China tilts to Russia to counter Uncle Sam
Taipei Times | July 14, 2005
By Wang Kun-yi
Last week, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a "China-Russia Joint Statement on the 21st Century World Order." With this, China is returning to a strategy of depending on a single ally. But the deeper significance of this statement is that it contributes to China's emerging strategy of unilateral threats, a bilateral defense and multilateral solutions to problems it sees in the international situation.
The single-ally strategy was chosen by Mao Zedong (毛澤東) after the Korean war, when China joined hands with the Soviet Union to counter the US threat by making all of China's defenses and development dependent on the Soviet Union. After the Sino-Soviet split in the 1960s, Mao drew a line between China and the Soviet Union. In the late 1960s and 1970s China turned toward a "one line of defense" and a "one great defense area" strategy.
Mao felt that to stop Soviet hegemony from spreading across the globe, China should help build a global "front line" alliance with Japan, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the US, and also unite the surrounding countries in one "defense area."
After 1982, China no longer emphasized this anti-Soviet alliance. Instead, it adopted a strategy of keeping the US and the Soviet Union at an equal distance.
In the 1990s, following the end of the Cold War, China adopted another strategic direction in its pursuit of a Great Nation strategy -- the circle, line, area and point approach. The circle meant building friendly relations with the surrounding countries, the line meant taking a friendly approach toward the line of nations willing to assist China's development through financial and technical assistance, the area meant the area that would share in China's prosperity when its economy is fully developed, and the point meant the competitive and cooperative relationship China is forced to maintain with the US following its post-Cold War rise to unipolar hegemony.
Against the backdrop of this Chinese strategy, the US and Japan held a security meeting in February this year during which the two nations identified security in the Taiwan Strait as a joint strategic concern. The reaffirmation by the US and Japan of their military alliance made China feel a new urgency to counter the US threat.
Hu then returned to Mao's strategy of depending on a single ally, as if that is once again the only way to handle US threats. To deal with the unilateral threat posed by the US, Hu chose to embrace Russia and build a closer strategic partnership between the two nations. Last week's statement firmly established an anti-US bilateral defensive relationship.
In addition to repeating the two countries' opposition to the US' invasion of Iraq, China and Russia's joint statement also recognizes that the recent theoretical developments relating to the UN system have introduced concepts such as global governance, global democracy, comprehensive security and world citizenship.
Given the strengthening and reform envisioned for the UN, the organization stands a greater chance of providing multilateral solutions to global conflicts. China's decision to pin its hopes on the UN to help resolve potential conflict between China and the US is therefore dictated by necessity.
History shows that China has never gained any advantage by allying with Russia. This time around, China has already experienced setbacks, by making big concessions on Sino-Russian border issues. It will be interesting to see if Hu will lose even more when China moves closer to Russia to oppose the US.