China, Relations with

views updated May 18 2018


CHINA, RELATIONS WITH India and China, two great civilizations and the two most populous countries in the world, launched popular mass movements and became independent nation-states in 1947 and 1949, respectively. Relations between the two countries have ranged from post-independence bonhomie to armed conflict in 1962 to a state of armed peace. Despite a shared Buddhist religious history and an established trade along the Silk Road, there was historically little political interaction between the two. The notable exceptions were during the Han Empire in China (202 b.c. to a.d. 220) and the Kushan Empire in India (a.d. 1–225), when they shared a common border. The boundaries of the Mongol or the Yuan Empire in China (a.d. 1271–1368) also included parts of China and India.

The Early Years

Upon independence, China and India's mutual perceptions were competitive, since they were the largest countries in Asia, each with a glorious past and a shared history of successful anticolonial struggle. Both countries aspired to the leadership of the world's "developing countries" and provided competing models of economic and political development. Under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, India established a parliamentary democracy and opted for an economic model that combined socialist and capitalist principles. The Chinese Communist Party, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, set up a revolutionary political order with state ownership of all economic assets. The two countries adopted vastly different foreign policies—India embracing a policy of nonalignment, and China the export of revolution—which brought them into conflict on global issues.

This rivalry came to the fore amid the protestations of Sino-Indian amity during the Bandung Conference of developing nations held in 1955. The major difference between the two sides was on the question of war in international politics. Nehru advocated that war must be avoided at all costs and that the developing countries should not align themselves with either side in the cold war, while Chinese premier Zhou Enlai expounded the doctrine of revolutionary war to fight against imperialism. The personal rivalry between Nehru and Zhou also contributed to the rivalry between the two states. Moreover, since China was allied with the Soviet Union at that time, China was implicitly excluded from the leadership of the nonaligned movement being promoted by India.

Geopolitical concerns

Geopolitics has dominated Sino-Indian relations, with major disputes in the Himalayan region. India perceived the South Asian region—stretching from the Himalayas in the north to the India Ocean in the south and from Persia in the west to Central Asia in the northwest—as a cohesive cultural unit strongly influenced and defined by Indian culture. China identified Inner Asia, the Far East, Southeast Asia, and South Asia as traditional tributaries paying homage to China's political and cultural supremacy. India and China therefore each considered the region comprising Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Malaysia as part of its own historic sphere of influence. Both India and China regarded Bhutan and Nepal as strategically placed buffer zones vital to national security. Given these competing geopolitical perceptions, India and China have had numerous disputes in South Asia. Dominant among these are the status of Tibet, Aksai Chin, and the Indian provinces of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.


Of all the disputes in the Himalayan region, the status of Tibet has had the greatest impact on the Sino-Indian relationship. Historically, India and China have viewed Tibet differently. India considered Tibet a distinct ethnic, cultural, and political entity that shared a cultural and religious identity with India. The spread of Buddhism from India to Tibet created strong historical and cultural links between them. Tibet had also served as a strategically vital buffer zone, insulating the Indian heartland from invasions from Mongol tribes to its north. India inherited and continued the British policy of simultaneously supporting Tibetan independence while recognizing Chinese suzerainty over it.

China, on the other hand, regarded Tibet as an integral part of its territory, to be reclaimed from Western imperialist forces by the full assertion of its sovereignty, freed from the exploitative feudal rule of the Tibetan Lamaist order. The British-recognized suzerainty was seen as a compromise of Chinese sovereignty, and in 1951 the People's Liberation Army (PLA) moved into Tibet to establish full Chinese control over the region. Chinese forces also occupied the Aksai Chin plateau, claimed by India, and later built a vital road through it linking Tibet to the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. In May 1951, Beijing signed a seventeen-point agreement with the Dalai Lama's government in Lhasa that proclaimed Chinese sovereignty over Tibet while promising autonomy to Tibet. This was followed by the Panchsheel (Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence) agreement between India and China in 1954, which reiterated an autonomous status for Tibet within Chinese sovereignty. Since improving relations with China was a high priority for Nehru, India did not demand a delineation of the disputed Sino-India border in exchange for India's de jure recognition of Tibet as part of China.

