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Russia, China seek to offset the U.S.
Paul Lin
12/13/2002



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Beijing's first major diplomatic event after the Chinese Com-munist Party's 16th National Congress was the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin. This visit was necessary for both parties involved. Putin wanted to understand what exactly the party's leadership succession means.

That is, he wanted to make contact with the newly appointed General Secretary Hu Jintao and he wanted to understand what mysteries lie behind President Jiang Zemin retaining the position of chairman of the Central Military Commission. In sum, he wanted to know what shape future Russian-Chinese relations will have. For his part, Jiang welcomed Putin's visit as an opportunity to put on a show and express to the outside world that he is still the head honcho in China.

The fruits of Putin's visit to Beijing can be seen in the joint statement issued by the two nations. Although this statement focuses on relations between the two nations, as an international document it is obviously targeted at the US. It places an extremely high value on Sino-Russian relations -- one that leaves Sino-US and Russia-US relations playing second fiddle.

"The two heads of state reiterate that no matter what changes take place in the international situation and in China and Russia, it is the determination of the two sides to adhere to the guidelines and principles set forth in the treaty ... [and] fully demonstrate the strategic idea that the two countries will forever be good neighbors, friends and partners and never be enemies."

This passage of such Cultural Revolution style language was undoubtedly proposed by China. The "never be enemies" part was expressed by Jiang last year when he went to Moscow to ratify a friendship and cooperation treaty. This time it was formally included in the wording of the joint statement.

The joint statement claims not to be targeted at any third country. Liu Jianchao, the spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also denied that it represented a challenge to any third country. However, apart from references to the Korean Peninsula and anti-terrorism, which were more or less in accord with the US point of view, the rest was obviously aimed directly at the US.

For example, calling for a multi-polar world is clearly a way to oppose US hegemony; qualms about the establishment of a missile defense system are all the more directed at the US. Opposition to a "double standard" regarding human rights as well as to putting pressure on other nations under a pretext of human rights has long been one of Bei-jing's anti-US slogans.

The joint declaration also considers the Shanghai Cooperation Organization -- formed by China, Russia and the Central Asian nations of the former Soviet Union -- to be significant because its goal is to counter the influence of the US and NATO.

Both Russia and China advocate strengthening the role of the UN. This is also intended to restrain the US. Russia expressed an interest in regional organizations such as "ASEAN plus three," and China expressed a willingness to help Moscow establish contacts with this organization. China also supports Russia's entry into the Asia-Europe Meeting, another object of Russian interest. Clearly Beijing is enthusiastically procuring for Russia politically.

After ratifying the ceding of over 1.5 million km2 of Chinese territory to Russia under 19th-century unequal treaties, Beijing is now bending over backward in this way to fawn on Russia. No effort is being spared to curry favor with Moscow and build a united front to counter the US.

Thus, the joint statement opens with the words, "The deepening of the strategic partnership of cooperation between China and Russia is in the long-term interest of the two countries and the two peoples, is the only correct historic choice, and meets the requirements for coping with challenges brought about by the development of the world situation and international relations." In international relations, who poses a challenge to China and Russia? Is this not clear?

But Putin obviously had some reservations about this kind of anti-US performance by Jiang. When he spoke at Beijing University and was asked about Russia-US relations, he said that the US is Moscow's largest trading partner and that there is a great deal of cooperation between the two in the war against terror even though the positions of Russia and the US are somewhat different. Nevertheless, he emphasized that pushing Russia-US relations toward conflict is not constructive.

Who has the intent and the power to push Russia-US relations toward conflict? Is he not referring to Jiang? But Putin must accommodate Jiang because Russia not only legally acquired Chinese territory but also exports several billion US dollars worth of arms to China annually in return for much needed foreign exchange.

Thus the joint statement also complied with Jiang's demands by adding, "The Russian side reiterates that the government of the People's Republic of China is the only legitimate government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is an integral part of the Chinese territory. Russia will not form any official relations or have official exchanges with Taiwan." This is required content in any document that China signs together with another country.

If China were to abandon its threat to unify with Taiwan by means of military force, relations with the US would be less strained, thereby greatly reducing the need to import arms from Russia. Therefore Russia must support "one China."

*Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.

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