Overall, both Russia and China have significant strengths and challenges, and their respective roles on the international arena are shaped by a variety of factors such as economic growth, military power, international influence, and soft power. Comparing the strengths of Russia vs China and their roles in the international arena, I’ve found the following:
1. Economy: The analysis of the strength of an economy should consider the most recent available data. In terms of nominal GDP, Russia ($2.133 trillion), China ($18.321 trillion). In terms of GDP per capita (the value of goods and services produced per person), China ranked lower than Russia, coming in at around $11,000, while Russia’s GDP per capita was around $11,900. Yet, China has a higher GDP growth rate. However, there are other factors to consider such as economic growth, income inequality, and access to public services, among others, that may affect the overall strength of an economy. Russia vs China = 0-1.
2. Military: Russia is still the single most effective nuclear power compared to the US. Despite the shrinking defense budget, it continues to spend heavily on modernizing its ICBMs, SSBNs and even bomber fleet. That perhaps is the most cost-effective method to prevent a full-scale war against NATO (or the US if you prefer). Also, Russia can produce high tech jet engines. Russia’s military today mainly focuses on the ability to effectively intervene and protect Russia’s security interests in the peripheral (basically Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Middle East), while maintaining a formidable nuclear deterrence against the US so as to ensure its national sovereignty. Many people don’t realize that the size of the Russian armed forces today is even smaller than that of South Korea’s. It no longer serves the purpose of sweeping over Europe like the Soviet did 30 years ago. Anyone who is interested in the Russian military today should be familiar with Serdyukov’s reform. In the first decade of the 21st century, Russia’s armed forces mostly completed its transformation from a world-war military into a regional intervention army. This reform is successful as it accepts the fact that Russia’s economy is no longer capable of supporting a Soviet-era size military while utilizing new technologies and doctrines to ensure military effectiveness in small-scale regional intervention. I guess Russia’s success in Georgia (2008), Donbass (2014 onward) and Syria (2015 onward), and Ukraine is good proof of its military’s effectiveness in small-scale, low-intensity warfare (around its border). Russia maintains 25 military bases in 10 countries. China, on the other hand, is preparing for something else. Unlike Russia which has already finished its military reform, China’s military reform is underway. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) does not suffer the budget shrink like its counterpart in Russia but receives an increasingly larger amount of investment. That means it does not need to sacrifice its capability to fight a full-scale war. One similar thing is that the PLA is also transforming from the old cold-war era structure into something new. But what differs from the Russian military is that the PLA targets to fight a medium-scale high-intensity war around its border. China understands that any potential conflicts it might fight in the peripheral would involve the US. Therefore, its military reform targets to fight a conventional war with the US in scenarios like the Korean Peninsula or Taiwan. That’s why we see China investing a lot on 5th generation fighter (J-20), digital combined infantry brigade (like the BCT of the US), and naval surface fleet with destroyers capable of area air defense. China keeps a minimum strategic deterrence and a non-first strike doctrine. In this aspect, its nuclear power is far behind Russia. Russia vs China = 1-1.
3. Population: Russia (145 million). China (1.41 billion). The size of a country’s population can have significant implications for its economy, social welfare, and political stability. A larger population can offer a larger workforce and consumer base, but it can also present challenges in terms of resource allocation, social services, and environmental sustainability. Russia vs China = 1-2.
4. Technology: Russia is superior in space technology; China is better in the IT sector. Specifically, Russia has a long history of innovation and has made notable contributions to fields such as space technology, defense systems, and nuclear energy. Russia also has several prominent tech companies, including Yandex and Kaspersky Lab, and has made progress in areas such as robotics and biotechnology. China has made significant progress in recent years and has become a major player in the global technology industry. China has a large and growing number of tech companies, including Huawei, Alibaba, and Tencent, and has made significant investments in areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and 5G infrastructure. In terms of cybersecurity, both countries have been accused of engaging in hacking and other forms of cyber espionage. China has been accused of stealing intellectual property and engaging in other forms of economic espionage, while Russia has been accused of interfering in foreign elections and launching cyberattacks against other countries. Overall, it’s difficult to say which country is stronger in technology without specifying the specific area of technology being considered. However, both countries have made significant contributions to the field and have the potential to continue to make advancements in the future. Russia vs China = 2-3.
