Russia and China an Approaching Conflict?

By Bolton, K. R. | The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Russia and China an Approaching Conflict?


Bolton, K. R., The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies


The seeming rapport in recent years between Russia and China is one of the foundations of the post-Cold War world. Yet Russo-China friendship is an aberration of history. This article examines whether the Sino-Russian accord is based on secure and enduring foundations, or whether it is a very temporary alliance of convenience that will erupt sooner rather than later into conflict and expanding conflagration throughout Asia. China's past inclination to resort to invasion backgrounds the current suspicion between the two newfound "friends" amidst China's growing incursions into traditional Russian spheres of influences and even into the Russian Far East. Scenarios for future conflict are examined, particularly possible contentions over water resources. Reference is also made to recent relations between China and the USA.

Key Words: Russia, China, Russo-China relationship, China-USA relationship, Russian Far East, Asian water resources, Sino-Soviet discord, 1950 Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, China's territorial ambitions, 1979 Chinese invasion of Vietnam, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Primorsky Krai, Mongolia

One of the primary geo-political shifts in recent years has been the rapport that has seemingly developed between two historic enemies, Russia and China. Discord between the two powers goes back to the centuries-long duration of the Mongol occupation of Russian territory, and subsequent annexation of Chinese territory by Imperial Russia. This historic conflict was not mitigated by the triumph of Communism in China, despite the proclaimed aim of world proletarian solidarity.

However, in recent years Russia and China have developed trade and diplomatic relations. Most significantly, Russia has been China's main supplier of arms (followed by Israel). Chinese and Russian leaders have sought accord in the face of what they consider US global hegemony following the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

It is the thesis of this paper that the accord between Russia and China will not hold, any more than the "fraternal relations" between the two when both were nominally "Communist". The author believes there will eventually be conflict between Russia and China over land and resources. As shown in other articles, Asia is replete with potential crises over land and resources, many of which could erupt into regional conflagration .

In the 1960s, when Chinese "Communists" dissolved their "fraternal relations" with the USSR and resorted to the old ethnic rivalries, American journalist Harrison Salisbury wrote a prophetic book on geopolitics The Coming War Between Russia & China.2 Salisbury's predictions seem to have been proven wrong in recent years with the new Sino-Russian accord, yet developments now indicate that his predictions are unfolding, and precisely at the time he foretold they would - the 2 P1 Century. Now another book, although not subscribing to the expectation of a war, is being published that nonetheless shows the rising tensions. It is Russia and China; Axis of Convenience: Moscow, Beijing and the New Geopolitics, by diplomat Bobo Lo.3

Salisbury's Thesis

The present writer has long held that a Russo-Chinese accord would not hold, but rather there would be conflict with the possibility of war. I wrote in 1983:

The split between Russia and China over Communist ideology is a mere façade, and practically irrelevant. The real split is historically and racially based. We can trace the Russo-Chinese split back to 1229 when the Mongol 'Golden Horde' of Genghis Khan invaded Russia. The Mongols ruled Russia for 250 years. Even as late as the 18lh C. Mongols still ruled the Lower Volga and the Crimea. This centuries- long Mongol rule has resulted in an ingrained... fear of Eastern conquest.4

Harrison Salisbury says that Russians don't differentiate among Asians, considering the Mongol invaders of six centuries ago the same as the hundreds of millions of Chinese whom the Russian sees as poised to strike again. …

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