Russian-Chinese relations in recent years have been characterized by an unprecedented level of trust and interaction. Moscow and Beijing act as a united front on most international problems, and this is not about passive support, but about the joint elaboration of political steps. Military-technical cooperation on the basis of 2011 and 2012. almost returned to the "golden age" of 1990-s with an annual volume of deliveries close to 2 billion dollars. Joint military maneuvers are becoming more ambitious and are characterized by increased levels of interaction.
The special nature of the relationship was convincingly demonstrated to the world during the visit of the newly elected Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow in March 2013. As was the case with Hu Jintao, Moscow became the first foreign capital that Xi visited as head of state. During his meetings with Putin, the special nature of bilateral relations was emphasized, and agreements were reached on a significant increase in Russian oil supplies to China. The decision was confirmed to conclude an agreement on the supply of Russian gas to China, which many experts were inclined to bury.
Xi visited the operational control center of the Russian Armed Forces and this step was primarily political and symbolic - no major supply deals. weapons during the visit was not discussed. Politically, Russia and China are not yet ready (and may not be ready) to declare a formal military alliance, but in the military and technical spheres basic conditions are demonstratively created for such an alliance through more complex and large-scale joint maneuvers and increased contacts between the military of the two countries.
Humanitarian contacts, ties between public organizations, and cooperation in the field of education are being strengthened. Officials of both countries agree that the “Chinese threat” is a myth that benefits mainly the United States. The leaders emphasize that their political relations are based on trust, and Moscow and Beijing will never perceive each other as enemies. The topic of possible threats from the PRC is one of the forbidden for public discussion by Russian officials.
At the same time, an analysis of the course of rearmament of the Armed Forces of Russia shows that the Eastern Military District is among the leaders in terms of the pace of arrival of new technology. The operational movement of troops from European Russia to the Far East is one of the main scenarios of large-scale maneuvers held in Russia. Most of the official reports of criminal cases on espionage published by the FSB concern China. Moscow explicitly restricts Chinese investment in certain strategic sectors of the economy. Obviously, all these precautionary measures are connected not with a direct, but only with a potential threat to the interests, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia from China. But even the hypothetical Chinese threat serves as a significant factor in Russian foreign and defense policy.
Past and future
Russia and China lack “heavy historical heritage ”, which would fuel mutual hostility. Along the Russian borders there is not a single large state with which the country has fought less in its history than with China.
Among the notable military episodes include the clashes of the Cossacks under the command of Erofei Khabarov and Onufrii Stepanov with the Manchus in the 50. XVII century., Two Chinese siege of the Far Eastern Russian fortress Albazin in 1685 and 1686 – 1687, as well as the unsuccessful attack of the vassal Qing Mongol dynasties on the Selenga prison in 1688 year. By the standards of the European theater of war, the scale of these battles, in which from the Russians every time several hundred people were involved, is negligible. Russian participation in the “intervention of the eight powers” in China during the uprising of the iXhetuan 1899 – 1901. It was more ambitious, but even here Russia was not the main aggressor.
We can recall the conflict on the CER in 1929 (probably the largest in the history of bilateral relations), on Damanskiy Island and at the lake Zhalanashkol. It’s hard to find two such major powers that have existed side by side for more than 300 years and fought so little. Russian-Chinese relations had their own dark and shameful pages, for example, the Blagoveshchensk Massacre (1900) and the extermination of Orthodox Albazinians in China during the Ihetiuan uprising. But Russia and China never had a full-scale war with dozens and hundreds of thousands of cities killed and obliterated.
The “unequal Russian-Chinese treaties”, which, according to the Chinese version, giant territories were rejected in favor of Russia, can be viewed as an element of internal political propaganda. Its pillar is the notion of a “century of shame” (1840 – 1949), when foreigners thwarted China with impunity. Of course, the main thing in the concept of a “century of shame” is not the personal composition of the offenders, but the fact that the “shame” stopped only with the coming of the communist party to power in the country.
