Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 22

Russian media last week provided few specifics on a six-day visit to China by the country’s chief military inspector, Andrei Kokoshin. They did suggest, however, that talks between Kokoshin and top Chinese leaders had provided a much-needed boost to bilateral cooperation in the areas of defense, security and military technology. (Xinhua, January 22, 26; Russian agencies, January 22, 27) Russian sources also indicated that the fruits of Kokoshin’s visit would be evident during an upcoming visit to China by Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev. That visit has reportedly been scheduled for April. (Russky telegraf, January 29)

That Beijing viewed Kokoshin’s visit as significant was suggested by the importance of the officials with whom he held talks. In addition to Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng, they included the vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, the chief of China’s defense industries and the state and public security ministers. (Rossiiskie vesti, January 28)

Relations between Russia and China have clearly warmed in recent years. In addition to proclaiming themselves party to a "strategic partnership," the two countries have concluded a number of significant arms deals. There has nevertheless been a sense that Moscow and Beijing have failed to back their joint political declarations with substantive achievements, particularly in the area of bilateral trade. There have also been hints of dissatisfaction on both sides over implementation of their arms trade agreements. Among other things, the Chinese side is rumored to be unhappy with Russia’s provision of support and spare parts for the military hardware it has delivered to China. Moscow is said to be less than enthusiastic with some of the consumer goods that it has received in partial payment for arms deliveries.

Kokoshin appeared to allude to such problems when he told reporters on January 26 that his talks with Chinese leaders had included a "frank and serious discussion of the problems of military cooperation." (RIA, January 26) According to one newspaper (Russky telegraf, January 29), the former first deputy defense minister has long played a significant role in Russian-Chinese arms dealings, has good contacts with personnel in China’s defense sector and is viewed with considerable respect in China. The newspaper suggests that two of Kokoshin’s former bosses — former Defense Ministers Pavel Grachev and Igor Rodionov — had complicated military cooperation between the two countries by making impolitic remarks in public about Russian-Chinese relations. The newspaper predicted that current Defense Minister Igor Sergeev would commit no such errors. It suggested that Kokoshin’s just-concluded mission could therefore help to get Russian-Chinese defense cooperation back on track.

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