the nuclear saber westward again. Accordingly, the Kremlin is currently sitting on a stockpile of nearly 4500 nuclear weapons. And make no mistake: these weapons, as The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have insisted, are not merely old, Soviet-era junk. Rather, they estimate that over 90% of Russia’s weapons are fully modernized.

So, just when we thought it was safe to try and extradite Edward Snowden, we’re back in the trenches.

The Sino-Russian Alliance

The Chinese military

The Chinese military shows off its might. (Image courtesy of The Council on Foreign Relations)

Two great powers roaring on the horizon would be enough to shake any nation. But what if those two countries began to align and cooperate?

Granted, Russia lacks a powerful economy, and China cannot directly threaten the United States. You can already see where this is going, can’t you? China loves a proxy war, and Russia needs a sponsor.

With Russia and China falling into orbit with each other, what kind of advanced capabilities might they develop? Are we looking at a legitimate nuclear threat? Is China harboring a new terrifying vector of biochemical transmission? What do we need to be ready for, should the unthinkable rain down upon us?

Rarely does the United States play second fiddle to anything or anyone. However, China boasts the world’s largest military at 2.8 million active duty and reserve members. That’s more than double the total size of the American military.

Of those 2.8 million, 240,000 personnel are responsible for manning, operating, and deploying China’s fleet of 350 ships and submarines. Included in this number are China's Naval Air Force and Marine troops, which stand at around 31,000 strong.

In comparison, the United States Navy edges out China with roughly 440,000 personnel and 290 combat vessels. The United States Navy’s air component also dwarfs China’s, with powerful assets like the P-8 Poseidon and F-35 Lightning.

The Battle of the Aircraft Carriers

The infamously janky Admiral Kuznetsov (Image courtesy of Norsk Telegrambyra AS via Reuters)

In discussions of international naval dominance, one of the major metrics that is often debated is each navy’s number of aircraft carriers. Bear in mind that aircraft carriers are essentially floating cities, capable of launching entire campaigns right from their flight decks.

These monoliths, a testament to a country’s military power, have been an imposing presence in the world’s oceans as early as 1922. And as of 2021, there are around forty-six of these floating juggernauts patrolling the high seas: the United States holds eleven of them, while the Chinese Navy possesses two.

These two naval forces, notably, have seen their fair share of flirting with disaster. Most prominently, the South China Sea–and China’s claim to hold sovereignty over, well, pretty much every inch of it–has caused the US and its allies to respond accordingly. And while this conflict has remained mostly verbal, one can’t help but wonder how it might go down with gloves off.

As military modernization has become the focus of leaders around the globe, one word continues to strike fear and command deference: “nuclear.” The simple splitting of the atom in 1932 brought the world into a new age of awe–and terror. After all, we as a species now hold the power of the sun in our hands–hands more akin to Jalen Hurts than we may want to admit.

This titanic, seemingly god-like power has been put to use in the form of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. At the moment, only the United States and France hold this capability—which is quite a spectacular one, given that nuclear-powered carriers can go decades without needing to refuel. This allows for unparalleled sustained strike operations against hostile countries and actors.

While the United States holds immense power–and the title of the world's largest navy–China isn’t far behind. Both countries, after all, are racing to increase numbers, capabilities, and raw damage output. Russia, on the other hand, doesn’t exactly excel when it comes to aircraft carriers.

Although the Russian Navy employs 160,000 active troops and 265 active ships, many of them are amphibious assault or frigate/destroyer class maritime vehicles. This doesn’t make them any less viable of a threat to the United States and its allies, but it does add context to their fledgling friendship with China.

Of note, Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the “Admiral Kuznetsov,” is a bit of a meme. Commissioned in 1985, this ship has been plagued by budgetary constraints, maintenance overruns, and just plain ol’ bad luck. To put it simply: it’s a piece of crap.

Russia has also been dealt a few critical casualties to its fleet lately. Their flagship vessel, The Moskva, for example, was sent to the bottom of the Black Sea by Ukrainian sea drones.

Russian and Chinese Naval Threats

A Russian nuclear submarine surfaces

A Russian nuclear submarine surfaces. (Image courtesy of NewsBreak Original)

With that said, Russia, for all its failings, does employ eleven nuclear submarines. These long-range, stealthy predators pose an existential threat to the continental United States.

What’s more, the US Navy, as of late, has been struggling to keep tabs on the newest addition to the Russian submarine fleet, the Kazan class missile sub. Notably, these vessels have evaded even the P-8 Poseidon’s submarine-hunting abilities–for weeks at a time, at that. With a strike range of over 1,500 miles, that places nuclear warheads firmly on our foreheads.

Perhaps Russia’s most concerning naval achievement, however, is the “Status-6or tsunami torpedo. Capable of producing radioactive tsunamis, this drone weapon is purported to travel slowly along the ocean floor for weeks undetected. While experts doubt its existence or effectiveness, it remains, at minimum, a source of apprehension.