5. Chemical Industry: In the top 10 chemical industries in the world, Russia is number 3 and China is number 4. Specifically, Russia is a major producer of petrochemicals, with a large share of the country’s chemical industry centered around oil and gas production. Russian companies such as Lukoil, Gazprom, and Rosneft are among the world’s largest oil and gas producers, and the country has significant reserves of natural gas and oil. Russia is also a major producer of fertilizers, with companies such as PhosAgro and Uralkali playing significant roles in the global fertilizer market. China, on the other hand, has a much larger and more diverse chemical industry. China is the world’s largest producer of chemical products, including plastics, synthetic fibers, and other chemicals used in a wide range of industries. Chinese companies such as Sinopec, China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina), and Sinochem are among the world’s largest chemical companies. China also has significant reserves of coal, which is an important feedstock for the country’s chemical industry. Overall, while both countries have a significant presence in the chemical industry, China’s chemical industry is larger and more diverse than Russia’s, with a wider range of products and a larger number of companies involved. Russia vs China = 3-4.
6. Territory: Russia’s gigantic land and harsh climate give them huge strategic depth. China is surrounded by 20 tough nations with 56% Russia’ land. Specifically, Russia is the largest country in the world by land area, with a total area of over 17 million square kilometers. Russia has a diverse landscape, including vast stretches of forests, tundra, and mountains, and is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas, and minerals. The country also has significant access to the Arctic Ocean, which is becoming increasingly important due to the melting of sea ice and the potential for new shipping routes and resource extraction. China, on the other hand, is the third-largest country in the world by land area, with a total area of over 9.5 million square kilometers. China also has a diverse landscape, including deserts, mountains, and plateaus, and is rich in natural resources such as coal, iron ore, and rare earth metals. China also has a long coastline along the Pacific Ocean, which has allowed the country to become a major player in international trade and commerce. Russia vs China = 4-4.
7. Energy: Russia is in the world’s top for exporting natural resources, plus it is a leader in nuclear energy. Specifically, Russia is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of oil and gas, with vast reserves of natural resources. Russia’s oil and gas industry is dominated by state-owned companies such as Gazprom and Rosneft, and the country is also a major exporter of coal. Russia has significant pipelines and other infrastructure to transport its energy resources to customers in Europe and Asia and is an important supplier of energy to countries such as Germany, Turkey, and China. China is the world’s largest energy consumer and has rapidly grown its domestic energy production in recent years. China is the largest producer of coal in the world and has significant reserves of natural gas and shale gas. China is also investing heavily in renewable energy, including solar, wind, and hydropower, and has become a major player in the global renewable energy market. China is also building extensive pipelines and other infrastructure to transport energy resources from Central Asia and Russia to its domestic market. Russia vs China = 5-4.
8. Influence: Russia and China are the main players in their regions, both are the key members of SCO and BRICS. Overall, both Russia and China are major global powers with significant influence in different areas. The balance of power between the two countries may shift over time, depending on different factors such as economic growth, political stability, and military capabilities. Military influence: Both Russia and China are major military powers with significant military capabilities. Russia has a large nuclear arsenal and has been involved in multiple military conflicts in recent years, including in Ukraine and Syria. China is also a nuclear power and has been rapidly modernizing its military capabilities in recent years, particularly in its naval and air forces. Both countries have significant influence over their respective regions and are seen as potential threats by neighboring countries. Economic influence: China has become one of the world’s largest economies, with significant influence in international trade and commerce. China has significant investments in countries around the world and has become a major trading partner for many countries, particularly in Asia and Africa. Russia’s economy is smaller than China’s, but it is still a major player in the global energy market and has significant trade relationships with Europe and Asia. Cultural influence: China’s cultural influence has been growing in recent years, particularly through its popular culture exports such as movies, TV shows, and music. Chinese tech companies such as Huawei and TikTok have also become global players, contributing to China’s cultural influence. Russia has a rich cultural history and has been influential in areas such as literature, music, and art. Russia vs China = 6-5
9. Quality of life: The quality of life in a country depends on various factors, such as economic prosperity, healthcare, education, safety, environmental conditions, and social well-being. Here are some key points to consider when comparing the quality of life in Russia and China: Economic prosperity: China has experienced rapid economic growth over the past few decades and has become one of the world’s largest economies. This has led to significant improvements in living standards for many Chinese citizens, particularly in urban areas. However, there are still significant disparities between rural and urban areas, and income inequality remains a concern. Russia’s economy is smaller than China’s, but it is still a major player in the global energy market. Healthcare: Both Russia and China have universal healthcare systems, but the quality of care can vary depending on the region and the level of funding. In China, there are significant disparities in healthcare access between urban and rural areas, and there have been concerns about the quality and safety of healthcare services in some parts of the country. In Russia, the healthcare system has faced challenges with funding and infrastructure, and there have been concerns about access to care in remote and rural areas. Education: Both Russia and China have well-developed education systems, with high literacy rates and significant investments in education. In China, there has been a strong emphasis on