Historical enmity makes Russia-China alliance impossible

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping

Russia-China Treaty Alliance Failed to End Historical Enmity

Over the past two centuries, China and Russia were seldom good neighbors except in the decade from February 1950 when they were allies under a treaty of alliance totalled “The Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance” between Russia’s predecessor the Soviet Union and China.

The treaty has a term of 30 years but not the friendship or alliance. The alliance between China and the Soviet Union could not last so long. Soon, their traditional enmity prevailed. They broke up within one decade.

Breakup of Rider and Horse Alliance

Perhaps, it was just as Stephen Blank, a senior fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council, points out, “every alliance has a horse and a rider.” In the 1950s, the Soviet Union had to be the rider as it was much richer and stronger than China. However, China did not want to remain Soviet Union’s horse when it had grown stronger. It wanted to be the rider too. It began to strive to grab from the Soviet Union the leadership of their socialist camp. Their alliance seemed to remain in supporting Vietnam in its war with the US. They both gave Vietnam generous aids while China even sent troops to help Vietnam with its air defense.

Only when the conflict between China and the Soviet Union worsened into a border war could the US be benefited from the breakup of their alliance. The Soviet Union deployed tanks along Chinese border. To hinder Soviet tanks’ advance, China dug canals parallel to its border.

There was large-scale construction of tunnels as air-raid shelters in China. Mao, the Chinese autocrat with military talents, adopted Sun Tzu’s strategy to subdue the enemy with diplomacy. He took the initiative to improve ties with the US. Scared by a possible alliance between the US and China, the Soviet Union agreed to ease tension along its border with China. In addition, it began to improve its relations with the US. There were détente and nuclear disarmament as a result.

How can the two long-term enemies Russia and China become close allies? Perhaps, historic enmity can be disregarded for future benefit. The alliance of Germany and France in establishing the EU is a good example. They are able to do so as they have learnt from the lessons of two disastrous world wars. However, the border disputes between China and Russia were much more serious than those between Germany and France.

Border Disputes between China and Russia

Chinese people know from history that in the past under Russian threat, China ceded 2 million square kilometers of land to Russia, but perhaps they do not know China has lost more. I was fond of reading maps when I was very young. In the old map before communist takeover in 1949, there were two Mongolia provinces in China, one Inner and the other Outer Mongolia. Later, in the new map published after communist takeover, China’s Outer Mongolia Province became Mongolian People’s Republic, an independent country.

Puzzled by that, I asked older people. They told me that Russia and later its successor the Soviet Union had tried hard to split Outer Mongolia from China, made it declare independence in 1921 and turned it into Soviet Union’s satellite state, but China did not recognize its independence until the Chinese and Soviet communists became allies in the 1950s.

Therefore, Russia certainly is on its alert when China grows strong for fear that China may start a war to recover the land ceded to Russia and take Mongolia back as a part of China.

In addition there are conflicts of interests between Russia and China, which will be described in my next post.

Source: Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements – Historical Enmity Makes Russia-China Alliance Impossible

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