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International relations
Reference:

Cooperation between Russia and China in the field of countering international terrorism as a factor in ensuring international stability

Li Valerii N.

Postgraduate student, Department of theory and history of international relations, Patrice Lumumba Peoples' Friendship University of Russia

117198, Russia, Moscow, Moscow, Miklukho-Maklaya str., 10/2, room 302

valeriy_li_ir@mail.ru

DOI:

10.7256/2454-0641.2024.2.70444

EDN:

DSZIAF

Received:

07-04-2024


Published:

14-04-2024


Abstract: The interaction between Russia and China is a coordinated cooperation on a wide range of issues and problems. The parties are developing a strategic partnership, an important aspect of which is cooperation between Russia and China to ensure global and regional security. The effectiveness of such cooperation directly depends on how successfully the Russian-Chinese partnership will develop, aimed at countering new challenges and threats to security. One of these threats is international terrorism, primarily in its Islamist form. The study examines the specifics of bilateral cooperation between Russia and China in the field of combating international terrorism. The author has studied the forms and tools of bilateral cooperation at the global, regional and national levels. The article notes that cooperation between Russia and China in countering terrorism takes place on the main global platforms (the UN, the SCO). The study uses historical-comparative, historical-typological and problem-chronological methods, which allowed the author to study the approaches of Russia and China to measures to counter terrorism in the context of exacerbation of non-traditional challenges and threats. Russia and China, as permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), contribute to the management of global security and ensuring international stability through the development and implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on combating terrorism, participation in projects of the UN Counter-Terrorism Center (UNTC), UN peacekeeping operations. In the regional subsystem, the SCO is an important platform for countering terrorism and ensuring international stability, within which countries have built an effective regulatory and institutional framework for combating terrorism. The article proves that at the bilateral level, the parties have created a mechanism for interaction between law enforcement agencies and special services. In addition, the parties are jointly involved in the fight against international terrorist groups involved in the Syrian conflict. The author concludes that the counter-terrorism system built in Russian-Chinese relations makes a constructive contribution to ensuring international and regional security from non-traditional threats.


Keywords:

Russia, China, international terrorism, UN, SCO, strategic partnership, RATS, peacekeeping operations, Central Asia, regional security

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

International terrorism has become one of the basic threats to security at all three levels, global, regional and national. If political terrorism (especially characteristic of Western Europe) and national terrorism began to recede into the background, then religious terrorism has become the main danger. Despite the fact that violence is not proclaimed by any of the world's religions as a tool for achieving religiously significant goals, terrorists continue to identify themselves with various world religions (including Buddhism, which is considered the most peaceful religion). However, with all the diversity of religious terrorism, Islamist terrorism plays a special role. Until the 1990s, Western countries were the main targets of attack by Muslim radicals. It seems that they have made significant, rather purposeful efforts to ensure that Islamist terror in the last decade of the century began to be carried out primarily against Russia, China and other countries.

Since the 1990s, the international community has made some efforts to combat international terrorism. The UN has adopted more than a dozen conventions and protocols on cooperation between States in order to curb this evil. In 1999, the UN General Assembly established a special Office for the prevention of terrorism. Since 2001, the jurisdiction of the International Commission against Money Laundering has extended to the issues of combating the financing of terrorism. However, the adopted recommendations and conventions have brought few positive results.

Given the limited effectiveness of international institutions and the global nature of the problem of international terrorism, bilateral cooperation is the most productive form of consolidated resistance to this threat to non-traditional security. In this article, the author will study the features of bilateral cooperation between Russia and China in the field of countering terrorism, paying the greatest attention to its organizational and institutional characteristics. The author will identify the tools that Russia and China have created at the global, regional and national levels to counter terrorism.

The problems raised in the article are partially reflected in the works of foreign and Russian scientists T.N. Bukreeva [1], P. Wilkinson [2], O. Cronin [3], E. Neumeier, T. Plumper [4], A.E. Mikhailov [5], N.A. Chernyadyeva [6], A.V. Vozzhenikova [7], A.P. Koshkina [8], etc. Prominent representatives of scientists and practitioners whose research is devoted to the problem of terrorism in China are Fan Juansong, Li Wei [9], Jiang Zhenjun [10], Zhang Jinping [11], etc.

