With the war in Ukraine raging, Russia has seen its relationship with China undergo a dramatic shift, as an internationally isolated Moscow becomes more reliant than ever on Beijing — a development that will impact the security landscape in Northeast Asia, particularly in Japan.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping this week in Uzbekistan, the two are expected to make bold claims on the strength of their partnership. However, beyond lip service, it is unclear whether the summit will yield any substantial gains for Moscow.

The main reason for this is that the nature of the Sino-Russian relationship has fundamentally changed, particularly over the past few decades. Where the Soviet Union once viewed China as a poorer “junior partner” in need of support, the tables have turned decisively, with a rising China — projected to become the world’s largest economy by 2030 — now increasingly able to dictate the direction of bilateral ties.