Russia-China strategic partnership | By Dr Rajkumar Singh


Russia-China strategic partnership

THE prophetic words of Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin, said in April 1996, about the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership is realising today in 2021, marked by robust economic, energy, people-to-people, technology, military and diplomatic engagement, when their foreign policy outlook converged by their shared objectives and perceived threat of American hegemony.

Their deep understanding has moved beyond bilateralism and regional closeness but began to eye the core strategic issues of each other, and in line, they both conducted in December 2020 Russia-China joint aerial patrol over the contested East China Sea, the second within a year, organised shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration at the Valdai Summit in October 2020 that the ‘idea of a future alliance could not be ruled out’.

The clean and dynamic relationship beginning with the 1950 Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship Alliance and Mutual Assistance which paved further to resolve the long-standing border conflict by late 1990s left them free to.

Agree further on issues of mutual interest and finally to the comprehensive partnership straddling practically every conceivable area of co-operation and now, it is in full swim termed as the ‘golden age’ of their partnership which reached even the Russia’s red-lines, such as, the Arctic, Far East, and Central Asia and in spheres of sophisticated weapons exports.

In addition to this there are two factors- negative aspects of globalisation and watching American hegemony for decades in international politics provide them the strongest reason to unite.

Despite being benefited from international trade in the era of globalisation, they were lagging behind Western countries who are more integrated in global economy and it gave Russia and China an opportunity to come closer and promote their bilateral trade.

In international politics Russia and China in over decades and particularly after disintegration of USSR have viewed the economic, political and military dominance of the United States who also often tried to change the world order for its benefit. In the situation they felt the need to unite and face the US challenges jointly.

The Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR),the first Communist country founded in late 1917 on the basis of Marxist-Leninist ideology, basically an opposite of the Capitalism, represented by the United States of America, became the first victim of US dominance after the end of second World War in 1945 and a declared Cold War commenced between the two.

The two said ideologies were aggressively remained attached to the two-super power of the time and each tried at its level best to uproot the other but despite utmost opposition and strategy of the US the second Communist government was formed on 1 October 1949 in China, known as the People’s Republic of China.

The two Communist countries, in spite of slight ideological differences were fully committed and propagated the ideological moorings in their respective regions and beyond.

The initial relations between the two was based on a treaty, the Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance signed in 1950-1951, which safeguarded the national interests of China and the Soviet Union and also improved their geopolitical relationship on political, military and economic levels.

Although, the relations between Soviet Union and China did not remain smooth and after the death of Stalin, there emerged differences on number of issues, including on ideology, its ways of implementation and adoption of the policy of Peaceful Co-existence, which, in Mao’s view, would isolate China in Western world.

Within a decade of signing the treaty, their differences widened on several national and international issues leading to the breaking of China’s relations with USSR in 1962 and it peaked in1968 when a border war between the two started at the Xinjiang frontier, in north-west China.

In decades, 1970s and 1980s the two Communist powers witnessed ideological rivalry in the Third World countries of Africa, Asia and of the Middle East almost till the disintegration of USSR in early 1990s.

Relations in post-Cold War: Disintegration of USSR and end of Cold War between the two super powers beginning in 1945,further paved the way for smooth and ever-growing Russia-China relations in the days to come.

In the context solid ground for their friendship was prepared in two speeches delivered by Gorbachev in July 1986 and September 1988 in which he proposed to settle the three problems as stated by China earlier; the withdrawal of the Soviet Army from Chinese border areas, the peaceful settlement of the Cambodian war, and the withdrawal of the Soviet Army from Afghanistan and after resolving these all Gorbachev, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, visited China in 1989 where for the first time in thirty years both leaders reconciled and declared a ‘Peaceful co-existence between the two states and reiterated the faith to keep their relations peaceful.

The diplomatic relations between the two improved greatly after the establishment of the Russian Federation in 1991, the year in which they also settled their long-pending boundary question and a territorial agreement was signed when Zhang Zhemin visited Moscow and in 1992 the two countries declared that they were pursuing a constructive partnership, from there moving forward in 2001 they signed a Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Co-operation, twenty-year strategic, economic and military treaty and now began to view the US as their common competitor.

Thus, now it is not a secret that both Russia and China are a dependable and reliable strategic partner against the United States of America and its allies wherever they are in the world.

In their considerations while China has got its overdue place in global politics, almost equal to the US, Soviet Russia has found a country, China, who is always in position to challenge its old enemy, America.

As a result, the PRC is currently a key purchaser and licensee of Russian military equipment, some of which has been instrumental in the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army. By 2019, both had serious grievances against the United States.

For China the issues are control of the South China Sea, trade policies and piracy of American technology, while the main issue of Russia include the severe economic penalties imposed by the US and Europe to punish its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.

— The writer is Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, B N Mandal University, Madhepura, Bihar, India.

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