Saturday, December 31, 2016

Check the Expiration Date of This Special Relationship

This is an interesting overview of Russian-Chinese cooperation. Do the "headwinds" that interfere with cooperation reach gale force in 2021?

China’s and Russia’s strategies for international expansion, in each of their respective areas of policy specialization, are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Arguably, both countries’ intensified involvement on the world stage is not only complementary but to a growing extent directly and indirectly supportive of each other’s increasingly commonly-defined interests.

The growing international significance of China and Russia’s key political and economic partnership must be considered a major factor in global policymaking going forward.

I thought much of the post-Crimea deals were more impressive on paper than in reality, but perhaps that is old information.

My worry is that China and Russia have a deal, where China bolsters Russia in the face of Western condemnation of the takeover of Ukraine's Crimea and parts of the Donbas; in exchange for future Russian support to bolster China in the face of opposition to a Chinese takeover of Taiwan (or maybe some lesser objective in the South China Sea or East China Sea).

There are potential "headwinds":

Possibly the most serious undermining of the China-Russia relationship could come from its very success. As both countries integrate more quickly and as migration flows expand, there is likely to be mounting concern in Russia of a “Chinese takeover” of the sparsely-populated Russian Far East and other regions of Siberia.

Did Russia and China really settle all outstanding border issues in 2005, as the article states, given the above "headwind?"

Is Russia really interested in bolstering China too much given the fear of a "Chinese takeover" that simmers in the background?

Because my understanding is that a 2001 agreement merely suspended border issues for the length of that treaty--20 years.

Huh. I recently looked at the treaty on a Chinese foreign ministry site ( that the Wikipedia article cited, but the link is now dead and searching for the treaty on the Chinese foreign ministry got me nothing. (Really nothing if my Windows Defender scan after visiting that site is to be trusted.)

Ah, only the address changed. So I can suspend my naturally suspicious mind:

The contracting parties point out with satisfaction that each has no territorial claim on the other and both are resolved to make active efforts in building the border between the two countries into one where ever-lasting peace and friendship prevail. The contracting parties will adhere to the principles of non-encroachment upon territories and national boundaries as stipulated in international laws and strictly observe the national boundary between the two countries.

The contracting parties shall continue to hold talks on the pending boundary alignment of the sectors which China and Russia have not yet arrived at an agreement through consultations. Prior to the settlement of these issues, the two sides will maintain the status quo in such boundary sectors.

That sounds all nice. But:

The term of validity of the present treaty is twenty years. If neither side of the contracting parties notify the other in writing of its desire to terminate the treaty one year before the treaty expires, the treaty shall automatically be extended for another five years and shall thereafter be continued in force in accordance with this provision.

So does that nice sounding satisfaction with the border go away with the end of the term of validity? That's what I assume.

There may be no outstanding border issues right now, but what about when the 2001 treaty expires and those border claims are no longer suspended?

Doesn't the mere fact of a 2005 agreement that adjusts the border admit that there are indeed territorial claims notwithstanding the 20-year suspension?

And as for my worries regarding Chinese territorial ambitions, note this provision of the 2001 treaty:

The Chinese side supports the Russian side in its policies on the issue of defending the national unity and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.

The Russian side supports the Chinese side in its policies on the issue of defending the national unity and territorial integrity of the People's Republic of China.

China has an expansive and ever-expanding definition of what their territorial integrity includes.

What happens when China insists that large chunks of Russia's Far East taken from China are part of China's national unity and territorial integrity?

I mean, what happens other than Russia regretting their pointless stoking of tensions with NATO that had been content to leave Russia alone.