The history of Sino-Russian relations of the past century is that of mutual distrust, suspicion, and deception.
Moscow has learned a bitter lesson from Stalin’s handover of Soviet illegal agents to the Chinese comrades in 1949: when a flamboyant “monolith” friendship breaks down — as it did during the Sino-Soviet split and the subsequent border clash in 1969 — it may be left with no viable (counter-)intelligence capabilities against the potential geopolitical competitor in Eurasia.
Today, the two countries’ strategic alignment against the United States does not preclude Beijing from actively engaging in technological and other espionage against Moscow. The Russian leadership appears to have no illusions about China’s long-term geopolitical ambitions and maintains the “Chinese line” and relevant intelligence assets against China. Yet, all care is taken to present a facade of serenity not to spoil the “no limits” of the Sino-Russian friendship.
With Russia’s prolonged war in Ukraine and its growing dependency on Beijing, however, complacency and a loss of vigilance towards China might put Moscow in a predicament, especially in Russia’s Far East and eastern neighbours.
Drawing on the declassified KGB documents and other publicly available sources, this analysis provides a unique insight into the little-known dimensions of the Sino-Russian intelligence interactions and managed tensions.