China, People’s Republic of, Relations with


China, People’s Republic of, Relations with
   Chinese-Russian relations date to the tsarist conquest of the Russian Far East in the late 17th century. During the early Soviet period, Moscow supported the nationalist Guomintang Party before switching its backing to the Chinese Communist Party led by Mao Zedong. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) supplied weapons, advisors, and financial support to the Chinese Communist Party.
   Fraternal relations broke down during the Khrushchev era over border disputes, doctrinal disagreements, and global competition for leadership of Marxism-Leninism. Relations between Moscow and Beijing reached rock bottom after the opening of relations between China and the United States during the 1970s. Realignment of China’s interests in the wake of Mao’s death allowed for normalization of relations in the 1980s. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian-Chinese relations entered a new era based on shared political, security, and economic interests. The first step was to establish the 1991 Sino-Russian Border Agreement, which created mechanisms to solve the two countries’ long-standing border disputes. In 2004, the last areas in contention were finally demarcated to the satisfaction of both sides, thus providing a clear Russo-Chinese border for the first time in history.
   In 1997, Boris Yeltsin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin issued a joint declaration acknowledging a multipolar world and challenging American hegemony in international affairs. This reorientation in diplomacy reflected the ascendency of Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, whose doctrine was built on the development of a MoscowBeijing-New Delhi axis to counter American dominance of the post–Cold War world order. The summit of the two leaders marked the beginning of a strategic partnership between the East Asian neighbors. Unfortunately for Taiwan, this new vector undermined the substantive, but unofficial relationship it had developed with the Russian Federation from 1991 until the mid-1990s. Under Vladimir Putin, Russia affirmed that Taiwan is an “inalienable part of China” as part of the establishment of a 20-year treaty of friendship between Moscow and Beijing.
   Foreign trade—the result of import of cheap Chinese goods and the long 4,300-kilometer-long common border—provided the basis for developing a comprehensive approach to trade and commerce. Annual Russian-Chinese trade, which reached $50 billion by the end of the Putin administration, is growing rapidly. Heilongjiang province, in particular, is engaged in substantial development projects in Asiatic Russia. Military hardware and hydrocarbons are key Russian exports. The allure of Russian markets and wide-open spaces has drawn approximately 1 million Chinese immigrants across the border, stimulating talk of a new “yellow peril” in Russia, particularly in Siberia and the Russian Far East where the population density is a fraction of that across the border in northeastern China.
   Some friction also exists in the realm of petropolitics; in 2003, Putin scuttled a widely supported Yukos plan to develop an oil pipeline to China. Citing the need for market diversification in the western Pacific Rim, he instead opted for a Nakhodka route that confined the pipeline to Russian territory; the move infuriated Beijing and prompted a 2004 visit by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who attempted to preserve the Yukos plan. Later, however, Russia’s pipeline monopoly Transneft began an auxiliary pipeline from Skovorodino in Amur Oblast to Daqing, China, which is to be completed in 2009. The two countries—along with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan—have found common cause against the threat of violent Islamism, resulting in the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2001. The intergovernmental mutual-security organization, established in 1996 as the Shanghai Five, is dedicated to intelligence and resource sharing to confront separatism, terrorism, and other forms of extremism within and across their borders.
   While many analysts speculate that a new, three-way (RussiaChina-U.S.) “Great Game” is now under way for dominance in the region, Chinese and Russian interests have effectively dovetailed in Central Asia, while Washington has been somewhat marginalized. This was particularly evident when China and Russia both backed Uzbekistan’s 2005 request that the United States vacate its air base at Karshi-Khanabad.
   Members of the SCO held war games in Chelyabinsk in 2007; this cooperation followed the Russian-Chinese amphibious exercises in the Yellow Sea known as Peace Mission 2005, which marked the first substantial military cooperation between China and Russia in decades. In the wake of the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation (2001), the two countries have laid down similar positions on weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), international conflict management, and the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Each has also supported the other’s position on separatism in their most restive regions: Xinjiang and Tibet (China) and Chechnya (Russia). Both states are key members of the Six-Party Talks on the nuclear disarmament of North Korea, a country with which both share an international border. Informally, China and Russia are able to exert significant influence on global markets through the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) organization and as one-half of the BRIC economies, which also includes India and Brazil. In 2008, Dmitry Medvyedev chose Beijing as his first stop outside the former Soviet Union after assuming the presidency, breaking with protocol, which had hitherto dictated that a European capital be the initial overseas destination of the Russian head of state. The itinerary provoked international speculation that Russia had shifted its primary focus to developing its relationship with the East over that with the West. On the visit, Medvyedev met with Chinese leader Hu Jintao and signed a $1 billion agreement on uranium enrichment. In the wake of the 2008–2009 global financial crisis, Russia and China drew closer together based on the former’s need for access to loans, which were harder to obtain from Western sources.
   See also Foreign relations.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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