Sat, Dec 14, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Russia, China seek to offset the US

By Paul Lin 林保華

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 (胡錦濤) and he wanted to understand what mysteries lie behind President Jiang Zemin (江澤民) 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 (劉健超), 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.

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