During the 1950s, Chinese forces consolidated their administrative and logistical position in Tibet, causing much alarm in India. Massive road building opened new routes from the Chinese mainland to Tibet, facilitating the movement of troops, administrative officials, and the supplies required by them. Along with the security implications arising from the massive Chinese military presence along its northern borders, the destruction of Tibetan culture and heritage at the hands of the PLA also became an issue for India. Popular Tibetan opposition to Chinese rule continued to grow, and in 1959 broke into an uprising. The Dalai Lama fled from Lhasa to India, setting up his government-in-exile in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. Tibetans fleeing the Chinese military crackdown were welcomed by the Indian government and were given refugee status. China considered this a violation of the 1954 agreement and protested against India's support of the Dalai Lama as interference in China's internal affairs. India, on the other hand, accused China of not upholding its end of the bargain concerning autonomous status for Tibet. Relations steadily worsened, culminating in war in 1962.

The Border Dispute and the 1962 War

The 1962 war had its roots in the conflicting definitions of the Sino-Indian border. The two states share a 2,520 mile–long (4,056 kilometers) Himalayan border, large tracts of which are disputed. While China claims almost the entire Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh (34,749 sq. mi, or 90,000 sq. km), India claims the Aksai Chin plateau (2,000 sq. mi, or 5,180 sq. km) currently under Chinese jurisdiction. China has also not recognized the Indian state of Sikkim as part of Indian territory and considers it a separate country.

At a meeting of British, Tibetan, and Chinese representatives held in Simla in 1914, the McMahon Line was concluded to be the border between British India, Tibet, and China. Upon independence, India recognized the McMahon Line as the border between India and China. However, neither the Nationalist nor the Communist governments of China had ratified the 1914 agreement. The People's Republic of China dismissed the McMahon Line as an imperialist imposition on China and called for renegotiation of its border with India. India insisted that since the border was already delineated, there was no question of renegotiation. After China moved militarily into Tibet, the Indian government stressed its territorial claims with greater urgency, taking measures especially in the North East Frontier Agency, or Arunachal Pradesh, to enforce its jurisdiction there. India set up check posts along the McMahon Line and published maps with a clearly demarcated border as claimed by New Delhi.

In the mid-1950s, when the Chinese press published reports of the construction of a road from Xinjiang through Aksai Chin in Ladakh, India protested the construction as violation of its territory. In 1958, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai, in a letter to Prime Minister Nehru, offered that while the border had to be renegotiated, both sides could continue to administer the areas under their control until the dispute was peacefully resolved. Meanwhile, China was facing rising popular discontent in Tibet and blamed India for providing support to the Tibetan "rebels." The Tibetan uprising in 1959 and the flight of the Dalai Lama to India further complicated matters. China sharply criticized Indian support of the Dalai Lama and responded by being aggressive on the border. There were armed clashes between the two sides at the Kongka Pass in the western sector and in the Longju sector of the eastern border. As the Chinese advanced beyond Aksai Chin deeper into western Ladakh, Indian concerns mounted. China proposed a withdrawal of troops on both sides to a distance of 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the McMahon Line in the eastern sector and to the areas under jurisdiction by each side in the western sector. India rejected this proposal. Zhou Enlai visited New Delhi in 1960 and proposed an exchange of the territory claimed by India in the eastern sector with the territory claimed by China in Ladakh. This proposal was made again by China in 1980 but was again rejected by New Delhi.

In 1961, in the face of mounting evidence of a growing Chinese presence in Ladakh, Nehru decided to establish military posts along the border to enforce India's claims. In some places, these posts were north of the McMahon Line. The tension on the border continued to rise, and in September 1962 the Chinese captured the Indian post of Dhola in the eastern sector. Thereafter, Chinese troops advanced into the western and eastern sectors, overrunning Indian posts. The Indian army, ill-prepared for such an offensive, was badly defeated. In November, before winter snows closed the northern passes, China declared a unilateral ceasefire and withdrew its troops to 12 miles (20 km) behind the McMahon Line. After the war, China controlled the area it claimed in Ladakh, and India was left in control of Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern sector. Formal talks for the delineation of India's northern border began only in late 1980s.

