Thu, Jul 15, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Watch for China's split with Russia

By Paul Lin林保華

US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice recently visited Japan, China and South Korea. The tour was probably related to US President George W. Bush's preparations for the presidential election campaign.

The US has invited Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) to the US, partly to find out where China draws the line on the Taiwan issue, and partly to show voters the importance the administration attaches to the US-China relationship.

Of the two US presidential candidates, China clearly prefers the presumptive Democratic candidate, Senator John Kerry, who has said that he wants to solve the Taiwan issue using the "one country, two systems" model to Bush, who is militarily aggressive and quite friendly towards Taiwan. China will therefore raise the price for accepting Bush's invitation, since it doesn't want to improve Bush's chances during the election campaign. Rice's visit to China was therefore a difficult task. If Hu visits the US next month, it will attract a lot of attention. Apart from affecting the China-US relationship, such a visit will also have an effect on Beijing's internal power struggles.

There is also an aspect to this interaction between China and the US that is positive to the US. Changes negative to China have occurred in the international strategic situation. Namely, China's relationships with neighboring states have become strained. Although not too obvious as yet, it can be said with near-certainty that these tensions will intensify in the future. They are thus important changes, and most important among them are the changes in China's relationships with Russia and Japan.

There are two aspects to the changes in the China-Russia relationship. The first aspect was embodied by the three-week-long military exercise held in Russia's far east last month. It was the nation's biggest military exercise in the 15 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it was held in the vicinity of Dongning, Heilongjiang Province, and Chunhua, Jilin Province. These two cities are situated close to Vladivostok, the largest port in Russia's far east, and Nakhodka, which will be the end point on the pipeline that will be built to transport Russian oil to Japan.

There is also another oil-related change: the official Russian announcement that it has reversed course on the construction of the pipeline from Angarsk in Russia to Daqing in China, which Russia originally had agreed to. Although the Angarsk-Nakhodka pipeline suggested by Japan will not be built, there will be a pipeline from Taishet to Nakhodka, still clearly biased towards Japan. Observers are now trying to assess what retributive measures China will adopt towards Russia.

Over the past dozen years or so, Russia has sold large quantities of advanced weapons to China, and former president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) has confirmed treaties signed in the19th century and in which China ceded a total of 3 million km2 of its territory to Russia, but without succeeding in winning back the friendship of "Big Brother" Russia.

Russia has both ambitions and worries, thinking that once China grows strong, it may demand the return of the land included in those treaties. Furthermore, a few million Chinese people have already moved into these sparsely populated areas, and could in the future demand self determination. Maybe this is how the Washington Times, in a recent report, came to the conclusion that Russia and the US are cooperating to build the submarines to be sold to Taiwan. Some observers also think that Russia may use a possible Chinese attack on Taiwan as an opportunity to attack China from behind.

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