The US has NATO/EU and other South/East/South-East Asian countries as its direct allies either by ideology or by pacts. Also, most US allies are either high-income countries or technologically/militarily advanced.

In contrast, I don't see many countries that are close to China and/or able to reciprocate economically or militarily.

My questions are:

  1. Does China have close allies in the way the US and European countries do?
  2. If not, then how are they still able to "flex their muscles" politically?

Edit: Some people would point out countries that are participating in the Belt and Road initiative. Most of them are poor. Aren't they?

  • 3
    Please ask one question at a time.
    – user14430
    Jul 2, 2020 at 18:27
  • 9
    Try looking into China's Belt and Road initiative. Countries involved in that may not be allies strictly speaking, but are moving closer. Jul 2, 2020 at 18:30
  • 7
    North Korea, Cambodia, Pakistan, recently a number of other countries of Afro-Eurasia on the basis of commercial ties.
    – Colin
    Jul 2, 2020 at 18:44
  • 5
    Regarding "flexing their muscles", they are responsible for nearly 30% of global manufacturing, which certainly gives them some leverage economically.
    – DBS
    Jul 3, 2020 at 9:45
  • 1
    One doesn't need allies in order to be powerful (in some context).
    – fraxinus
    Jul 3, 2020 at 9:47

6 Answers 6


The Confucius Institute is a major educational initiative, and just one well-known example of how China has been making a "Big Bet on Soft Power" according to the Center on Foreign Relations. China enjoys favorable public opinion in many countries. In Russia and Nigeria public approval of China is over 70% as of 2019, and these are two major examples of China's allies.

China's global investments are spread widely around the world. The Belt and Road Initiative is an especially important piece of China's global investment strategy. It is considered to be complementary with Turkey's Middle Corridor plan, and Turkey is generally an ally of China despite conflicts over the treatment of Uyghurs.

The US has... South-East Asian countries as its direct allies either by ideology or by pact.

This in particular may be changing. As discussed in a Brookings Institution report, the primary loyalty of ASEAN (the main group representing Southeast Asian countries) is shifting increasingly towards China. ASEAN is already a larger trading partner for China than the US, a significant change in the longer term pattern.


Because many developed countries like the U.S. condemn China's new Security Law in Hong Kong, the 53 countries supporting China's crackdown on Hong Kong are outwardly China's allies. I colored in US even though Axio didn't.

enter image description here

The full lists

  • Supporting: China [I don't know why the website included China when China owns Hong Kong], Antigua and Barbuda, Bahrain, Belarus, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo-Brazzaville, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominica, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia,  Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Tajikistan, Togo, UAE, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • Opposing: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Germany, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K.
  • The U.S. has been highly critical of China over the law, but withdrew from the Human Rights Council in 2018.

The 53 countries supporting China's crackdown on Hong Kong : HongKong

It shows a canny resemblance to the Democrat Freedom Index. Not surprising that many of these countries have major Chinese investment in their government projects, be it rail, road, or technology.

  • 4
    So in other words, Chinese money talks louder than Western pretenses?
    – Steve
    Jul 4, 2020 at 16:21
  • 4
    But by this standard, if you choose UNSC instead, the permanent members must be allies, or they would never pass anything at all.
    – user23013
    Jul 5, 2020 at 0:19
  • 1
    "outwardly China's allies", "investment", ... Or have a territory with debated status, identify strongly with China's situation and want to set a precedent at the UN (seeing the map, Morocco/western Sahara comes to mind as the closest situation to China/Hong Kong). Jul 7, 2020 at 9:25
  • 1
    @Steve How about just "money talks louder than ______"?
    – user91988
    Jul 30, 2020 at 14:30

China does not have 'official' close allies, especially not large ones. They are rather unique in their ideology (perhaps because of their size)? Quoting Wikipedia:

Much of current Chinese foreign policy is reportedly based on Premier Zhou Enlai's Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and is also driven by the concept of "harmony without uniformity", which encourages diplomatic relations between states despite ideological differences.

A little further down it's noted that it often sides with Russia (to form a block against the Western countries):

China has a close economic and military relationship with Russia, and the two states often vote in unison in the UN Security Council.

As for the second question, China is slowly expanding their influence by investing in foreign infrastructure (the 'Belt and Road initiative' mentioned by Michael McFarlane), and many critics claim this is a form of diplomacy, trying to gain political influence in a more secretive way:

Debt trap diplomacy is used to describe a type of diplomacy based on debt carried out in the bilateral relations between countries with an often alleged negative intent. It involves one creditor country intentionally extending excessive credit to another debtor country with the alleged intention of extracting economic or political concessions from the debtor country when it becomes unable to honour its debt obligations. The conditions of the loans are often not made public, with the loaned money commonly used to pay contractors from the creditor country. Although the term applies to the lending practices of many countries, it is currently most commonly associated with the People's Republic of China. Recent use of bilateral agreements through China's Belt and Road Initiative have furthered this association, especially in relation to commodity backed loans for developing nations.