At the initiative of Sri Lankan prime minister Sri-imavo Bandaranaike, a six-nation Afro-Asian conference was convened at Colombo in December 1962 to negotiate a settlement between India and China. The Colombo Proposals were, however, unsuccessful in brokering an agreement. India and China broke off diplomatic contacts, and no further border negotiations were held between the two parties for the next two decades.

Impact of the war

While this war was essentially a border war, its political impact was tremendous, both in bilateral relations and in cold war politics. Mao Zedong was critical of Nehru's policy of nonalignment, considering it part of a stratagem to move India closer to both the United States and the Soviet Union in order to exert pressure on China. Soviet support to India on the border conflict contributed to the deteriorating relations between China and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union's supply of transport planes to India in 1960 for use in the Ladakh region strengthened Chinese suspicions of an anti-China front. China also accused India of supporting a covert U.S. operation in Tibet to help the insurgents in their fight against Chinese occupation. The John F. Kennedy administration had concluded an agreement with New Delhi to help in the war effort, deepening China's adverse perception of India.

For China the 1962 war was simply another incident in the series of conflicts that occurred while China renegotiated its borders with its neighbors; for India, however, the war meant a loss of lives and of territory and brought national humiliation. Nehru's policy of "India-China Brotherly Friendship" turned into a policy of suspicion and fear of future Chinese invasions. India thus embarked on a program of military modernization, with U.S. and Soviet help, raising many newly equipped mountain divisions to protect its northern border. In 1987 a dangerous new confrontation in the Sumdorong Chu valley in the eastern sector was triggered when China reemphasized its claim to the eastern sector of India's northern border after Arunachal Pradesh was granted statehood by Delhi. However, barring this incident, the Sino-India border has been largely peaceful since the 1962 war.

The Pakistan Factor

Growing friendship between Pakistan and China paralleled the deterioration of Sino-India relations. In March 1963 Pakistan and China concluded a border agreement under which Pakistan ceded part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to China. After the 1962 war, China offered qualified support to Pakistan in the event of a clash with India and also supported Pakistan concerning its claim to Kashmir. Encouraged by the debacle of the Indian army and the promised Chinese support, Pakistan adopted a more aggressive policy regarding Kashmir. In 1963, Pakistan launched Operation Gibraltar to foment a brewing local uprising in Kashmir, infiltrating large numbers of armed and trained Pakistanis into Kashmir. War broke out between India and Pakistan over Kashmir in 1965. During the war, China was critical of India's actions and made several statements supporting Pakistan. As the brief war progressed, China's stand hardened, and it issued an ultimatum to India to dismantle its military installations along the Sikkim-China border. This amounted to a "threat" to attack India's eastern front while the Indian army was engaged in war on its western front. With the threat of Chinese involvement in the Indo-Pak war looming large, the United Nations (UN), along with the United States and the Soviet Union, moved quickly to negotiate a cease-fire after three weeks of heavy fighting.

The 1965 war proved to be a turning point in the geopolitical history of South Asia, establishing a new global alignment of power. After the war, China and Pakistan collaborated on the construction of the "China-Pakistan Friendship Highway" connecting Pakistan-occupied Kashmir with the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. The construction of this road raised security concerns in India regarding direct Chinese military support for another Pakistani attack on India. However, in 1971, when India and Pakistan were yet again at war, this time over East Pakistan, the Chinese failed to support Pakistan. China was extremely critical of Indian interference in Pakistan's internal affairs, and voiced full support of Pakistan at the UN, but it did not pledge or provide any military support in the field. The Indo-Soviet Friendship treaty of 1971 and the Sino–U.S. rapprochement of 1970 restrained China from involvement in the 1971 war, which resulted in the creation of the independent state of Bangladesh.

China-Pakistan military relationship

After the 1965 war, China became Pakistan's primary supplier of military technology and arms, and has since consistently supplied Pakistan with defense technology and training. When the United States withdrew its military aid to Pakistan in 1965, and again in 1990, China stepped into the breach. China also provided arms to Pakistan in 1965 and 1971, and helped rebuild its army after its defeat in 1971. China helped Pakistan modernize its armed forces and through the 1980s supplied it with modern combat aircraft, including F-5A and F-7A fighter planes and T-59 tanks.