The methodological foundation of the dissertation research is an interdisciplinary approach based on the basic principles and methods of structural realism (neorealism). The appeal to this scientific school allows us to analyze the tools of Russian-Chinese cooperation in the field of combating terrorism at various levels of the system of international relations. The study uses historical-comparative, historical-typological and problem-chronological methods, which allowed the author to study the approaches of Russia and China to measures to counter terrorism in the context of exacerbation of non-traditional challenges and threats.

The importance of the fight against terrorism in the general spectrum of national interests of Russia and China

Russia and China were formed in 1992-2022 as strategic partners whose interaction on the world stage is based on mutual interests and mutual benefit. In addition, the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China are characterized by the common views of the two countries on solving international security problems, ensuring regional and global stability and protecting the border area. Such a set of reasons also brings Russia and China closer in their approaches to combating the terrorist threat.

In Russia, the fight against terrorism is one of the priority areas of ensuring state security, which is reflected in the national security strategy approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 02, 2021. This strategy emphasizes the need to develop international cooperation in countering terrorism (paragraph 101 (25)), and cooperation with the People's Republic of China is considered as a mechanism to ensure stability (paragraph 101(7)).

Since the beginning of the 2010s in Russia, the main focus of anti-terrorist activities has been on countering Islamist terrorist organizations, mainly in the North Caucasus. Thanks to comprehensive measures and efforts, it has been possible to reduce the terrorist threat and the risks of terrorist financing in this region. However, the problem has not disappeared, but has taken a new form: the issue of financing the departure of militants from Russia to participate in terrorist activities abroad, in particular, in Syria, Libya and other countries, has arisen. By 2017, about four thousand Russian citizens or persons who came from Russia participated in hostilities in international terrorist organizations in Syria [12]. Taking into account the reduction of territories under the control of terrorist groups, including ISIS, foreign fighters returning to Russia or passing through its territory in transit have become the object of increased attention of law enforcement and special services.

Currently, China's efforts to counter this threat are mainly aimed at the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, where the national minority, mainly practicing Islam, lives. This region can become the basis for the spread of political radicalism, including the activities of the separatist organization "Islamic Movement of East Turkestan". The increase in China's diplomatic and trade activity in neighboring regions has increased China's sense of vulnerability to this threat and prompted it to improve its means of protecting its citizens abroad. In addition, China is concerned that some international terrorist groups outside its borders may have an impact on the situation in Xinjiang. After the coups and popular uprisings in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in 2005, concerns arose about the transfer of terrorist activities to the territory of China [13]. After several terrorist attacks involving Uighurs in 2008, including clashes between Uighurs and Han Chinese in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, Beijing increased its attention behind the attacks, which, in its opinion, were organized by Uighur terrorists [14].

Since the beginning of 2014, the accession of Uighurs to the civil war in Syria and the stated intention of some to return to China to intensify terrorist activities have caused the government to fear that militants could pose a threat to Chinese economic interests in Afghanistan, Central Asia and Pakistan [15]. The terrorist attack on the Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan in 2016 confirmed these concerns. Additional risks arise due to the unstable political situation in Afghanistan, especially after the withdrawal of the US military contingent from the country and the overthrow of the civilian government [16]. Political instability in Pakistan, which arose after the IRP Parliament passed a vote of no confidence in former Prime Minister I. Khan in April 2022, also led to increased terrorist activity, as a result of which Chinese citizens suffered [17]. Thus, the need to strengthen measures to combat terrorist threats on China's western borders is only increasing, which is reflected in China's political actions in relations with Central Asian countries.

A fundamental aspect of the consolidation of Russia and China in the fight against terrorism is their unified approach in terms of defining the phenomenon of "terrorism". Having a common understanding of the nature and manifestations of this threat, countries can further coordinate the selection of necessary tools and jointly plan actions to use them. It is worth noting that the very existence of a unified approach to the definition of terrorism is an indicator of the maturity of bilateral cooperation in this area, since there is no universal definition of terrorism.