The alleged victims are poor countries (mostly in Africa, but I've even seen the term applied to Greece); they could be falling for this (alleged) 'trap' because other investors like Western countries might impose additional conditions, like human rights or environmental ones.

  • 1
    A "trap" by definition should deter a country from forming an alliance. But, you are talking the opposite.
    – user366312
    Jul 2, 2020 at 18:56
  • 1
    They don't view it as traps, or the alternatives as worse (see the updated answer).
    – Glorfindel
    Jul 2, 2020 at 19:01
  • 4
    There are also a lot of allegations of corruption around many of the deals China makes. The officials negotiating with China may be personally benefiting from deals which do not benefit their nation.
    – user14430
    Jul 2, 2020 at 20:04
  • 1
    True. It's rather hard to compose an objective answer to this question ...
    – Glorfindel
    Jul 2, 2020 at 20:06
  • 2
    This certainly sounds similar to the kinds of activities which John Perkins alleged to be done by the US on behalf of its corporations--en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessions_of_an_Economic_Hit_Man
    – Tiercelet
    Jul 4, 2020 at 5:25

China is one of the founding members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. According to Wikipedia:

The Shanghai Five grouping was created 26 April 1996 with the signing of the Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions in Shanghai, China by the heads of states of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.


In 2001, the annual summit returned to Shanghai. There the five member nations first admitted Uzbekistan in the Shanghai Five mechanism (thus transforming it into the Shanghai Six). Then all six heads of state signed on 15 June 2001 the Declaration of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, praising the role played thus far by the Shanghai Five mechanism and aiming to transform it to a higher level of cooperation.

As for its activities, Wikipedia writes:

The SCO is primarily centered on its member nations' Central Asian security-related concerns, often describing the main threats it confronts as being terrorism, separatism and extremism. However evidence is growing that its activities in the area of social development of its member states is increasing fast.


Over the past few years, the organisation's activities have expanded to include increased military cooperation, intelligence sharing, and counterterrorism.

While I'm not in a position to compare the SCO to NATO, I think it's as close to 'China's NATO' as you're going to find.

  • Good answer. Probably should be the accepted one. Even though I would classify them as not-complete-enemies, rather than friends, and certainly nothing remotely comparable to the NATO allies, it is an alliance of sorts. The fact that India and Pakistan are both involved show that it's mainly about countering the West rather than helping each other. Aug 29, 2020 at 0:23
  • Rather unsurprisingly, India just pulled out of the SCO war games due to the presence of China. Wouldn't be surprised if India pulls out after only three years of membership. Aug 29, 2020 at 23:26

Question #1:

Does China have close allies in the way the US and European countries do? If not, then how are they still able to "flex their muscles" politically?

Yes China has allies.

  • Russia
  • North Korea

China also has foreign military bases in the following countries:

List of Countries with Overseas military Bases

  • Argentina – A base in the province of Neuquén in Patagonia. Land loaned to the Chinese government during Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s presidency. Activities in the base are unknown. China claims it is for space exploration and intelligence services.3
  • Djibouti – Chinese People's Liberation Army Support Base in Djibouti
  • Myanmar – A naval SIGINT base in the Great Coco Island.[4]
  • Tajikistan – A military base in South-eastern Gorno-Badakhshan.[5]

This map is old Pre Covid and Hong Kong, but it shows the scope of China's economic influence.

China uses it's economic power to influence, coerce and attract allies.

Orange are Members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Black are the six Belt and Road corridors Blue are the maritime corridors enter image description here

Countries which signed cooperation documents related to the Belt and Road Initiative enter image description here

Question #2:

Some people would point out countries that are participating in the Belt and Road initiative. Most of them are poor. Aren't they?

Well Italy has one of the eight largest economies in the world and they are participating in the Belt and Road initiative along with Greec, Serbia and much of Eastern Europe.


One group of allies that are not mentioned are the nations with foreign relations with China certain members in the Pacific and Oceania. Fiji has diplomatic relations with China that it has had since 1975. China also occasionally gives aid to Fiji and remained friends even after the coup of December 2006.

Fiji has friends in China, it has friends in Korea, it has friends in [...] other Asian countries. We’re no longer relying on Australia and New Zealand. And in any event, the United States was not doing much for Fiji anyway. -Finance Minister of Fiji Mahendra Chaudhry

Kiribati is allied with China and doesn't recognize Taiwan, recognizing the People Republic of China as the only China. The Federated States of Micronesia recognizes the PRC and has an embassy in Beijing.

Here, China has close allies similar to the United States in that its has close diplomatic ties and will provide aid for said ally in return for recognition and trade.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .