China's Military Prowess Making Russia Nervous
There is an old Russian proverb - "Vsyo volka ne kormi, a on na les smotrit"- "No matter how much you would feed the wolf, he still looks at the forest." This applies to the existing and evolving Russian relationship with China - no matter how many public statements are made about the strength and mutual benefit of a Moscow-Beijing alliance, China is inching further and further ahead of Russia on all criteria that signify a great power - economy, high-tech development, international reputation. And military strength.
The last item already makes Moscow nervous, even if outwardly it shows no signs of concerns. This entry at a popular daily online magazine Lenta.ru discusses China's recent development of a ballistic missile, based on its Dong-Feng 21 rocket (possibly nuclear-tipped) that can sink a large moving target (presumably a US aircraft carrier): "It is easy to assume against whom, and for what purpose, this new Chinese weapon is fielded. First, the modern aircraft carrier is the only target that a given country would not mind using a nuclear weapon on. ... Secondly, only the U.S. military fleet has so many aircraft carriers that justify a creation of new types of ballistic missiles. And third, the American ships of this class are a deterrent to China, a country that does not conceal its aggressive intentions against, for example, neighboring Taiwan."
The analysis further brings up evidence that USSR has been developing a similar missile in the 1960s and 1970s - whose purpose was to presumably sink American carriers - but ended up not fielding the actual missile due to a variety of domestic and international factors. "In any case, Russia has abandoned the development of such weapons for the last several decades, and the U.S. did not seriously expect that ballistic missiles capable of striking major moving maritime targets may be fielded by a likely opponent. In short, while the two superpowers were flexing their muscles, a third power - while only gaining momentum - was looking far into the future."
Russia sold China mass amounts of modern military technology in the 1990s and even recently - everything from small arms to the modern Su-27 jet fighter to submarines and naval vessels. Given China's determination to develop and field its own modern military, these purchases from Russia went into further developing and modernizing one of the largest militaries in the world.
Given Russia's emphasis on its nuclear deterrent, Moscow so far avoided a "What If?" discussion about the time when China's military could eventually surpass its Russian counterpart. However, a sobering and realistic assessment is already necessary: "We cannot say with confidence if this weapon (anti-ship ballistic missile) was indigenously developed in China. Most likely Beijing has once again carried out a competent and quiet "information leak" with the purpose of demonstrating the potential of China's military power and its future development. But if this Chinese rocket is not pure propaganda, then it's not just the United States that would soon have to develop technology that can neutralize such a weapon."