The Guardian August 9, 2000

China-Russia Friendship

by Peter Symon

In 1969, Harrison Salisbury a well-known American correspondent who had 
been the Assistant Managing Editor of the New York Times, wrote a 
book entitled The Coming War between Russia and China. Now, 30 years 
later, it remains interesting reading. At that time, Harrison Salisbury 
speculated that the war envisaged in his book seemed quite possible. He 
wrote that the danger was "demonstrably great". Few would have disagreed 
with him at the time.

There had been military clashes on the border between the Soviet Union and 
the People's Republic of China (PRC) and an enormous propaganda war was 
being waged in which each accused the other of being a "capitalist state".

The Chinese Government declared the Soviet Union to be its No 1 enemy while 
the Soviet Union accused Mao Tse-tung of saying that the atom bomb was a 
"paper tiger".

In this situation Harrison Salisbury saw great opportunities for the United 
States. He wrote: "The opportunity for the United States, for its 
President, for its national leaders ... has not been equalled in the nearly 
200 years of the Republic's existence. Grasped with imagination and with 
vigour it could preserve for another 200 years the American dream."

And what was the "American dream" then? The same as it is now  world 

And what was the fear of the US leaders? Salisbury writes that a change in 
China's leadership "could restore the Sino-Soviet alliance as a major 
factor in the world balance of power and inaugurate a new era of Russian-
Chinese collaboration directed against the rest of the world and, 
specifically, against the United States.

"It would confront the US with the most critical foreign policy crisis of 
the century  the prospect of facing 1,000 to 1,200 million Chinese and 
Russians [now 1,500 million] armed with nuclear weapons ... striding the 
Eurasian supercontinent like a colossus.

"The prospect is chilling and it is precisely this dreadful potential which 
has caused Americans to welcome Sino-Soviet hostility. The possibility of 
Sino-Soviet detente should not be overlooked because it is the sudden, the 
unexpected, the illogical, it-can't-happen events which change the course 
of world history." 

What role the US Government and its agencies played behind the scenes at 
this time in fanning this conflict has yet to be told. However, a war did 
not take place! It is not the purpose of this article to trace the tortuous 
course of events since 1969  the death of Mao Tse-tung and the then 
leaders of the Soviet Union, the victory of counter-revolution in the 
Soviet Union and the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the socialist 
states of eastern Europe engineered by Gorbachev and Yeltsin.

The more recent bombing of Yugoslavia and the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, 
the expansion of NATO eastwards and its decision to intervene anywhere in 
the world have all had their influence.

There have been many other events which bring us to the present time. 

It is ironic that the first Soviet leader to visit China after decades of 
hostility was Mikhail Gorbachev. His purpose in going to Beijing, however, 
was not to cement relations between two socialist states but to give the 
signal for counter-revolution there, just as visits by Gorbachev to 
Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic had been the signal for a 
counter-revolutionary risings in those countries.

Of course, at that time, it was called  "making a better socialism". 
However, the Chinese leaders did not fall for the Gorbachev line. They 
prevented the victory of the counter-revolutionary forces.

If counter revolution had been successful at that time, China would have 
been divided and its economy wrecked as has happened to the former Soviet 

For some years during the Yeltsin period, the foreign policy of the Russian 
Federation was completely pro-western but again, ironically, it was Yeltsin 
who, during a number of visits to Beijing and reciprocal visits by leaders 
of China to Moscow, began the historic warming and restoration of the 
friendly relations which had prevailed in the years immediately following 
the Chinese revolution of 1949.

There were meetings of leaders of the two countries in 1992 and 1994. In 
April 1996, the two governments signed a joint statement which announced 
their resolve "to develop a strategic partnership of equality, mutual 
confidence and mutual coordination towards the 21st century."

The statement said that a "multipolar world is developing" but that 
"hegemonism, power politics and repeated imposition of pressures on other 
countries have continued to occur ... world peace and development still 
face serious challenges."

Yeltsin visited Beijing again in 1998 and the "strategic partnership" was 

Boris Yeltsin resigned at the end of last year and Vladimir Putin was 
elected as President of Russia and has brought a noticeable increase in the 
foreign policy activity of the Russian leadership.

This month, on his way to a meeting of the G8 in Okinawa, President Putin 
not only visited Beijing but also spent two days in Pyongyang the capital 
of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) (North Korea)  the 
first such visit in decades.

Putin's visit to these countries has been made more urgent by the threat of 
the US to build the National Missile Defence (NMD) system, which has been 
strongly condemned by both the Russian and Chinese Governments.