China and Russia have developed a common understanding of the phenomenon of terrorism, legally enshrining it in the Convention of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism of June 15, 2001. According to this document, terrorism is any act aimed at causing the death of any civilian or any other person who does not actively participate in hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, or causing serious bodily injury to him, as well as causing significant damage to any material object, as well as an organization, planning such an act, aiding and abetting its commission, when the purpose of such an act, by virtue of its nature or context, is to intimidate the population, violate public safety or force authorities or an international organization to commit or refrain from committing any action. It is worth noting that at the initiative of the PRC, a number of important terms were introduced into this document, in particular, the ideology of the "three forces of evil" "international terrorism, ethnic separatism and religious extremism", as well as "cross-border crime" (mainly maritime piracy and drug smuggling).

The contribution of cooperation between Russia and China in the institutions of the system of international relations to the fight against terrorism

Russia and China confirm the important role of the United Nations in ensuring international security and stability, including in the fight against terrorism. As permanent members of the UN Security Council, they actively participate in the development and implementation of resolutions on countering terrorism, take part in international peacekeeping operations [1], projects of the UN Counter-Terrorism Center and the international humanitarian assistance program. In addition, they are key participants in the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Russia and China often express similar positions in the UN and sometimes unanimously use the right of veto on certain resolutions [18]. Jiang Zhenjun, a researcher from Heilongjiang University, also notes that Russia and China are successfully cooperating within the framework of the United Nations to address issues of ensuring regional security and stability of the international system. This concerns issues such as the DPRK's nuclear program, the Iranian nuclear issue, as well as the crises in Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine, which, according to Professor Jiang, are related to the problems of terrorism [10].

Russia and China are actively fulfilling their financial obligations to the UN, including contributions to the Counter-Terrorism Trust Fund and financing peacekeeping activities. They also participate in various counter-terrorism and peacekeeping projects, such as anti-terrorism and innovative initiatives to combat the financing of terrorism, international peacekeeping operations and countering terrorism in the information space.

Russia ranks seventh and China eighth in the list of sponsors of the UN Counter-Terrorism Center projects. In 2022, Russia allocated 3.5 million US dollars, and China 2.3 million US dollars for these purposes [19]. Their financial support varies depending on the scale and duration of the projects: Russia jointly finances regional projects, while China finances global-level projects independently.

This testifies to China's desire to ensure global security and combat international terrorism through strengthening the role of the United Nations. Russia also attaches great importance to international institutions, especially the United Nations, and together with China is taking coordinated measures within the framework of this organization to combat terrorism and ensure international stability.

In addition to initiating and financing their own projects, Russia and China are actively involved in the work of the UN Counter-Terrorism Center (CTC) and the Counter-Terrorism Directorate (CTU), where a number of innovative anti-terrorist initiatives are being carried out. These projects are aimed at countering the financing of terrorism, strengthening control over migration and identifying the movement of terrorists. For example, after the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2462 in 2019, the program for combating the financing of terrorism (CFT Program) was launched. As part of this program, at the end of 2023, goFintel software was developed jointly with the UN Information Center, which expands the capabilities of financial intelligence units in conducting analysis and investigations of financial transactions related to the financing of terrorism.

In addition, Russia and China are actively involved in international UN peacekeeping activities aimed at resolving military conflicts and maintaining peace and stability. Since the early 1990s, Russia, as the legal successor of the USSR, continued its participation in UN peacekeeping operations, and China joined the UN peacekeeping activities in April 1990. Today, China is the second largest State contributor to UN peacekeeping operations. In 2020, the Information Bureau of the State Council of the People's Republic of China published a White Paper entitled "China's Armed Forces: 30 years of participation in UN peacekeeping operations." This document notes that China has sent more than 40,000 peacekeepers to participate in 25 peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the United Nations.

Table 1 reflects the partnership between Russia and China in the field of ensuring security and stability in Africa. Both countries send their peacekeepers, but it should be noted that, despite the coincidence of their positions in the UN Security Council on most issues, each of them has its own economic and strategic interests on the continent.

