From Reluctance to Greater Alignment

Russia-PRC Scientific Cooperation in the Arctic Supports Strategic Goals
May 29, 2024


In line with Russia’s and the People Republic of China’s (PRC) broader partnership, scientific cooperation between the two powers has evolved significantly within the last decade. Moscow has long prioritized Arctic sovereignty, but its increased international isolation since 2014 has made Arctic collaboration with the PRC more attractive. Growing dual-use economic and strategic opportunities for cooperation, against the backdrop of plummeting relations with other Arctic powers, have fueled this dynamic. 

Recent US intelligence reports highlight the extent of PRC support for Russia’s war effort in Ukraine, demonstrating that the partnership directly supports the Kremlin’s weapons industry and strategic objectives. This is just one of many indicators suggesting that the relationship is maturing. The PRC and Russia have significantly advanced their broader cooperation in the field of science and technology, including in sensitive areas of 5G and quantum. Their collaboration on space-based technologies and research on undersea acoustics in the Arctic supports both powers’ defense industry and military ambitions. Given Moscow’s historical reluctance to partner with Beijing in such strategic areas, recent changes call for Western policies to mitigate the security implications of this growing alignment. 

This paper is the second in a series investigating the PRC’s and Russia’s growing alignment in areas that have potential military and dual-use applications in the Arctic. The analysis relies on open-source government documents and expert views, including anonymized interviews with leading experts and officials from the United States and Northern Europe.