On the contrary, Russian-Chinese interaction directed against the West has a long history. Back in 1858, Russia attempted to supply Beijing with a batch of modern weapons - rifles and artillery pieces - and was ready to send its advisers to teach them how to use them. It was supposed that, having re-armed, the Chinese would arrange a bloodbath for the British and the French, and thus Russia would repay them for their defeat in the Crimean War. The deal fell through only because of the political clumsiness of the Chinese emperor, who refused to ratify the Treaty of Aygun with Russia. In the future, Soviet Russia provided military assistance to the Kuomintang during the civil and Sino-Japanese war that began in 1937. Of course, all this was only a prelude to giant cooperation projects launched after the communists came to power in China.
The anti-Soviet campaign in China in the 1960 – 1970-ies, the successful creation of the image of the age-old enemy from our country during this period does not indicate the presence of deep historical grievances. On the contrary, this is an important reminder of how easily the PRC leadership manipulates public opinion, directing the accumulated charge of discontent and aggression of its choice, even if the enemy is yesterday's ally. Diligent, regular reminders of the “century of shame” and the increasing use of nationalistic motifs in state ideology create fertile ground for outbreaks of nationalism. Often they get out of control, and then the Chinese leadership itself is forced to follow their lead.
Harassment of Japanese business in China during the escalation of the dispute around the Senkaku Islands in 2012. Mass campaign against French department stores Carrefour in punishment for the French position on Tibet in 2008. Sanctions against Manila and periodically appearing in Chinese newspapers about the impending war with the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan. All this we are seeing from the side. But if the object of hatred is to make a weak and harmless country like the Philippines, no one is immune from this, and the only question is whether there is adequate political will.
Predict where the political will of Beijing will be directed at least in 10 years, no one can. China, like Russia, is a country with a transitional political system. This is officially recognized and enshrined in party documents; most of the program speeches contain a provision for imminent political reform. How will this reform develop and will it be able to keep it under control? China is in the midst of urbanization and demographic transition, like the countries of Europe of the late XIX - first half of the XX centuries. And in the same way, he suffers from the strongest economic and social inequalities, the gap in education and cultural level between the urban middle class and the lower classes. The situation is aggravated by a deep ideological crisis in which the ruling Communist Party of China remains, forced in its propaganda to increasingly rely on nationalism and great power.
For Europe, the first half of the 20th century was a time of turbulence, leading to zigzags in foreign policy and war. The Chinese government is aware of the threats to development and stability and is taking measures, but the current state of economics does not make it possible to evaluate their long-term success with any high probability. In just a few years, the situation may radically change, and the Chinese threat will become real. The confrontation with Russia does not make sense from the point of view of the long-term interests of China’s development - but it also did not make sense to confront the USSR during the Cold War, such a line was dictated by the ideas of Mao Zedong and his entourage. Russia can not ignore this possibility.
The military aspect of the problem
In the event of a collision with China, Russia, regardless of its military construction efforts, will initially be on the verge of defeat. In fact, the defense of Siberia and the Far East is fundamentally impossible without large-scale use of nuclear weapons, moreover, at an early stage of the hostilities.
On the world map, Siberia and the Russian Far East look almost as big as the rest of Asia. But if you look at population density, it is easy to see that the populated part of the region bordering China is a strip with a length of 3 thousand km and an average width of less than 200 kilometers. The territories to the north are unsuitable for large masses of the population and full-scale economic development. Defending a narrow and long strip of land is a difficult task in itself. But even in this zone, the population is rare, and the infrastructure is undeveloped. There are three main highways that cross its territory and connect the Far East with the rest of Russia - two railways (the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Baikal-Amur Railway) and one automobile - the Chita – Khabarovsk highway, completed with great difficulty only in the 2000s. At the same time, the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Chita – Khabarovsk highway on a number of sections pass in the immediate vicinity of the Chinese border and are vulnerable even to artillery fire from Chinese territory. The BAM, built at the cost of tremendous efforts at a relatively safe distance from the border, makes the Russian situation in the Far East somewhat more stable. But this highway with its many bridges and tunnels can be cut by blows aviation and cruise missiles.