China conducted nuclear tests in 1964, becoming a nuclear weapons state. India conducted its Peaceful Nuclear Explosion in 1974, underground at Pokharan in Rajasthan. Following the Indian test, Sino-Pakistani military and scientific cooperation intensified. While China consistently denied providing any assistance to Pakistan's nuclear program, U.S. intelligence indicated regular interaction of nuclear scientists and technologists between the two countries. According to intelligence reports in the 1980s, China provided Pakistan with weapons-grade uranium, ring magnets, the design for a nuclear device, help with centrifuge technology for Pakistan's plant in Kahuta, and the design for a reactor using enriched uranium. China also built a nuclear power plant at Chashma in Pakistan, which both sides insisted was for peaceful purposes, run according to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. In 1990 the United States suspended all military aid to Pakistan over the issue of nuclear proliferation from China to Pakistan, and thereafter China signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1992. While China insists that it has not violated the NPT, Indian concerns regarding transfer of nuclear technology to Pakistan continue to be a thorn in Sino-Indian relations.

Along with the transfer of nuclear technology, China-Pakistan cooperation in missile and delivery systems is also an issue in Sino-Indian relations. Reports in India and the United States claim that Chinese assistance to Pakistan's missile program has been extensive. U.S. intelligence reports claim that China supplied Pakistan with nuclear capable M-11 ballistic missiles and related technologies, and provided training to Pakistani technologists and military personnel in the operation of those missiles. Under an agreement signed in 1988, China apparently agreed to build an M-11 missile factory in Pakistan. Satellite intelligence detected the arrival of these missiles in Pakistan in 1995 in violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) to which China had agreed in principle. These concerns added to India's perception of a nuclear threat from Chinese missiles stationed in Tibet since 1971.

In 2001 the United States imposed sanctions on both China and Pakistan for violation of the MTCR. The China-Pakistan military relationship was at its height in 1988 and 1989, coinciding with the beginning of normalization of Sino-Indian relations. Given this fact, India insists that the China-Pakistan military relationship continues to hamper the development of trust between China and India. China maintains that India must not try to regulate relations between other sovereign nations, as this violates the 1954 Panchsheel agreement (Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence). China has repeatedly urged India to separate Sino-Indian relations from Sino-Pak relations.

The Normalization of Relations

India and China tentatively began a process of normalization of relations in 1969 but exchanged ambassadors only in 1976. In 1979 the Janata Party, then in power in India, diverged from the Congress Party's practice of nonalignment and close relations with the Soviet Union. The Janata government offered to exchange ministerial visits, a proposal accepted by China; External Affairs Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited China in February 1979. While China and India still differed on many issues, Vajpayee's visit started a dialogue between the two countries. His Chinese counterpart, Huang Hua, reciprocated Vajpayee's visit in June 1981, resulting in annual dialogues between delegations from both sides to discuss regional and international issues. In the mid-1980s, the changes in the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev and the impending withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan altered the strategic situation in South Asia and facilitated the process of rebuilding Sino-Indian relations. The Sumdorong Chu valley incident in 1987 was a setback to this process of normalization. But with Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's visit to China in 1988, negotiations on the boundary question were reopened. A Joint Working Group was established to promote peace along the border. Following Prime Minister Gandhi's visit, China and India exchanged a number of high-level visits between 1991 and 1996. These included Chinese premier Li Peng's visit to India in 1991 and Indian prime minister P. V. Narasimha Rao's visit to China in 1993. It was during the latter's visit that the two sides signed an Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility, renouncing the use of force to settle the border dispute. From then on, relations steadily improved, and Jiang Zemin visited India in 1996, the first Chinese president to do so. During his visit, the two sides signed an Agreement on Confidence Building Measures on the border, providing for further troop reductions. Cultural and educational cooperation was also expanded. Trade between the countries resumed, and by 1998 stood at approximately $2 billion U.S.