All in all, Russia brings a certain kind of “disturbing vibe” to the table. The kind of vibe that says, “The risks are now considerable.

Granted, China possesses multiple nuclear capabilities in the form of nuclear-powered submarines and limited intercontinental ballistic missiles–but not in the sheer magnitudes Russia does.

China, for its part, has seemingly remained more focused on nuclear power generation. As such, they’ve fallen in line with a long list of other countries that wish to power the majority of their grid with cleaner energy. With that said, China is slowly beginning to generate more than just clean energy, as US officials estimate that China may build nearly 1,500 nuclear weapons by 2035.

It’s not nothing, but it’s not the stockpile their former Soviet comrades have.

In light of this, it’s no wonder why Russia and China are beginning to see eye to eye. Each possesses something the other lacks. Plus, neither is a fan of NATO, and neither is supportive of America’s long-lived seat atop the global throne. The proverb “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” comes to mind.

The Kremlin, in particular, is benefitting greatly from this newfound partnership. At the start of the war with Ukraine, Russia faced a “massive and historic shock” to its economy. Accordingly, sanctions, raw costs, and reduced trade saw Russia’s economic growth grind to a near halt.

Meanwhile, in June 2023, China and Russia’s bilateral trade crossed almost $21 billion. While Russia’s economy still faces intense hardship in its recovery, its burgeoning trade with China is a step in a positive direction, to be sure.

The Chinese and Russian Joint Naval Exercise

Russian and Chinese joint naval exercise, 2021.

Russian and Chinese joint naval exercise, 2021. (Image courtesy of Russian Defense Ministry via Naval Post)

This July, China and Russia began joint military sea exercises in the Sea of Japan. As maritime and aerospace assets gathered for the exercise, Russia’s defense ministry outlined its intentions: the two countries planned to drill naval combat, escort, and live fire exercises.

This show of force, it should be noted, is not the first time either of the superpowers flexed against the United States, Japan, and South Korea.

Indeed, a historical search brings up many, many incursions of Russian military assets into US airspace. Most recently, Russian bombers and tankers encroached into Alaskan airspace to gauge response time and prod its neighbors to the west. Worryingly, this kind of flaunting is routine and happens around six to seven times annually.

China, too, loves to poke the proverbial bear–namely in the South China Sea with its reckless and aggressive maneuvers near US-based maritime assets. In June, for instance, a Chinese fighter jet flew dangerously close to a US jet in international airspace.

All in all, neither country is shying away from provocations. They’re betting that they can keep messing around without “finding out.”

It’s this kind of brazen disrespect that’s emboldened them to proudly flaunt their new toys. The US has some nice toys too though, and on August 7, we brought some out to play.

It all started when the US Northern Command reported at least eleven Russian and Chinese ships passed by the Aleutian Islands near Alaska.

While China and Russia remained in international waters like a yappy dog behind a fence, the US deployed four destroyers and P-8 Poseidon aircraft. This escalation was a “historical first—and for good reason, since the last thing any sane enemy of the US should be doing is begging for attention. After all, we don’t shy away, and we surely don’t back down. You could say we’re “ready to go, bro.

The P-8 Poseidon aircraft is an often undervalued contributor to our navy’s air fleet. And recently, it's become a thorn in the Chinese Navy’s side. Allowing for fast and reliable data link integration, as well as highly advanced radar and communication interception, China’s Navy is having a hard time moving stealthily.

China’s Navy even had the gall to call a recent P-8 Poseidon routine sortie in the Taiwan Strait “provocative.” Whether or not it “gets the people going,” the P-8 Poseidon is poised to remain hot on the heels of the Chinese Navy.

In late July, Russia and China concluded their drills. This show of solidarity was touted as a major move to safeguard the security of strategic waterways by Russian Rear Admiral Calery Kazakov, deputy director of the drills. Notably, China and Russia claim the drills strengthened the abilities of both sides to respond to Western aggression.

Strengthening Bonds

Members of EMS investigate the site where Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found on March 4 in critical condition.

Members of EMS investigate the site where Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found on March 4 in critical condition.  (Image courtesy of Ben Stansall APF via Times of Israel )

All in all, it is clear that Russia and China are now stronger than ever together.

But what does this mean for everyday Americans?

Russia’s nuclear capabilities are the obvious immediate threat to the civilized world. While Russia allegedly began to posture nuclear-capable assets into Belarus, China has recently run into some money trouble (though the country's leader, Xi Jinping, remains remarkably unfazed).

While this may lead some to breathe a sigh of relief (maybe China isn’t going to sugar-daddy the apocalypse after all?), we should turn our attention back to the Beijing’s other substantial threat: bio-weapons.

