When the new US ambassador arrives in Beijing this week to begin
guiding US-China ties into the 21st century, he might feel as if he
is moving ahead into the past - to a 1950s world where Washington
faced a formidable Sino-Soviet axis.
Ambassador Joseph Prueher will be forced to wait for an audience
with China's top leaders while Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin
holds a two-day summit with Russian President Boris Yeltsin. The
Chinese and Russian leaders are expected to discuss weapons
transfers and other measures aimed at containing the globe's sole
"The Russian-Chinese strategic partnership is growing closer,"
says June Treufel Dreyer, an expert on the Chinese military at the
University of Miami.
Growing arms sales from Moscow to Beijing "could be matched by
joint military maneuvers and mutual troop withdrawals from the
Chinese-Russian border," adds Professor Dreyer.
Beijing has already voiced support for Russia's military campaign
in Chechnya, and Yeltsin is trying to form a united front against
potential Western intervention in either country's ethnic conflicts.
US military superiority since the breakup of the Soviet Union
nearly a decade ago, along with Washington's increasing willingness
to use that power to solve ethnic or human rights problems within
other nations, is alarming Russia and China.
Resisting West's interference
"The expansion of NATO toward Russia's borders and the attack on
Yugoslavia on so-called humanitarian grounds are pushing Russia and
China closer together," says Yan Xuetong, a scholar at the Chinese
Institute for Contemporary International Studies.
Military officials here warn that Washington's criticism of the
Chechnya campaign could portend its interference in Russia or
China's drive to crush pro-independence movements.
In response, China and Russia seem to be moving toward a quasi-
alliance to check Washington, say defense analysts in all three
Russia has already sold or agreed to sell China approximately 90
SU-27 jetfighters, destroyers equipped with Sunburn missiles, 4 kilo-
class submarines, and 30 to 50 advanced SU-30 aircraft, says Dreyer.
The US has banned arms transfers to China since the Army crushed
massive pro-democracy protests in Beijing in 1989, but "those
sanctions create the impression here that the US defense
establishment is hostile toward China," says scholar Yan.
Moscow is in the middle of a battle against Chechen rebels, while
Beijing is facing its own potential insurrection by Muslim
guerrillas in northwest China. Both are apprehensive that a US-led
military coalition could one day intervene to protect out-gunned
ethnic minorities in Chechnya or Xinjiang, just as NATO did in
Vladimir Zakharov, a spokesman at the Russian Embassy in Beijing,
says one of the main purposes of the Yeltsin-Jiang summit "is to
discuss Chechnya and the struggle against international terrorism.
Like Russia, China is very serious about fighting religious-
inspired separatist movements."
While the West has condemned Russia's scorched-earth assault on
Chechnya, China's foreign ministry yesterday said it "supports
Russian efforts to maintain its national unification and territorial