For India, a significant change in its improved relations with China was the change in the Chinese stand on Kashmir. While China's relations with Pakistan were still very strong, Chinese rhetorical support to Pakistan on Kashmir was waning. China adopted a neutral stand during the 1999 Kargil "war" between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. However, India's nuclear tests in 1998 proved a serious setback to Sino-Indian relations.

Pokaharan II and After

In May 1998, India again conducted nuclear tests in Pokharan in Rajasthan and declared its nuclear weapons capability. In a letter to U.S. president Bill Clinton, Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee identified China as a major threat to India and justified India's tests in light of this threat. Indian defense minister George Fernandes had earlier identified China as the greatest potential threat to India. The initial Chinese reaction to India's tests was restrained, but after Vajpayee's letter was published in the New York Times, China was furious at being called the "reason" for India's nuclear tests. China denounced India for endangering peace and security in South Asia and the world. In response, India launched a damage control mission, led by Brajesh Mishra, the principal secretary to the prime minister, and President K. R. Narayanan, reassuring China that India did not consider it a threat. Indian external affairs minister Jaswant Singh visited China. That diplomatic visit initiated a security summit between the two countries, which focused on vital issues of mutual concern. Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan reciprocated Singh's visit in July 2000. Indian president K. R. Narayanan and Chinese leaders Li Peng and Zhu Rongji also exchanged visits over the next two years. In 2003 Prime Minister Vajpayee visited China and concluded two important agreements, opening a trade route from Sikkim to Tibet and setting up institutional mechanisms to resolve the boundary dispute. Under the new institutional arrangement for border talks, India's national security adviser Brajesh Mishra and Chinese senior vice foreign minister Dai Bingguo were appointed as special representatives to explore the overall bilateral framework for a boundary settlement. The first meeting between the two representatives was held in New Delhi in October 2003.

There is now a greater convergence of interest between India and China on many global issues, including their concern with growing U.S. unilateralism. Both countries have a strong interest in strengthening the UN as a counterbalance against U.S. unilateralism. China has been highly critical of U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and especially of the invasion of Iraq. India has been more moderate in its official comments on U.S. interventions, but public opinion throughout the country has strongly condemned the U.S. action in Iraq. However, both India and China consider their respective bilateral relations with the United States as the most important part of their foreign policy and hence are not open to any anti–U.S. alliance. The huge volume of trade between the United States and China ($90 billion) is the firm foundation of their bilateral relationship, while India and the United States are currently building a relationship based on their democratic politics and rapidly growing trade. On the nuclear front, both China and India have a declared no-first-use policy. The U.S.–China–India equation is especially significant in the development of the National Missile Defense and Theater Missile Defense systems by the United States, which could set off a potentially dangerous domino reaction involving not only China and India but possibly Pakistan.

Sonika Gupta

See alsoNuclear Programs and Policies ; Nuclear Weapons Testing and Development ; Pakistan ; Pakistan and India ; Sri Lanka ; United States, Relations with ; Wars


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China, Relations with

views updated May 11 2018


From the mid-nineteenth century to the present, one of the core problems in Russian foreign policy has been how to manage relations with China. A vast Eurasian land power, Russia adjoins China, its giant neighbor to the south, along the sparsely populated territories of eastern Siberia and the Maritime Province. Further to the west, the buffer states of Mongolia and Kazakhstan lie between Russia and China. For most of the past century and a half, Russia enjoyed a significant power advantage visà-vis China in military and economic terms. The world recognized Russia as one of the great powers. Meanwhile, China, weakened by domestic turmoil and foreign imperialism, experienced the successive traumas of dynastic collapse, civil wars, revolution, and radical communism. More recently, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the balance of power between the two countries has shifted in favor of China. In the short term, a diminished post-Communist Russia, shorn of its Central Asian territories as well as its western borderlands, has worked out an amicable relationship with China. In the longer term, however, Russian policymakers, like their tsarist and Soviet predecessors, will continue to confront the question of whether an increasingly powerful China is friend, foe, or changeling.

