Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 218

As expected, the major results of yesterday’s talks were two joint statements: one which outlined expanding Russian-Chinese relations and another which welcomed the marking of the two countries’ border. The border demarcation follows accords signed in 1991 and 1994 and, though disputes remain over several small stretches, establishes the long Western border between Russian and China. The two sides also hailed a series of related agreements which have led to reductions in military forces along the joint border and to a series of other confidence-building measures there.

There were few surprises in the ten-page statement on the Russian-Chinese “strategic partnership.” Both sides reiterated anew their adherence to a “multipolar” world order aimed at resisting dominance by the United States. Yeltsin and Jiang also noted the commonalty of views between Moscow and Beijing on a host of international issues. That coincidence of view included their joint opposition to the employment of force in international conflicts without the sanction of the UN–an obvious reference to the recent crises in Iraq and Kosovo and to threats of military action by NATO and Washington. As permanent Security Council members, Moscow and Beijing worked in tandem to avert military strikes in each of those situations. The Russian-Chinese statement also noted that the strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing does not constitute an alliance and is not directed at any third country.

Moscow also used yesterday’s summit to make a strong statement in support of the “one China policy.” The Russian side is reportedly ready, moreover, to sign a statement pledging that it will neither back any efforts by Taiwan for independence, nor support efforts by Taiwan to join the UN or other international bodies as a sovereign state. Russia will also reportedly pledge not to conduct arms sales with Taiwan (Xinhua, November 23). The issue of Moscow’s policy vis-a-vis Taiwan arose this past October when Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party, led an LDPR delegation to Taiwan. Beijing reacted angrily, and Moscow rushed to reassure the Chinese, first, that Zhirinovsky’s visit was not an official one and, second, that it did not represent an easing in Moscow’s official stance toward Taiwan (see the Monitor, October 20, 21).

Although it was reportedly discussed in the meeting yesterday between Jiang and Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, one key set of issues appeared to get little attention following yesterday’s talks: the problem of stagnating bilateral trade between Russia and China. Several years ago the Russian and Chinese leaderships had set themselves the goal of raising annual trade turnover to some US$20 billion by the year 2000. That is obviously not going to happen. Trade between the two countries fell by 10 percent last year, to US$6.1 billion, and was down another 7 percent over the first ten months of this year (Itar-Tass, November 20; AP, November 22). The signing of accords aimed at boosting bilateral trade have apparently been deferred until next year. Primakov said yesterday that he hoped the two governments might reach agreements in this area during his talks next spring with Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji (Xinhua, November 23).