Notably, Americans consider China, among all other countries, the most substantial threat to their well-being. Though Russia remains at a creditable 17%, it’s no match for China, at a staggering 50% . This is because the US sees China as the number one threat to its economy and national security.

One of the foremost reasons for this is the threat of Chinese bioweapons, as the US State Department reports that China is conducting biological weapons research with a high degree of secrecy.

Here, it is important to note that China likes to play with words–namely, changing the definition of "biochemical weapons research" to further their agenda. So while they claim to be “firmly against the proliferation of biological weapons,” the Pentagon refutes this, stating that China and Russia “have also proven adept at manipulating the information space to inhibit attribution” of biological threats.

Russia, too, loves to change accepted narratives to fit its propaganda–that’s no secret. For evidence of this, one needs to look no further than Russia’s deployment of novichok.

All in all, China and Russia both enjoy skirting regulations and international treaties. As such, we now live in a world where the two most threatening forces against America are making a concerted effort to undermine our sense of safety.

Russia, for its part, brings a fearsome nuclear arsenal, capable of reducing entire cities to irradiated wastelands. In this regard, Russia may not even need to launch or drop a nuclear device–we may not even see it coming. Launched from a submarine or the Status-6, would we have time to react?

Meanwhile, China holds the purse strings behind an enormous navy and a mismanaged bioweapons program.

Should these superpowers take the first swingunafraid to awaken a sleeping giantevery American must be prepared to withstand, endure, and respond.

Your Nuclear Survival Kit

If ever there was a time for heightened situational awareness, it would be right now–unafraid, but always prepared. So make sure you’re standing ready by, arming yourself with the highest quality protection for yourself and your family. To aid this preparation, MIRA Safety offers a plethora of survival essentials, ranging from decon kits to must-have PPE.

When facing a matrix of different threats, you’ll need to be prepared for everything and anything that may come your way. In this regard, MIRA Safety’s MOPP-1 CBRN Protective Suit is the first of its kind–available to everyone and anyone. That means you’ll be afforded up to thirty days of continued protection from nuclear, chemical, and biological agents.

Lightweight, flame retardant, and designed for long-term use (even up to ten washes), you can rest easy with the MOPP suit, knowing you’ve armed yourself with the most reliable and effective PPE available. Plus, the integrated hood is compatible with all MIRA Safety respirators and gas masks, making it a critical addition to your survival bag.

The MOPP Suit

The MOPP Suit

And of course, no survival bag is complete without the MIRA Safety CM-7 Military Gask Mask. Designed to resist a wide spectrum of CBRN threats, its quick-donning design ensures that you’ll be protected when the unforeseen presents itself.

So if you ever find yourself riding out in a Red Dawn scenario, the CM-7M is the perfect choice. Tactical, comfortable, and designed to be operated in conjunction with optical devices–we’ve got your six. Our high-quality speech diaphragm won’t mute your rallying cries of “WOLVERINES!” in the heat of survival.

The CM-7M

The CM-7M

Of course, not all situations are as cut-and-dry as a joint Russian-Cuban invasion (or Russian-Chinese invasion, perhaps).

So when you’re unsure of what’s coming, you’ll need all bases covered. In this regard, the NBC-77 SOF CBRN Gas Mask Filter is an ideal choice, as it protects against ALL known CRBN agents. Compatible with all 40 mm thread-compliant gas masks, the NBC-77 is trusted by CBRN experts and special forces the world over.

Effective against radioactive particles and biological agents, the NBC-77 stands ready with an unparalleled twenty-year shelf life. Be it an unknown Chinese bioweapon, or radioactive fallout from a Russian ICBM, you’ll be set up for success.

The NBC-77

The NBC-77

Finally, one of the most effective and commonly overlooked hazard vectors is the ground we walk on. That’s where the Mira Safety Butyl Hazmat Overboots come in. Designed to fit over your footwear of choice and compatible with your other PPE, these boots are a must-have.

Much like how you should be changing your socks twice a day, ensure you’re protecting your feet. When it’s time to bug out or stand your ground, these boots employ rigid soles for elevated grip regardless of terrain. So when the situation calls for double time, you can be the first one in or out.

Final Thoughts

Joint Chinese and Russian naval exercise, 2021.

Joint Chinese and Russian naval exercise, 2021. (Image courtesy of Naval Post)

We can’t be sure what Russia or China is planning. Each day, after all, we’re bombarded with confusing rhetoric from the Kremlin. They love to boast, lie, and exaggerate. But if their agenda is to keep us paralyzed with fear and drive us to inaction–well, they’re failing.

China’s attempts at subterfuge and espionage, meanwhile, certainly keep us on our toes. What hidden agenda they plan to pursue, we may never know. What we can say for sure is that they’re handling dangerous payloads, and they’re not equipped to be doing so.

What’s more, they are strengthening ties with Russia, spelling potential danger for the United States. As such, we must remain eternally vigilant by keeping our ears to the ground.