from the seventeenth century to 1917

Russian-Chinese relations date from the seventeenth century. Russia's eastward expansion at the time was driven by a spirit of adventure, the quest for profits in the fur trade, and the dream of state aggrandizement. Unruly bands of freebooting Cossacks led by Russian adventurers such as Yerofei Khabarov established initial contacts along the Amur River with tribal dependents of China's ruling Qing dynasty. Conflicts that flared up within an as-yet-undefined frontier area came to the attention of Chinese officials, who viewed the Russians as the latest in a long series of armed aggressors from Central Asia. Meanwhile, early Russian diplomatic missions to Beijing, intended to promote commerce and to gauge the strength of the Chinese Empire, ran afoul of China's elaborate court ritual that the Russians neither understood nor respected. The Russian exaction of tribute from tribal peoples whom the Qing considered their dependents, and the encroachment of armed Russian settlements along the Amur, led to military clashes between Russian and Chinese forces in the 1680s. In 1689, the Treaty of Nerchinsk, the first modern international treaty between China and a European country, began to define a boundary between the two empires and established rules for regulating commercial intercourse. The Treaty of Kiakhta in 1728 readjusted the commercial relationship, further defined the border, and granted Russia permission to build an Orthodox church in Beijing, which became the nucleus of Russian sinology. Thereafter, relations stabilized for the next century on the basis of equality, reciprocity, limited commerce, and peace along the border.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Russia seized the opportunity afforded by the decline of the Qing dynasty to expand its eastern territories at China's expense. Its ultimate objective was to bolster its status as a European great power by playing an imperial role in East Asia. Nikolai Muraviev, the governor-general of Eastern Siberia, was the most prominent of the new generation of empire builders who were determined to make Russia a Pacific power. Combining the threat of force with skillful diplomacy and blandishments, Muraviev and his peers imposed upon China the Treaties of Aigun (1858), Peking (1860), and Tarbagatai (1864), which added 665,000 square miles (1,722,342 square kilometers) to the Russian Empire in Central Asia, eastern Siberia, and the Maritime Province. In 1896 Russian officials bribed and bullied China to grant permission to build the Chinese Eastern Railway across Manchuria (Northeast China), to connect the Trans-Siberian Railway with Vladivostok, Russia's major port on the Pacific Ocean. Russian occupation of Manchuria in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion, an antiforeign Chinese nativist movement, and growing tension with imperial rival Japan over Manchuria and Korea, led to the Russo-Japanese War and Russia's humiliating defeat. With the Rising Sun ascendant, Russian influence in China was restricted to northern Manchuria and the Central Asian borderlands.

soviet-chinese relations, 19171991

The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 had a profound and lasting impact upon Russian-Chinese relations. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912, China dissolved into civil war and chaos. A small but determined band of revolutionary Chinese intellectuals, disillusioned with Western liberal democracy, discovered in Russian Bolshevism a template for political action. Desiring to revive China and promote revolutionary social transformation, they responded to Bolshevik appeals by organizing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1921 and joining the Communist International (Comintern), which ordered the fledgling CCP into alliance with the Chinese Nationalists led by Sun Yat-sen. Moscow dispatched veteran revolutionary Mikhail Borodin and hundreds of military and political advisers to China in the early 1920s to guide the Chinese revolutionary movement to victory. The Comintern dictated strategy and tactics to the CCP. In 1927, Chiang Kai-shek, Sun Yat-sen's successor, severed his alliance with the CCP, slaughtered tens of thousands of communists, and expelled all the Soviet advisers. The revolutionary project lay in ruins.

Meanwhile, playing a complicated game, Bolshevik Russia and, after 1924, the Soviet Union, successfully maneuvered to retain the imperial gains tsarist Russia had wrested from China in the preceding century. In other words, the Soviet Union simultaneously pursued both statist and revolutionary goals vis-à-vis China. Under its new leader, Mao Zedong, the CCP continued to look toward Moscow for ideological and political guidance while pursuing its own path to power.

On July 7, 1937, Japan's creeping aggression against China escalated into a full-scale war. To deflect the threat of Japanese attack against Siberia and the Maritime Province, the USSR provided Chiang Kai-shek substantial military and financial aid in his lonely war of resistance against Japan. Soviet military advisers were attached to Chiang's armies, and Soviet pilots defended Chinese cities against Japanese attack. In 1941, however, Moscow signed a neutrality treaty with Tokyo, and Soviet aid to China dried up.