An unfavorable geographical location and infrastructure weakness have always been the determining factors in Russian and Soviet military policy in the Far East. They played a key role in the fact that the Russian Empire, which surpassed Japan economically and militarily, possessed immeasurably greater resources, was defeated in the war of 1904-1905. Since the 1930s The USSR, which relied on military-industrial superiority over Japan, and subsequently on China, tried to compensate for the disadvantageous geography by constantly maintaining a powerful group in the Far East guaranteed to exceed the probable enemy in quantity (and, as a rule, quality) of heavy weapons, if not by the number of personnel. Even in the most tragic moments of World War II, when the fate of the country hung in the balance, the group in the Far East did not fall below the level of 1,1 million people, 2 thousand. tanks, 3,1 thousand aircraft and approximately 9 thousand artillery systems.
Soviet military construction in the Far East was subordinated to similar logic after the start of the confrontation with Beijing in the 1960s. Since 1965, the Soviet Union began to transfer divisions from the internal regions to the military districts bordering on the PRC; only the Trans-Baikal Military District in the second half of the 1960s - early 1970s. received 10 divisions, including three tank divisions. In 1990, the okrug had 260 thousand people, 3,1 thousand tanks, 3,9 thousand artillery systems, and about 200 helicopters. At the disposal of the Far Eastern Military District was approximately 370 thousand military personnel, 6 thousand tanks, 5,8 thousand guns and 300 helicopters. In terms of the number of heavy weapons systems, these two districts were comparable with the entire five millionth PLA of that period, far ahead of the potential enemy in the technical level of their weapons. A significant part of the forces of the Central Asian military districts, the Siberian military district and the Pacific was aimed at actions against China. fleet.
And with all this, as Lieutenant-General Vladimir Legominov, who served 14 for years in reconnaissance ZabVO, writes in his memoirs, “we understood that the possibilities of grouping our troops in case of a military conflict in a nuclear-free version were in no way comparable to those of the opposing parties. " The only, and, moreover, very ephemeral, chance for success of the Soviet troops in a nuclear-free conflict was a quick offensive to dissect, encircle, and defeat a numerically superior enemy before the Chinese could cut the Soviet group into parts. There could be no question of confidence in the success of this operation, especially given the fact that at the end of 1970-x - the beginning of 1980-x. Beijing has come to grips with the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons. At the same time, China accepted a reservation to the first non-use of nuclear weapons, according to which it could be used against an enemy invading Chinese territory.
The maintenance of a huge group of troops in Siberia and the Far East in parallel with the arms race in Europe was undoubtedly one of the essential factors of the military over-tension of the Soviet economy and the subsequent collapse of the USSR. Post-Soviet Russia could not hope to preserve the Soviet defense system of the Far East. At the same time, China has become one of the leading industrial powers in the world. The superiority in armaments, which the Soviet Union possessed in relation to the PRC, is currently unattainable for any country of the world, including the United States (if it is not a matter of exclusively sea confrontation). Today, the number of Russian ground forces is less than 300 thousand people, that is, less than 20% of the ground forces of the PLA and, unlike in the Soviet era, the Russian army has no advantage in firepower.
An additional factor that aggravated the military situation of Russia in the Far East was the sharp reduction in the cost and wide distribution of precision weapons. The extensive system of long-term fortifications, built for decades in that part of the country and giving the Soviet defense some stability, has lost its meaning. All Russian general-purpose forces make up a small part of what the USSR once had in the Far East. If the prospects for non-nuclear confrontation with the PRC raised questions in the 1980s, now the situation looks quite definite. That is why Russia went to the 1990-ies. to sign an agreement with China on the reduction and limitation of the number of troops in the border area.
