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Common Interests Bring China And Russia Together

Is it in the interests of Russia and China to create a military or political alliance against the United States, for example? It certainly is not. Even though they rarely openly admit it, for both countries their relations with the United States - be they good or rather lukewarm - are more important than their relations with each other.

Moscow (UPI) Aug 25, 2005
The first joint military exercises between the Russian Federation and China end Thursday with a truly impressive scenario: Terrorists who have seized the Shandong peninsular will face an amphibious landing, and will then be decisively isolated by an airborne assault.

Then there will be a classic peacekeeping mission under the aegis of the United Nations, including separation of the warring sides and monitoring of the former conflict zone by helicopters and fighter planes.

International war games are similar to pipelines: the geopolitical structures that are built around them make the projects themselves pale into insignificance.

The first (at least in this century) Sino-Russian military exercises on the Shandong peninsular have been unprecedented both in scale (10,000 servicemen, ships and submarines, long-range aviation), and in terms of the audacity of the responses of the world media.

However, what is most surprising is that up until now these two neighbors had not carried out such large-scale maneuvers. The two neighbors share a 4,300-km border, and military ties between the countries have been expanding.

An attentive reader of the Chinese daily Renmin Ribao might have noticed that in the last three years China conducted joint military exercises with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan, and also with Russia in Central Asia.

It conducted joint naval exercises with Pakistan, India, and France (the exercises with France were held on the shores of the Shandong peninsular). Then it held exercises with Britain, and then with Pakistan again near Xinjiang on the border with Tajikistan, and then finally once more with India in the mountainous regions of Tibet.

At some of the exercises foreign observers were present. According to Chinese reports, in the last three years China has held 12 joint exercises of varying scales. Clearly, Russia is far from being an exclusive partner.

If we turn to politics, it is worth revisiting some of the facts about Sino-Russian relations.

In the next two or three decades China will become the world's leading economic power. Accordingly, China will then become the world's most influential military and political power. Will this benefit Russia? Undoubtedly, it will, because in real terms the trend of China's ascension means that for a number of decades there will be several more or less equal centers of economic and political power: China, India, the United States, and the European Union.

This will give other nations the opportunity to accelerate their own rates of growth, taking advantage of the leaders' escalating rivalry. If any single state were dominant for a prolonged period of time, every other country would have to fight to overcome its dictates (intentional or not), which would extend virtually everywhere.

Further, is it in Russia's interests that it is China, and then India, that become the world leaders? Again, it most certainly is, because the political culture and philosophy of these two countries coincide with those of the overwhelming majority of Russians, and this is not going to change in the foreseeable future.

We share the views of Beijing and Delhi on what is permissible and what is not in the world arena. This does not mean that tensions could not arise, but it is still a significant fact.

On the other hand, the theoretical possibility that China (or any other country, for that matter) could then become so powerful that it leaves its rivals far behind, is not something to be welcomed by Russia. But such a problem will not arise until the late 21st century, at the earliest.

Does Russia stand to gain from the instability in China's western regions in which non-governmental organizations based in Central Asia are trying to stage "color revolutions?" The answer is definitely not. It is better to have a neighbor that is prosperous and content than a neighbor that is poverty-stricken and resentful. Both China and Russia learned this lesson from one another, first in the 1960s and 1970s, and then in the 1990s.

Is it in the interests of Russia and China to create a military or political alliance against the United States, for example? It certainly is not. Even though they rarely openly admit it, for both countries their relations with the United States - be they good or rather lukewarm - are more important than their relations with each other.

For China the United States is a crucial trade partner: Bilateral trade has reached $170 billion a year. In addition, up to 70 percent of China's currency reserves, which total $660 billion, are invested in U.S. Treasury bonds.

This mutual dependence goes even further to ensuring that Sino-American relations are peaceful than does China's comparatively low military spending: China says its military expenditure is just 6 percent of that of the United States, while American experts say it is 20 percent.

Do Russia and China stand to gain from developing bilateral trade and economic relations? They undoubtedly do, in particular because it is China, rather than Japan or South Korea, that will become the main trade partner for Siberia and the Far East.

Furthermore, China needs access to the raw materials and markets of both Russia and Central Asia. This is a somewhat complex model of cooperation, and one that could be improved only through skilful negotiations.

In the meantime, it is pointless trying to guess what lies behind the Sino-Russian war games scenario, and in what way coastal military exercises relate to the threat that Central Asia poses to both Russia and China. The current exercises are not an isolated episode, but part of a process that is just beginning.

(Dmitry Kosyrev is a political commentator for RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of the RIA Novosti news agency)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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First China-Russia War Games End But Future Drills Mulled
Beijing (AFP) Aug 25, 2005
Elite soldiers from China and Russia staged a mock airborne attack Thursday as unprecedented joint military exercises wrapped up amid suggestions that they would not be the last, state media reported.

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