Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 87

A direct telephone link has been put in operation between the office of Russian President Boris Yeltsin and that of his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, Foreign Ministry officials announced yesterday in Moscow and Beijing. The Russian-Chinese “hotline” is the first to link the Chinese leadership with leaders of a foreign country. (AP, Itar-Tass, Xinhua, April 5) It was probably not a coincidence that yesterday’s announcement followed by a week a similar announcement that Washington and Beijing will soon be linked by their own presidential “hotline.” Agreement on that measure was reached during U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s recent visit to China. The Chinese-U.S. hotline will reportedly be activated during U.S. President Bill Clinton’s visit to China later this month.

Yesterday’s announcement — and its timing — reflect both improved relations between Moscow and Beijing and the conscious effort by both countries to pursue foreign policies balanced between East and West. But yesterday’s announcement also indicates the limitations still evident in the “strategic partnership” much proclaimed by Beijing and Moscow. Plans to establish a such a Russian-Chinese telephone link were first reported some two years ago, and it was during a summit meeting between the leaders of the two countries last April that Jiang announced the “hotline” would soon be established. (Kyodo, April 23) Yeltsin has a similar link with the leaders of the major Western countries. One is also to be set up between Moscow and Tokyo.