In essence, the only non-nuclear trump card of Russia in the military confrontation with Beijing remains the Pacific Fleet. The technical capabilities of the Russian nuclear submarine fleet and the growing dependence of China on maritime trade theoretically give Russia a chance to inflict unacceptable economic damage on the PRC. Obviously, this will not help stop a potential Chinese offensive, but will raise the price of a possible solution to the conflict with Russia. It is noteworthy that the base of nuclear submarines in Vilyuchinsk (Kamchatka), which the General Staff offered to close as early as 2003 due to lack of funds, is being vigorously restored and developed from 2004. At the same time, infrastructure development works are under the personal control of Vladimir Putin, who visited the base several times. It is in Vilyuchinsk that in the future most of the new nuclear missile submarines of the 955 "Borey" project and the multi-purpose boats of the 885 "Ash" project should be based.
In general, the construction of Russian general-purpose forces is carried out with an explicit account of the threat of confrontation with the PRC. Formed in 2010 on the basis of the Pacific Fleet, the Far East and part of the Siberian military districts, the United Strategic Command "East" (Eastern Military District) became the largest group of forces and assets in the Armed Forces. Despite the friendly nature of relations between Moscow and Beijing, the district directly responsible for the defense of the Russian-Chinese border is not regarded as a strategic backwater. Here is an active process of military construction. It accounts for a significant portion of the new weapons entering the Russian army. For example, the District Air Force became the main recipient of the upgraded Su-27CM fighter aircraft that entered the 22 and 23 aircraft fighter regiments (Dzemgi and Central-Corner bases in Primorye). According to the statements of the Russian military leadership, the third regiment of the newest Russian anti-aircraft missile systems C-400 will be deployed in the Far East (the first two are responsible for the defense of Moscow). The district also received Su-30М2 fighters, Su-25СМ attack aircraft, Ka-52 attack helicopters, Mi-26 heavy transport helicopters and other equipment. In 2011 – 2012 more than 50% of samples of military equipment used by the air force and air defense of the district have been updated (replaced with new or upgraded). Annually, exercises are conducted to transfer forces to the Far East from the European part of Russia. Much attention is paid to improving the fleet of strategic military transport aircraft. Nonetheless, the maximum that Russian general-purpose forces can count on is a reflection of armed provocation modeled on the 1969 border Soviet-Chinese conflicts or somewhat larger.
The basis of Russian defense in relation to China is nuclear weapons, including tactical ones. The Chinese factor probably explains many aspects of Russian behavior in the field of control and reduction of strategic armaments. Russia does not intend to discuss with the United States anymore the reduction of strategic nuclear arsenals without the participation of other nuclear powers; it does not disclose the composition and is not going to reduce its tactical nuclear arsenal, while it is known that considerable funds are spent on its development. The Chinese factor seems to be related to the ideas expressed in the past by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov about Russia's withdrawal from the treaty on medium and short-range missiles.
It should be noted that many Russian fears against China are mirrored in response to Chinese fears. Russia is also a country with a transitional political system; extreme ideologies are strong in Russia and the theory of the “Chinese threat” enjoys considerable popularity. The transition of Russia to the camp of Western countries and its transformation into an ally of the United States will put Beijing in an extremely difficult and dangerous situation; long-term efforts to diversify the sources of supply of China with raw materials will be thwarted; Chinese investments in the CIS countries will be under threat. Despite the fact that Russia is unable to carry out an overland invasion of China, the military confrontation and the prospect of the appearance of American bases in Russia will require the PRC to make gigantic investments in air defense systems, warnings about a rocket attack, etc. strategic facilities. China will also be isolated in the international arena, where Moscow is its only significant ally on many important issues for Beijing.
Mutual fear and foreign policy
The consequences of a possible confrontation force Russia and China to take measures to avoid this scenario. The governments of the two countries are now consciously trying to create strong economic, political and humanitarian ties that will make the emergence of a conflict extremely unlikely and even impossible. These efforts are hampered by the reluctance of the parties to give up short-term economic interests. There is also a difference in the scale of the two economies, mutual distrust and a lack of understanding of the motives of the other side.
