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The Religious Dimension of Russia’s ‘Turn to the East’
In one of his online programs, Professor Zhang Weiwei (张维为), who teaches international relations at Fudan University, said that Japan broke away from Asia to join the Western world, while we now see Russia breaking away from the West to join Asia. As a Chinese, in this way he probably wants to indicate above all that relations between Russia and China are becoming closer. Indeed, China has become Russia’s main trading partner.

However, despite their strategic partnership, Russia and China are merely two neighboring states. It is very unlikely that relations will develop to such an extent that they will give rise to a common cultural and political space. This is because Chinese civilization is very different from Russian civilization and there is no significant Chinese diaspora in Russia comparable to the Chinese presence in Southeast Asia, despite the fact that in the easternmost part of Russia and in Siberia Chinese influence is not insignificant.

However, there is another aspect of this Russian “turn to the East,” this partial integration with Asia: it involves Russia and the Muslim world. And here things look very different. Although China is fast becoming the most important economic partner of Russia, we seem to be at a turning point where Russia is consolidating its relationship with the Islamic world, gradually becoming in some sense part of it.
© Union of Catholic Asian News 2024
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