China, the United States, and the Soviet Union: Tripolarity and Policy Making in the Cold War

By Robert S. Ross | Go to book overview
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ing increasingly complementary to that of China. The policy changes included a steady expansion of contacts and trade with South Korea and pressure on North Korea for economic reform and for dialogue with the leadership in the South. 69 The process took a major step forward with the establishment of diplomatic relations with Seoul on September 30, 1990, a measure that went beyond China's policy and made the Soviet Union the only one of the four major powers in the region to have diplomatic relations with both North Korea and South Korea.

The Chinese leadership was no less upset than the North Korean leadership about the changes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, but its loud denunciations of the policies of Soviet and East European leaders had little impact. Even China chose to expand its trade delegation in Seoul within a month of the Soviet action, though it refrained from following the Soviets on the issue of formal diplomatic ties with the South. North Korea found itself unable to use the familiar ploy of the past, playing her giant neighbors against one another to secure concessions from both and to protect an independent policy. China, meanwhile, was temporarily confronted with a policy that gave the Soviets greater influence in the whole of the Korean peninsula than they had enjoyed at any time since the Korean War.


Conclusion: Prospects for Sino-Russian Relations after the Cold War

The failed coup of August 1991 and the subsequent rapid dismantling both of Communist power and of the Soviet Union seemed at first to pose major challenges for Sino-Russian relations. Formerly sharing an enormously long border with the Soviet Union and its Mongolian satellite, China now had much shorter Far Eastern borders with a multitude of new states--the Russian Federation, an independent Mongolia, and three Muslim successor states--Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, and Tadzhikistan. None of these new neighbors were now Communist.

On a late 1991 trip to Xinjiang, Vice-President Wang Zhen anxiously urged his countrymen to "form a steel wall to safeguard socialism and the unification of the motherland." 70 With the end of party dictatorship and socialist economy in the successor states, including the Russian "homeland of the October Revolution," the task of defending similar institutions in China would certainly not be any easier. Nor would the defense of national unity against attacks by subject nations, especially with the appearance of independent Muslim republics across the border, whose example encouraged dreams of independence in Tibet and Xinjiang.

But ideological differences between China and the new Russia (and the Commonwealth of Independent States [CIS]) did not necessitate a new phase of conflict. The most suitable basis of future Russian policy was outlined by a Russian analyst in December 1991: "Relations with China cannot be approached as a mechanical continuation of the previous process of developing Soviet-Chinese cooperation, because relations betwen Russia and the People's

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