In the economic sphere, Russia is interested in relations of maximum interdependence, which should become an important stabilizing factor of political ties. The PRC fully supports the striving for the rapid growth of Russian-Chinese trade. In 2012, it reached 90 billion dollars and is expected to exceed 2013 billion dollars in 100. China is already Russia's largest trading partner if the European Union is not considered as a single economy. According to the results of 2012, the PRC share in the foreign trade turnover of Russia is slightly more than 10%, the share of Russia in the Chinese foreign trade turnover barely exceeds 2%. However, Russia is becoming an important supplier of certain types of commodities, and as China strives to diversify sources of imports of raw materials, Russia's share will grow. In addition to expanding the current agreement on oil imports to the end of 2013, a contract may be awarded to supply Russian gas to China. Coal is of growing interest to the Chinese; there are prospects for increasing exports of petroleum products and electricity. At the same time, in the medium term, the stabilizing role of the economy for bilateral relations will remain insignificant.
Politically, the parties seek to involve each other in a variety of formats and mechanisms of political interaction. These include joint participation in the SCO, cooperation in the BRICS, as well as a streamlined cooperation mechanism when discussing international issues in the UN, including holding regular inter-MFA consultations, coordinating positions before important ballots in the Security Council, etc.
China seeks, whenever possible, to remove Russian concerns about the possibility of rivalry in the post-Soviet space. The attempts made in the past by some countries, in particular Belarus, to use China as a counterweight to Russian influence were received coolly by Beijing. During the visit to China of the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, China essentially accepted the recognition of the post-Soviet space as a zone of Russian special interests, expressing in a joint document support for Moscow’s actions to ensure its core interests and security in the Caucasus and the CIS as a whole.
In the field of defense and security, in addition to large-scale military-technical cooperation, which in fact has recently returned to the level of 1990, the parties take numerous measures to strengthen mutual trust, including joint exercises, cooperation in the training of military personnel, exchange of intelligence information, etc. d. There is a deliberate effort to create a positive image of a partner in the eyes of its own public, while China has gone into these efforts, possibly further than Russia. Modern Russian culture is quite widely represented on Chinese television and radio; The Chinese media as a whole provide detailed and sympathetic information about the political and economic situation in Russia. Extensive plans for the development of Russian-Chinese relations exist in the field of education, science and technology. Although it will take years to create a truly solid material base of Russian-Chinese relations, and success is not guaranteed, at the moment the leaders of both countries intend to finish the job.
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The Chinese threat, for all its hypothetical nature, is one of the main factors determining Russian foreign policy and military construction. Russia's geographical position is such that the military-political confrontation with the PRC will have grave consequences, it is fraught with enormous risk, even if Moscow receives political support from Washington. Therefore, Russia is suspicious of any ideas about partnership with the United States in the Asia-Pacific region: such a partnership does not bring certain benefits (at least the United States is obviously not ready to offer Russia anything really attractive in the foreseeable future), but is associated with gigantic and immediate risk to the future state.
The special nature of relations with China means that Russia is not interested in principle, even in the simple designation of its role in regional disputes between the PRC and other countries. Moscow does not want to find itself in a forced choice between special political relations with Beijing and the preservation of mutually beneficial economic cooperation with its neighbors. Given the long-term uncertainty regarding the future of China, Russia still cannot rule out the transition of the Chinese threat to the real category. Because of this, Russia needs to maintain effective channels of communication and interaction with the United States and American allies in the APR, which could be activated if necessary.
Russia's attitude to today's China and its place in the world was formulated by Vladimir Putin in an interview with three federal channels 17 of October 2011 of the year. Responding to a question about the reality of the Chinese threat, Putin said that the aspirations of China are not the natural resources of the adjacent territories, but world leadership, and "here we are not going to argue with China." “China has other competitors here. So let them understand each other, ”Putin said. He also noted that they are trying to frighten Russia with the Chinese threat, "as a rule, our Western partners." Russia seeks to acquire reliable guarantees of its own security in the Chinese direction and, at the same time, to avoid full-fledged involvement in the growing US-China rivalry, reaping all the benefits laid in this case to a third party. A similar position in international relations in 1970 – 1980-ies. China itself occupied, and it was precisely the skilful use of this position by Beijing that became the most important basic condition for a subsequent spurt in the development of the country.