Russia and China this week launched the start of the new year–and the beginning of the post-Yeltsin era–with a reaffirmation of the importance that the two countries attach to their budding “strategic partnership.” The pledge to further boost bilateral cooperation came during a three-day visit to the Russian capital by the Vice Chairman of the Chinese Central Military Council, Defense Minister Chi Haotian. Chi held talks with his Russian counterpart, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, on January 17. The following day he met for some forty minutes with Russia’s new acting President, Vladimir Putin. Chi also held talks on January 17 with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, whose responsibilities include oversight of Russia’s defense industrial sector.
The meeting between Putin and Chi marked the first direct contact between high-ranking Russian and Chinese officials since Boris Yeltsin resigned from the presidency on December 31. Not surprisingly, Putin went out of his way to underscore his intention to continue Yeltsin’s policy of pursuing ever more cooperative relations with China. According to Kremlin foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko, Putin pledged that Moscow would continue to adhere to decisions made during a series of summit meetings held in recent years between Yeltsin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin. He also said that Russia would continue to follow a “one-China” policy”–that is, continue to back Beijing’s position on reunification with Taiwan.
Chi, in turn, reaffirmed China’s support for Russian military actions in Chechnya and joined Russia in denouncing “separatism and extremism.” The two sides also proclaimed their support for the creation of a “multipolar world,” the now-standard formulation by which the two condemn what they describe as Washington’s efforts to dominate international politics. According to Prikhodko, Putin pledged that he would make a visit to China one of his top priorities immediately after his election as president (Agence France Presse, Xinhua, Russian agencies, January 18).
MEETING OF RUSSIAN AND CHINESE DEFENSE MINISTERS UNEVENTFUL.