Corroborating earlier remarks by top Russian officials, Russian president Boris Yeltsin told a crowd of visitors in the Kremlin on December 29 that he intends to visit China sometime this spring. Yeltsin went out of his way to emphasize that the visit represented the Russian government’s determination to pursue a "balanced" foreign policy that would "promote good relations not only with the West, but with the East" as well. In November 1995, Yeltsin was forced to cancel a scheduled visit to China for health reasons. Talks in Beijing in the spring will reportedly deal with trade and economic relations between the two countries. According to a Russian Fuel and Energy Ministry official, Yeltsin is also expected to sign an intergovernmental agreement to carry out a feasibility study for the construction of oil and gas pipelines from Eastern Siberia to China. (10)
Yeltsin’s reference to a "balanced" foreign policy was undoubtedly aimed at deflecting criticism, heard since 1992, that Moscow has sacrificed Russia’s national interests in Asia by focusing too narrowly on relations with the West. Such criticism is likely to grow louder in the newly elected Russian parliament. Yet friendly relations with China have been one of Moscow’s few diplomatic success stories in Asia and Yeltsin undoubtedly hopes to maintain this momentum during his March visit. Potential problems, however, loom. Politicians in the Far East have fanned local resentments over the presence of a growing number of Chinese immigrants and trade, as well as profited politically by criticizing implementation of a 1991 border agreement between the two countries.
Center-Periphery Tug-Of-War Continues