By The Jamestown Foundation
April 24, 1997 Anno Domini
A long anticipated “summit” meeting between Russian president Boris Yeltsin and Chinese leader Jiang Zemin concluded yesterday, as expected, with the issuance of a joint declaration on a “multi-polar world and the formation of a new international order.” The document reiterates the commitment of Moscow and Beijing to a long-term strategic partnership and formalizes their intention to work jointly in the creation of a Post-Cold War world order. It calls, among other things, for that world order to be based on a respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity, on non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, and on the peaceful resolution of international disputes. The declaration also calls for a strengthening of the role of the United Nations and its Security Council, and describes the CIS “as an important factor of stability and development in Eurasia.” In a thinly-veiled swipe at the U.S. and NATO, the document condemns what it suggests are hegemonic efforts to “monopolize international affairs” as well as efforts to create military blocs. (Itar-Tass, April 23)
In comments to reporters, Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky described the joint statement — and yesterday’s talks in general — as a “breakthrough” in Russia’s Asia policy. He also suggested that it reflected the Kremlin’s successful efforts to build a diplomatic “triangle” in that part of the world — consisting of Russia, China, and India. (Moscow has also labored to rebuild relations with New Delhi, and Indian prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda visited Russia last month) In his own remarks to the press, Boris Yeltsin said that the two leaders had discussed more than 20 issues. Interestingly, Yeltsin chose to highlight military-technical cooperation between Russia and China, suggesting, without elaboration, that he and Jiang had resolved a number of problems in that area by “pushing aside” the objections of their respective defense ministers. In an indication that the two sides intend to maintain their current diplomatic momentum, they also announced yesterday that Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will visit Beijing in June, while Yeltsin will follow him to the Chinese capital sometime this Autumn. (Interfax, Reuter, April 23)
Although Moscow has made little effort to hide its belief that improved relations with China serve as a counter-stroke to NATO’s planned enlargement, Yastrzhembsky yesterday denied that the Russian-Chinese partnership should be viewed in that light, and he described as “defective and counterproductive” proposals aimed at setting up a counter-bloc to NATO. (Interfax, April 23) In remarks to the Russian Duma, Jiang was perhaps more explicit. He emphasized that the Russian-Chinese relationship “is not an alliance” and said it consists of nothing more than “friendship and cooperation.” (Kyodo, April 23) Such remarks illustrate the fact that, despite the friendly rhetoric, relations between Russia and China are inherently constrained by their rival regional interests. And, although each views with some alarm the emergence of the U.S. as the world’s only superpower, neither is willing to embrace the other to a degree that might risk rupturing relations — particularly lucrative economic ties — with Washington and the West.