Table 1.

China and Russia's contribution to UN peacekeeping operations in Africa and the Middle East for November 2023

The UN Mission

Police officers

Military advisers

Staff officers

Military personnel

China

Russia

China

Russia

China

Russia

China

Russia

UNMISS

29

29

6

3

21

1

1031

0

MONUSCO

11

11

10

6

10

4

218

0

MINURSO

0

0

18

12

0

0

0

0

MINUSCA

5

0

2

2

8

8

0

0

UNFICYP

4

4

0

0

4

4

0

0

UNTSO

0

0

8

3

0

0

0

0

UNISFA

1

1

4

0

8

0

140

0

UNIFIL

0

0

0

0

9

0

409

0

MINUSMA

0

0

0

0

3

0

396

0

Source: compiled by the author on the basis of [20].

Russia mainly sends military advisers and staff officers, while China is gradually increasing its military presence, including the number of military personnel. In addition, China's large military presence in Mali and Sudan allows the People's Liberation Army of China to gain experience in combating international terrorism.

As part of the fight against terrorism in the information space, Russia and China are cooperating in the UN Working Group on Information and Telecommunications to ensure international security. One of the key achievements of the two countries is the development of a position on the control of cyber weapons through legal instruments. However, due to the opposite position of the United States on this issue, the position of Russia and China was not reflected in legal documents.

The regional level of cooperation between Russia and China in the field of combating terrorism

At the regional level, Russia and China cooperate in the fight against terrorism within the framework of the SCO. During the existence of the organization, more than 15 treaties, declarations and other documents related to the fight against terrorism and extremism have been adopted. Russia and China, as the largest SCO member states, play an important role in developing a contractual framework for cooperation.

The evolution of the SCO's regulatory framework has gone through several stages, starting with general principles and moving on to specific measures. The initial step was the SCO Declaration of 2001, focused on ensuring regional security and the creation of the SCO anti-terrorist center. Also in the same year, the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism was adopted, which identifies these phenomena as threats to international security. In 2002, the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) was established to effectively combat terrorism and build the capacity of joint operations. The RATS coordinates the interaction of the competent authorities of the SCO member states in the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism, carrying out a number of activities, including the organization of exercises, cooperation with anti-terrorist organizations, training of instructors and information exchange.

The next stage in the development of the SCO was the Concept of cooperation of the organization's member countries in the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism from 2005. This document defined the goals, principles and priority areas of cooperation, as well as methods of its implementation.

One of the important aspects of cooperation between the participating countries is the holding of regular military exercises. Russia and China regularly participate in such exercises, demonstrating their ability to work together and increasing the level of preparation for responding to difficult situations. Anti-terrorist exercises are conducted both within the framework of SCO events with all participants, and bilaterally between the armed forces of Russia and China. The first large-scale anti-terrorist exercises "Interaction-2003" took place in August 2003 on the territory of Kazakhstan and China with the participation of 5 member states, including Russia and China [9]. Since 2005, the "Peace Mission" exercises have been held, within the framework of which more than 20 joint exercises have been organized.

The multilateral mechanism of cooperation within the SCO is also relevant for combating international terrorism in the information space. An important stage was the decision taken at the SCO summit on June 15, 2006, on the establishment of a Group of Experts on international information security by the member States of the organization. This Group has developed an agreement on cooperation in the field of international information security, signed by the Governments of the Member States in 2009. This agreement became the first international document that specifically regulates information security issues discussed in UN resolutions since 1999.

Another important area of cooperation between Russia and China in a multilateral format is the training of personnel to combat terrorism and organized crime. In 2014, the Ministry of Public Security of China established the Center for International Legal Training and Cooperation for the SCO on the basis of the Shanghai University of Political Sciences and Law. At the 18th SCO Summit in Qingdao in 2018, President Xi Jinping announced China's intention to train 2,000 law enforcement officers from member states to improve their effectiveness in combating threats to global stability and security [21].

