Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Long-term strategic partners

By Tao Wenzhao (China Daily) Updated: 2011-06-22 07:54

Long-term strategic partners

Common interests in meeting global and regional challenges have brought China and Russia even closer together

The strategic cooperative partnership between Beijing and Moscow has made great headway over the past decade since the signing of the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation between the two countries in 2001. The flourishing relationship has brought both peoples tangible benefits and has made huge contributions to peace and stability in the region and the world as a whole.

China and Russia enjoy an extremely important position on each other's diplomatic chessboard. The two countries share a 4,300-kilometer border and are important neighbors. For China in particular, a peaceful surrounding environment is out of the question unless there is a good relationship with Moscow, as indicated by the painful lessons learnt from the bilateral ties during the 1960s and 1970s.

After 1949, ties between China and the then Soviet Union experienced ups and downs, with the honeymoon and alliance followed by setbacks and confrontation. The two neighbors even had a head-on bloody military skirmish during the late 1960s.

The history of China-Soviet relations shows that the building of mutual trust is particularly important to the two countries. Learning from their past lessons, the two countries signed the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation, in which they agreed to "generations-long friendship" and "never to be foes" as the core principles of bilateral ties. They also agreed to build a strategic cooperative partnership on an equal footing as the basis of Sino-Russian relations. All these have played a critical role in helping enhance mutual political trust.

China and Russia mutually support each other's efforts to maintain sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia is the only major country in the world that throws its weight behind the Chinese mainland's efforts for peaceful reunification with Taiwan, in contrast to the United States, the European Union and Japan that oppose any change to the status quo. Similarly, China also shares Russia's stance on the Chechen issue. Such mutual support over the past decade has consolidated their strategic trust and strengthened the foundation of bilateral relations.

Bilateral cooperation on regional and international issues is an important part of the strategic cooperative partnership between China and Russia. Sharing the same or similar stances on a wide range of international issues, both countries advocate democratization of international politics and the establishment of an equitable and reasonable new international political and economic order.

And they have deepened their cooperation in areas such as anti-terrorism, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. When tensions on the Korean Peninsula escalated and the two Koreas played brinkmanship in late 2010, China kept in close contact with Russia and they jointly declared that they strongly advocated peace and dialogue as the only way to resolve the Peninsula issue. This shared stance played an important role in preventing the situation from escalating.

The increasing number of common challenges facing the world in recent years has led to calls for better global governance. Emerging economies, represented by the BRICS countries, are expected to have a far-reaching influence on this process. China and Russia are both members of BRICS and the G20 and their participation and cooperation will effectively push forward changes to the existing bias in favor of developed countries.

China and Russia are highly complementary economically and there is great scope to further tap the bilateral economic and trade potential. In 2010, bilateral trade volumes reached $60 billion, up from $8 billion in 2000. As mutually important trading partners, China and Russia have conducted fruitful cooperation in energy and are yet to fully tap their potential in this field.

China is the world's largest trading nation and its total trade volumes totaled nearly $3 trillion in 2010. Compared with its trade with the US and the EU, which both exceeded $300 billion, China's trade value with Russia is yet to be boosted. The two countries can not only expand their cooperation in oil and natural gas, but also enjoy space for expanded cooperation in new energy, finance and airspace.

Russia can learn from China's experiences in its efforts to become a member of the World Trade Organization.

During President Hu Jintao's recent visit to Russia, both leaders stressed their common wishes for expanded economic and trade cooperation, which will surely push bilateral cooperation to a higher level in the years ahead.

The author is a senior research scholar with the Center for US-China Relations at Tsinghua University.

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