In a joint statement the President Putin and PRC President Jiang Zemin 
said: "China and Russia, as strategic partners, will press ahead to 
strengthen their good-neighbourly friendship and expand cooperation so that 
the two countries will grow and prosper.

"The two countries will work together in the international arena to promote 
peace and stability in the world. Their relations will help strengthen 
state to state cooperation, the promotion of a multi-polar world and the 
building of a just and fair new international order.

"For this purpose the two countries will support in the international arena 
forces of peace, stability, development and cooperation, defy hegemonism, 
power politics and group politics, and oppose attempts to amend the basic 
principles of international law, to threaten others by force or to 
interfere in other countries' internal affairs."

There will be comprehensive development of economies, trade, scientific and 
technological and military-related technological cooperation as well as the 
development of people to people relations.

Friendship treaty

To build a long-term and stable relationship between the two countries the 
two Presidents agreed to conduct negotiations on the preparations for a 
China-Russia Good Neighbourly Friendship and Cooperation Treaty.

The announcement by the US of its preparations to build a NMD makes people 
"deeply worried" and both China and Russia declared that they are "firmly 
opposed to such a system".

The two heads of state signed a joint statement on the anti-ballistic 
missile issue.

They said that the 1972 ABM treaty "forms the basis of key international 
agreements on reduction and limitation of offensive strategic weaponry and 
prevention of proliferation of massive destructive weapons" and that it is 
of "vital importance to maintain and strictly observe the ABM treaty".

The damage wrought by the NMD will trigger a new arms race and lead to an 
about-face in the positive trend that appeared in the world after the end 
of the Cold War, said their joint statement.

They went on to say that the correct way to adapt to the new challenges in 
international security, safeguard world peace and protect the legitimate 
security interests of different countries is not to undermine the ABM 
treaty, but to push forward the establishment of a just and rational 
international new political order, abandon power politics and the random 
use of force in international affairs and strengthen regional and global 

The statement says that the "incorporation of Taiwan into any foreign 
missile defence system is unacceptable and will seriously undermine 
regional stability."

The Russian President reaffirmed Russia's stand that Taiwan is a part of 

Commenting on the discussions with President Putin, Jiang Zemin, said that 
China will work with Russia so that the two countries will always be "good 
friends, good neighbours and good partners".

This he said was in the interests of the peoples of the two countries and 
in the interests of world peace and stability. The partnership will also 
help push forward the process of the multi-polarisation of the world.

Jiang Zemin noted that Putin, after becoming President, had selected China 
as the first leg of his Asian tour. "We greatly appreciate that", said 

The "strategic relations" between the two countries is of great importance 
to safeguarding the global strategic "balance" and stability said the 
Chinese President.

On the United Nations they agreed to work together to maintain the 
authority and "leading role" of the UN Security Council and will oppose any 
attempts to amend the basic principles of international law.

Visit to North Korea

A treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation had already 
been signed between Russia and the DPRK in January.

In a joint statement made during Putin's visit to Pyongyang, the leaders of 
the two countries welcomed the efforts being made by the governments of 
both North and South Korea to settle the question of Korean reunification 
while "not allowing any outside interference in this process".

The statement said, "the present international realities prove the missile 
threat from some states cited as a pretext to justify their projected 
amendment to the ABM treaty to be totally groundless."

The DPRK stated that its missile program does not pose any threat to 
anybody but is purely peaceful in nature.

Cohen's visit to Australia

During his recent visit to Australia, US Defence Secretary William Cohen 
declared that the US "expected" Australia to support the NMD program and 
stated that the NMD was directed at North Korea, Iran and Iraq "and 

He did not name the "others" but such a world-wide program can only be 
directed at major powers and not at small powers which do not have the 
capacity to fire rockets at the US anyway.

In 1969, Harrison Salisbury saw good relations between Russia and China as 
"chilling" and claimed that it would be directed "specifically against the 

This was nonsense then and it is nonsense today. It is a reflection of the 
American habit of dividing the world into "good guys" and "bad guys"  the 
"bad guys" depending on whether they toe the American line or pursue an 
independent policy.

It is time for the US leadership to give up its drive to dominate every 
country in the world and contribute to disarmament and peace. The US should 
remember that others also have the technical and scientific know-how to 
make long-range weapons.

In opposing the new version of Star Wars, Vladimir Putin said it was not 
only a threat to Russia and China but to the United States as well.

Back to index page