Brookings Institution, £18.99 Order (free p&p) on 0870 079 8897

Axis of Convenience, By Bobo Lo

Why Moscow and Beijing can't make the world spin on a new axis

In this admirably concise and comprehensive book about "Moscow, Beijing and the new geopolitics", Bobo Lo presents many small arguments and one big one. The central thesis is that the long-standing bogey of a Russia-China alliance that would threaten the West is simply not a realistic prospect any time soon. The character, culture, history and interests of these countries, he reasons, are just too different for them to make common cause.

What is more, both have bigger fish to fry, in their separate relationships with the US and Europe. Their relationship with each other, Lo argues, although complementary in several ways, is thus of secondary importance and likely to remain so. He warns against reading anything more than regional pragmatism into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, formed in 2005.

The presence of a mega-threat will always attract more attention than its absence. But Lo has done everyone a favour in explaining how he – a British-based expert and a former Australian diplomat in Moscow – sees this complex relationship. His exposition is measured, nuanced and reasonable. This is a convincing account of how things are – not how we fear them to be.

This is an academic book that presumes a familiarity with the professional shorthand. As a reader, it would not be essential to have terms such as "instrumentalism" and "multipolarity" in your vocabulary, but there are times when it would help. But as he tracks his way through the "Yellow Peril", the geopolitics of Central Asia, the energy trade, and the growing assertiveness of each country, he also offers insights and food for thought.

One relates to the rapid improvement in Sino-Soviet relations of the late 1980s, stalled by separate historic developments in both countries: the Tiananmen Square events in China, and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Another, which Lo might perhaps have made more of, is the complexities of geography, domestic politics, ideological conflict and personal eccentricity that precipitated the Sino-Soviet split in 1969. Those considerations explain not only why China and Russia have formed what Lo defines as an "axis", rather than an alliance – but why an axis will probably be about as good as it is going to get.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen