Limited at best? Changing discourses on China in Russia’s identity structure before and after the 2014 crisis

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This paper aims to reconstruct the “Asian” dimension of Russian national identity discourse by using relations with China as a case study. It analyses the foreign policy debate before and after the 2014 Ukrainian crisis (2010–2016) by focusing on the emerging concept of “pivot to the East.” Based on a discourse analysis of official documents, elites’ speeches, and think-tank views, this paper inductively recovers the identity discourse, structured around linking/differentiation and such themes as the relative perception of China’s threat. This research shows that the identity structure put several limitations in the way of engagement with China. These interlinked structures made it extremely difficult for the more intense economic turn toward China, which eventually occurred only when the relationship with the West (as the significant Other in Russian identity) broke down after the 2014 crisis. By comparing the identity structure and policies before and after the crisis of 2014 and following the poststructuralist notion of mutually constitutive relations between identity and foreign policy, this paper argues that policy changes after 2014 affected the gradual changes in identity narratives. However, there was not enough time and pressure to change the deeper layer of the core identity discourse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-633
Number of pages27
JournalEurasian Geography and Economics
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • China
  • Russian foreign policy
  • discourse and practices
  • identity structure
  • pivot to the east
  • the 2014 crisis


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