education as a means of promoting economic growth, and the country has made significant progress in expanding access to education at all levels. In Russia, education is highly valued, and the country has a strong tradition of academic excellence, particularly in fields such as mathematics and science. Safety: Both Russia and China have relatively low crime rates compared to many other countries, although there are some areas where crime and social unrest can be a concern. In China, there have been concerns about political instability in regions such as Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and there have been reports of human rights abuses and restrictions on civil liberties. In Russia, there have been concerns about political repression, corruption, and restrictions on freedom of speech and the media. Environmental conditions: Both Russia and China have significant environmental challenges, particularly in terms of air and water pollution. China has made significant efforts to address these issues in recent years, with initiatives such as the Green Belt and Road Initiative and the promotion of renewable energy. Russia has also taken steps to address environmental concerns, particularly in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but there are still significant challenges to be addressed. Overall, both Russia and China have strengths and challenges in terms of the quality of life. The extent to which citizens in these countries can enjoy a high quality of life may depend on factors such as regional disparities, economic growth, government policies, and environmental conditions. On average, Russia is wealthier and closer to the western standards. Russia vs China = 7-5
10.Culture: Russia has a rich cultural heritage, including literature, art, music, and ballet. Russian literature, in particular, has had a significant impact on global culture, with authors such as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov being widely read and studied around the world. Russian classical music and ballet are also highly regarded internationally. In recent years, Russia has been promoting its language and culture through initiatives such as the Russian World Foundation, which supports Russian-language education and cultural programs around the world. China, on the other hand, has been investing heavily in its soft power in recent years, particularly through its cultural exports such as movies, TV shows, and music. Chinese popular culture, particularly in the form of TV dramas, has gained a significant following in Asia and other parts of the world. Chinese companies such as Huawei and TikTok have also become global players, contributing to China’s soft power. China has also been promoting its language and culture through initiatives such as the Confucius Institute, which supports Chinese-language education and cultural programs around the world. China is one of the oldest civilizations on the whole earth. Russia vs China = 8-6.
11.Infrastructure: Russia and China have made significant investments in infrastructure in recent years. Here are some key points to consider when comparing the infrastructure development in Russia and China: Transportation infrastructure: Both countries have extensive transportation networks, including highways, railways, and airports. China has made significant investments in high-speed rail (China is top ranked in high-speed railways), which has become one of the most extensive high-speed rail networks in the world. Russia has also invested in its rail infrastructure, with the Trans-Siberian Railway being a major transportation artery connecting the east and west of the country. In terms of air transportation, China has more airports than Russia, but Russia has a larger land area and therefore more airports spread out across its territory. Energy infrastructure: Russia and China are major players in the global energy market and have significant investments in energy infrastructure. Russia is one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers and has an extensive pipeline network to transport these resources. China has also invested heavily in its energy infrastructure, particularly in renewable energy such as wind and solar power. Telecommunications infrastructure: Russia and China have well-developed telecommunications networks, with high rates of internet penetration and mobile phone usage. China has made significant investments in 5G technology and has been a leader in the development of mobile payment systems. Russia has also invested in developing its own technology, such as the GLONASS satellite navigation system. Urban infrastructure: Russia and China have large and rapidly growing urban populations, which has led to significant investments in urban infrastructure such as housing, public transportation, and public services. China has built many new cities in recent years, which has led to concerns about overbuilding and ghost towns. Russia has also invested in urban infrastructure, particularly in Moscow, which has undergone significant redevelopment in recent years. China is superior here. Russia vs China 8-7.
12.Natural resources: Russia has more oil, forest, gas, coal, metal and all other resources. Specifically, Russia and China are rich in natural resources, and both countries are major players in the global commodity markets. Here are some key points to consider when comparing the natural resources of Russia and China: Energy resources: Russia is one of the world’s largest producers of oil and natural gas, with significant reserves of these resources. China is also a major consumer of these resources and has made significant investments in energy infrastructure, but it relies heavily on imports to meet its energy needs. Metals and minerals: Both Russia and China have significant reserves of metals and minerals such as iron ore, copper, and nickel. China is the world’s largest producer of steel and has a large domestic demand for these resources. Russia also has significant reserves of metals and minerals, but its mining industry is less developed than China’s. Forestry and agriculture: Russia has vast forests covering about half of its land area, which provide significant timber resources. Russia is also a major producer of grains such as wheat, barley, and corn. China also has significant forestry and agriculture sectors, with a large domestic demand for food products. Water resources: China has the largest population in the world and is home to several major rivers, including the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. However, water scarcity and pollution are significant challenges in China. Russia has vast water resources, including the world’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Baikal. China has too many mouths to feed. Russia vs China 9-7
Georgios Ardavanis – 31/03/2023