Cooperation between Russia and China in the field of combating terrorism on a bilateral basis

Cooperation between Russia and China has begun to take shape on the basis of legal norms and institutions established within the framework of the SCO. For example, after signing the Concept against Terrorism in 2009 within the framework of the SCO, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev approved the Concept of Combating Terrorism in the Russian Federation, and in 2010 an Agreement was concluded at the highest level between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation on cooperation in combating terrorism, separatism and Extremism.

The interaction between the departments of the two countries also plays an important role in improving the effectiveness of international cooperation. For example, since 2004, the Department of Public Security of Heilongjiang Province of the People's Republic of China and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Far Eastern Federal District of the Russian Federation and the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation in the Khabarovsk Territory have been closely cooperating in the field of controlling illegal border crossings and exchanging information about suspected terrorists. In March 2017, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia and the Ministry of Public Security of China signed a protocol on cooperation aimed at increasing the efficiency of law enforcement agencies in border regions in the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism. This cooperation continued in the fight against the terrorist group ISIS, in order to prevent its activities in Syria, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

The coincidence of the prerequisites for combating terrorism and the use of terrorist organizations by individual foreign states for strategic purposes (the so-called "foreign footprint" in terrorist activities) makes the participation of Russia and China in counter-terrorism cooperation one of the most important mechanisms for ensuring stability not only in the region, but also on a global scale. The gradual development of cooperation between Russia and China in this area has consolidated the legal foundations of interaction at various levels (interstate, interdepartmental and cross-border), defining the main areas of cooperation, mechanisms of interaction and measures to counter criminal activities related to terrorism.

Russia and China are also cooperating in the field of combating the financing of terrorism. For example, on March 21, 2006, an agreement was signed in Beijing between the Federal Financial Monitoring Service of the Russian Federation (the Russian Federation Financial Monitoring Committee) and the People's Bank of China on cooperation in countering the legalization (laundering) of Proceeds from crime and the financing of terrorism. As part of the fight against the financing of terrorism, cooperation is also underway between the customs authorities of Russia and China. The General Customs Administration of China (GTU) is the main partner of the Federal Customs Service of Russia (FCS). In 2017, an order was signed on the preparation of an agreement between the customs services of the two countries on cooperation in the prevention, detection and suppression of dubious financial transactions [22], including transactions with funds intended for the financing of terrorism.

The further strengthening of the potential of cooperation between Russia and China in the fight against terrorism is manifested in the Syrian context. With the outbreak of the conflict in 2011, China began to actively strengthen its presence in Syria, which represented a departure from the previously accepted principle of non-interference in external conflicts. In turn, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed support for the Syrian authorities and the army in the fight against terrorism at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly [23]. This shows the coincidence of interests of Russia and China in stabilizing the situation in Syria. China's more active involvement in the Syrian conflict became apparent in 2016, when PLA Rear Admiral Guan Yufei promised to increase humanitarian assistance and strengthen military cooperation with Syria during a visit to Damascus [24]. In 2017, it became known about the presence of Chinese special forces in Syria to fight terrorist organizations, including those who joined ISIS and Al-Qaeda (terrorist organizations are banned in the Russian Federation) [25]. Russia and China are also jointly taking measures to prevent support for the opposition in Syria by supporting the legitimate government. For example, in 2020, Russia and China used a veto at the UN to block a draft resolution by Germany and Belgium on the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria bypassing Damascus [26]. This opens up prospects for further cooperation between Russia and China in stabilizing the situation in Syria, as well as to ensure the security of their countries.

Bilateral cooperation in the field of combating terrorism is also manifested in increasing the operational and tactical training of special units of Russia and China. Since 2016, exercises have been conducted by units of the Russian National Guard and the People's Armed Police of China under the name "Cooperation". During these exercises, the parties increase the level of joint struggle of special forces personnel against terrorism, their training in conducting anti-terrorist operations, as well as responding to sudden terrorist threats in the region [27].

