China’s leadership and strategy appear to be driven by extensive calculations regarding the country’s border-bargaining strategies with neighboring countries. Larger claims are advanced in order to gain bargaining power in order to reach a more realistic settlement that protects China’s interests.
On May 16, 1991, the Soviet-Chinese border agreement in the eastern sector was signed. The issue of a couple of disputed border islands, on which no agreement could be reached, was deferred for future discussions. On September 3, 1994, the agreement for the western sector of the border was signed. The two countries formally announced the resolution of their 30-year-old border dispute in December 1999.
Along with the Sino-Russian border, steady progress has been made in resolving border disputes between China and the Central Asian Republics.
Aside from relatively minor territorial gains, the principal benefit enjoyed by China from the border settlement with Russia was the acquisition of guaranteed and treaty-bound equal access to the use of border rivers for all purposes.
Through a policy of simultaneous engagement and containment, India can hope to secure its interests in boundary negotiations with China.
Not long ago, the Sino-Soviet and Sino-Indian borders were hotly contested, resulting in armed conflicts and bloody clashes such as the Sino-Indian military conflict of 1962 and the Sino-Soviet armed conflict of March 1969 over the Ussuri river island of Damansky. However, since a May 1991 agreement on the eastern section of the border – when the Soviet Union was still present – Moscow and Beijing have made significant progress toward resolving their boundary dispute.
In 1993, India and China reached an agreement on the maintenance of peace along the Line of Actual Control. In December 1996, they reached an agreement on confidence-building measures in the military field along the Line of Actual Control. However, India and China have yet to resolve their border dispute i.e. to demarcate the border on the ground and to sign a firm and final border treaty.
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Without a doubt, the trajectory of Sino-Russian relations in general, as well as the final resolution of the two countries’ boundary dispute, are important for India.
Since its founding in 1949, the People’s Republic of China appears to have developed a well-thought-out long-term strategy for border issues with neighbouring countries. In the case of large and powerful neighbours such as Russia and India, the boundary dispute has been inextricably linked with larger political and strategic considerations.
As a result, the boundary dispute was heightened at specific points in time to serve China’s larger political objectives. At other times, in accordance with changing policy requirements and compulsions, China has taken a more conciliatory stance on the border issue. Despite the ups and downs, China has steadfastly insisted on a favourable border alignment that is also realistically achievable.
The roots of the Sino-Russian border dispute, in fact, lay in their opposing historical interpretations.
During the formation and expansion of their respective empires, the Tsarist Russian empire and the Chinese empire came into contact in the Far East and Central Asia.
The Chinese claim that the Russian empire was basically a European empire that expanded in the Far East and Central Asia starting in the 17th century and inhabiting, in the process, sizable territories that once belonged to the Chinese empire through “unequal treaties”.
According to the Russian point of view, eastern Siberia and the current Russian Far East were completely unknown not only to Europeans but also to the peoples of China and Japan in the 16th century. These areas were occupied by Russian explorers and colonists.
The Russians also claim that the Chinese and Han peoples did not live in the areas where the Russian empire expanded. If the Chinese accuse Tsarist Russia of being expansionist, the Russian view is that the Chinese empire has also expanded significantly beyond the Great Wall of China.
China is a country with distinct state tendencies. For example, it will never resist the desire for the return of territory that once belonged to it. Furthermore, it will always attempt to reestablish former borders. The Chinese policy on the “border problem” largely emanates from the idea of “a single Chinese nation”.
To this effect, Chinese strategy appears to be based on the belief that the neighbouring areas where Chinese soldiers stepped thousands or hundreds of years ago belong to China. If the neighbouring people attacked China, they became a part of “the single Chinese people,” and their lands became Chinese territory.
In recent years, the two countries’ relationship has grown significantly stronger. Close working relations exist between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which drives high-level cooperation. The two sides also collaborate based on shared threat perceptions that the US and its allies are attempting to encircle and undermine them. Their relationship is strengthened by close military ties and complementary economic dynamics.
One reason for this is that both countries are significant trading partners in the global mining industry and global supply chain. Russia is a significant supplier of energy resources to China, and China is a significant market for Russian goods and resources. This economic interdependence has aided in the development of cooperation between the two countries.
Furthermore, both Russia and China are members of several international organizations, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS group, which have aided in the promotion of dialogue between the two countries.
In the long term, both Russia and China have a common interest in promoting regional stability and international cooperation on a variety of issues, including counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, and climate change. This shared interest has helped to reduce tensions and promote cooperation between the two countries.