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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Russia’s Su-57, MiG-35, Su-34 and Su-35 Are All At the Zhuhai Airshow

Su-57 artist rendering. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Russia expects to turn heads at the Zhuhai Airshow in China from Nov. 8-13. Russia is showcasing the Su-57 Felon fifth-generation fighter at the annual expo in Guangdong Province, along with the Su-35 fighter, the Su-34 fighter-bomber, and the MiG-35 fighter. China will also be displaying its weapons systems and munitions, showing the world that Moscow and Beijing are teaming up strategically and won’t leave the United States to roost as the world’s sole dominant military power.

Zhuhai Airshow: A Wide Range of Systems

While the Su-35, Su-34E, and the MiG-35 are nothing new, Russia is happy to display the stealthy Su-57, its most advanced fighter. China’s latest J-20 Mighty Dragon, with its radar-evading capabilities, will also have a spot at the expo. The J-20 already flew for the audience on the opening day of the air show.

Alexander Mikheev, Director General of Rosoboronexport, said that this is an opportunity for Russia and China to shine. Mikheev said the Russian firm will try to include China in “joint cooperation” to create “mutually beneficial agreements.” 

The number of different Russian and Chinese arms systems at the show is staggering, ranging from armored personnel carriers and combat drones to attack helicopters and air defense systems. Both militaries will showcase a wide assortment of precision-guided missiles and bombs. China is showing off its command-and-control aircraft, along with a new tanker, while Russia is giddy to display its S-400 Triumf and S-350E Vityaz air defense systems.

Joint Military Power and China-Russia Alliance

With this exhibition of military might, Russia and China look to cement ties close enough to suggest a formal alliance. Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, will likely remain in power as long as they are healthy. Russia does not have a clear succession of command, but the Kremlin is not concerned about regime change, even though the Russian military has struggled during the war in Ukraine.

China and Russia want to show the world that their brand of authoritarian rule can have some elements of capitalism that succeeds without allowing democracy to take root.

Military hardware is one area where China and Russia can cooperate fully. Generals and civilian military leaders who are part of the Kremlin or the Chinese Communist Politburo have dug in deep to ensure their autocratic regimes stay in power. While Putin is willing to use his military in Syria and Ukraine, China is opting to build up its strength first, with numerous weapons programs that can overwhelm Taipei and keep the United States guessing about how far Beijing will go to prevent Taiwan’s independence.

A Propaganda Boon

These military expos are about propaganda, media relations, and prestige. Countries can show their citizens that the Chinese and Russian armed forces have global reach. These weapons can also send a message that anti-democratic countries can buy their own arms to keep oppressive regimes in power. 

Russian Su-34

Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

China and Russia have cooperated strategically to stand up for each other’s national interest. China has few allies, especially in its neighborhood. It has tried to use its Belt and Road Initiative to buy influence in the developing world, but this scheme has not proven totally effective. Russia depends on Iran and North Korea to supply drones, ballistic missiles, and howitzer ammunition for its war effort. While China has not supported Russia to that extent, it is sympathetic to Moscow because both countries believe in standing up to the West. They bristle when the international community criticizes Moscow and Beijing for human rights abuses.


MiG-35. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Showing off new and existing weapons deepens strategic ties between Russia and China. All the elements of military power – strategy, operations, and tactics – improve with prestige arms such as airplanes and combat drones.

Look for more joint arms displays yearly from both countries as they tighten their alliance.

Expert Biography: Serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/International Relations.

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Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.