Chinese Arms Transfers: Purposes, Patterns, and Prospects in the New World Order

By R. Bates Gill | Go to book overview

Introduction
Independence and Regional Influence

As the 1980s progressed, a number of observers pointed out that the PRC began to take a more "optimistic" view of the Soviet expansionist policy. Beijing saw that the Soviet Union was destined to fail in its bid for strategic dominance due both to the concerted united front strategy by "peaceloving" nations worldwide to defeat Moscow-led hegemony and to the inherent weaknesses of the Soviet Union, particularly in the economic realm. But while the Chinese took on a more long-term approach, the "'conservative approach' to grand strategy," 1 It remained clear that until the ascension of Gorbachev in 1985, Sino-Soviet relations were strained at best, particularly in the foreign policy and security arenas. 2 Eventually, even the more open policies of Gorbachev would be vilified and condemned by hard-liners in Beijing as being dangerous and inherently menacing to Chinese Communist policy, particularly in that they led to the highly destabilizing disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Throughout the 1980s, the major security problems for the Chinese remained the "three obstacles," Moscow-supported threats around the Chinese periphery symbolic of the Soviet encirclement strategy. The three obstacles were the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and Soviet troops massed on the Sino-Soviet and Sino-Mongolian border. Under the leadership of Gorbachev, the Soviet Union worked to remove these obstacles to normalized Sino-Soviet relations, and Gorbachev himself made a highly publicized visit to Beijing in 1989, the first visit by a Soviet leader to China in 30 years. But in spite of vast improvements in Sino-Soviet relations, and the apparent easing

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