Sino-Russian Strategic Partnership Matures

Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie met with Viktor Zavarzin, the visiting chairman of the State Duma’s Defense Committee, on April 7 at the Chinese Pentagon (Bayi Dalou). During their meeting, Liang stated that growing Sino-Russian defense relations “reflects the level of political trust and strategic coordination between the two countries” (Xinhua News Agency, April 7). This meeting followed the recent opening of a direct military hotline between China and Russia on March 14 (China Daily, March 14), several weeks before the first test by China and the United States’ military hotline between Chinese Defense Minister Liang and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on April 10.

According to analysts cited by various news reports, the Russian arms industry has lobbied hard for stronger defense ties, in part due to concerns about the 62 percent drop in Russian arms sale to China last year, which at its peak reached $2 billion per annum (Financial Times, March 30; BBC [China], March 5). In March 2008, Chinese officials publicly announced that China is increasing its 2008 defense budget 17.6 percent to $58.8 billion, which many analysts and foreign governments believe is likely understated due to a lack of transparency in China’s defense spending (China Brief, March 14). The decrease in arms imports from Russia in spite of the upward trend in defense spending suggests that the Chinese defense industrial complex has strengthened its capacity to replicate existing arms transfers from Russia indigenously and China’s growing investment in defense research and development.

Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) general staff, Xiong Guangkai, chairman of China Institute for International Strategic Studies (CIISS), Jia Xiaoning, deputy director of the Ministry of Defense’s department of external affairs, and Sergei Razov, the Russian ambassador to China participated in the meeting (Xinhua News Agency, April 7).