Thus, cooperation between Russia and China in the field of combating terrorism has internal reasons related to the fact that these countries faced the manifestation of this international threat on their own territory and came to the conclusion that effective protection against it can only be built by creating collective protection with neighboring countries. Cooperation between Russia and China in countering terrorism and ensuring international stability takes place on the main global platforms (the UN, the SCO). Russia and China, as permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), contribute to the management of global security and ensuring international stability through the development and implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on combating terrorism, participation in projects of the UN Counter-Terrorism Center (UNTC). The SCO is an important platform for countering terrorism and ensuring international stability, where both countries are actively working. At the bilateral level, Russia and China are building comprehensive cooperation to neutralize the threat of terrorism, which covers the harmonization of legislative practice, the coherence of law enforcement agencies and special forces units, as well as joint measures to counter the financing of terrorism. Accordingly, this activity covers all sublevels of bilateral cooperation: interstate, interdepartmental and cross-border. All three highlighted levels are in continuous and consistent interaction, they are interdependent and represent an inseparable whole.

References
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The beginning of the XXI century was marked by cardinal changes not only in the system of international relations, but also in ensuring national security. Indeed, the events of September 11, 2001 led to a sharp increase in security measures against the threat of terrorist acts, but also to the fight against international terrorism. In recent years, the participation of the United States in counterterrorism activities has most often been in the field of view of researchers, but the formation of a multipolar world forces us to turn to the study of the efforts of Moscow and Beijing in the fight against international terrorism. These circumstances determine the relevance of the article submitted for review, the subject of which is cooperation between Russia and China in the field of countering international terrorism. The author sets out to consider the importance of combating terrorism in the general spectrum of national interests of Russia and China, to determine the contribution of cooperation between Russia and China in the institutions of the system of international relations in the fight against terrorism, as well as to show the interaction of Russia and China in the field of combating terrorism on a bilateral basis. The work is based on the principles of analysis and synthesis, reliability, objectivity, the methodological basis of the research is a systematic approach, which is based on the consideration of the object as an integral complex of interrelated elements. The scientific novelty of the article lies in the very formulation of the topic: the author, based on various sources, seeks to characterize cooperation between Russia and China in the field of countering international terrorism as a factor in ensuring international stability. Considering the bibliographic list of the article, its scale and versatility should be noted as a positive point: in total, the list of references includes 27 different sources and studies. The undoubted advantage of the reviewed article is the attraction of foreign literature, including in English and Chinese. The source base of the article is primarily represented by materials from periodicals and news feeds. Of the studies used, we will point to the works of P. Wilkinson, A.E. Mikhailov and N.A. Chernyadyeva, which focus on various aspects of the study of international terrorism, as well as an interesting article by T.N. Bukreeva, which examines the efforts of the PRC in the fight against international terrorism. Note that the bibliography is important both from a scientific and educational point of view: after reading the text of the article, readers can turn to other materials on its topic. In general, in our opinion, the integrated use of various sources and research contributed to the solution of the tasks facing the author. The style of writing the article can be attributed to scientific, but at the same time understandable not only to specialists, but also to a wide readership, to anyone interested in both the fight against international terrorism in general and the efforts of Russia and China in this matter. The structure of the work is characterized by a certain logic and consistency, it can be distinguished by an introduction, the main part, and conclusion. At the beginning, the author defines the relevance of the topic, shows that "the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China are characterized by the common views of the two countries on solving international security problems, ensuring regional and global stability and the protection of border space." The paper shows that "China and Russia have developed a common understanding of the phenomenon of terrorism, legally enshrining it in the Convention of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism of June 15, 2001." The author draws attention to the fact that both countries "confirm the important role of the United Nations in ensuring international security and stability, including in the fight against terrorism." It is noteworthy that, as the author of the reviewed article notes, "the SCO is a platform for countering terrorism and ensuring international stability, on which both countries are actively working." The main conclusion of the article is that "cooperation between Russia and China in the field of combating terrorism has internal reasons related to the fact that these countries faced the manifestation of this international threat on their own territory and came to the conclusion that effective protection against it can only be built by creating collective protection with neighboring countries." The article submitted for review is devoted to an urgent topic, is provided with a table, will arouse readers' interest, and its materials can be used both in training courses and in the framework of cooperation strategies in the fight against terrorism. In general, in our opinion, the article can be recommended for publication in the journal "International Relations".