This submission analyses Russian and Chinese perspectives on the US-centred “Liberal International Order” (LIO). Drawing on the work of scholars such as Ikenberry, we identify two features that make the LIO a unique type of Great Power network:
1. It is institutionalised to an unprecedented degree.
2. It rests on discernible shared normative foundations.
Russia and China are comparatively institutionally impoverished and cannot compete with the US in global structural power. In the Russo-Ukraine conflict, Ukraine draws support from over 40 countries. Russia has had practical support from only Belarus, Iran and North Korea. China’s strategy of controlling UN agencies through winning leadership posts by coercing smaller states is also losing ground..
There is no clear normative basis for Russian and Chinese Great Power policies. They lack the US’s international ‘friendship’ networks, as the Russian case in Ukraine highlights. Chinese support of Russia is a mission in exploiting Russia’s weakened position by extracting concessions over energy and access to military technology.
Thus the LIO is not fragile or degrading. Its relative strengths explain official Russian and Chinese antipathy. Both are ultimately fearful of its core institutional and normative strengths.