The renewed civil war in China (19461949) that followed hard upon victory in World War II culminated in the victory of the Chinese Communist Party and the establishment of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Although suspicious of Mao Zedong, the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin quickly extended diplomatic recognition to the new communist government and, after intensive negotiations, signed a thirty-year Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance on February 14, 1950, with the PRC. Mao Zedong proclaimed that the Soviet Union provided a model of socialism for China to emulate. Thousands of Soviet civilian and military experts flooded into China while tens of thousands of Chinese students studied in the USSR and the East European satellite states.

Within a few years, however, a combination of Soviet high-handedness, Chinese suspicion, and differences over international political strategy eroded the bonds of Sino-Soviet friendship. Beijing challenged Moscow's leadership of international communism, claimed huge chunks of Russian territory, and condemned the USSR as a "social imperialist" state. In 1969, fighting broke out along the contested eastern and central Asian borders, and a large-scale war loomed but did not materialize. The Sino-Soviet Cold War gradually dissipated in the 1980s as new leaders came to power in Moscow

and Beijing. During Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's summit in Beijing in May 1989, the two countries proclaimed a new era of amity.

after the fall

Post-communist Russia suffered a sharp decline in economic and political power just as China was enjoying its greatest period of economic growth that translated into military power and international influence. Yet the two countries soon found common cause in their opposition to the exercise of unilateral American global power. Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin in 1996 proclaimed a new Russian-Chinese strategic partnership that was largely rhetorical. By that time the border issue between the two countries had been basically settled, and stability restored to the relationship. However, Russians in eastern Siberia and the Maritime Province objected to an influx of Chinese illegal migrants and traders whose presence, they said, constituted a growing threat to Russia's hold over territories acquired only in the mid-nineteenth century. Levels of Russian-Chinese trade remained quite modest, although Russia became a main supplier of advanced military technology to the newly affluent Chinese who could now afford to pay. Within Russia debate continued over the question of whether China could be trusted as a friendly neighbor or whether growing Chinese power would eventually turn north and seek to reassert dormant historical claims against a weakened Russian state.

In cultural terms, Russian influence upon China peaked in the early to mid-twentieth century, but receded thereafter, leaving very little residue except among the older generation of Chinese who remember the brief era of Sino-Soviet friendship in the 1950s. Chinese influence upon Russian culture is also considerably less than it is in other Western countries, particularly the United States. Racist and condescending attitudes are present on both sides of the relationship along with genuine admiration and understanding of each society's cultural achievements on the part of educated Russian and Chinese elites.

See also: algun treaty of; central asia; cold war; colonial expansion; communist international; far eastern region; japan, relations with; karakhan declaration; nerchinsk, treaty of; siberia; peking, treaty of


Clubb, O. Edmund. (1971). China and Russia: The "Great Game." New York: Columbia University Press.

Mancall, Mark. (1971). Russia and China: Their Diplomatic Relations to 1728. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

Paine, S. C. M. (1997). Imperial Rivals: Russia, China, and Their Disputed Frontier. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.

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Tien-fong Cheng. 1957. A History of Sino-Russian Relations. Washington, DC: Public Affairs Press.

Steven I. Levine

China, Relations with

views updated Jun 08 2018


CHINA, RELATIONS WITH. America has always been interested in China, but rarely has evidenced much understanding of the Middle Kingdom or of the different ways that the two countries viewed political, economic, and social issues over the years. In 1784 at Canton harbor, the empress of China opened trade between the new United States, now excluded from the European mercantilist system of trade, and China. At that time, China was, for the most part, self-sufficient economically, and America had few goods to offer until the expansion of the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest.

Later, in the aftermath of the Opium War (1839–1842) and the British imposition of the so-called unequal treaty system during the late nineteenth century, the United States sought to increase its presence in China. Americans came, as did Europeans, bringing religion (missionaries), drugs (opium largely from Turkey rather than, as did the British, from India), and warriors (naval forces and marines). In 1844, by the terms of the Treaty of Wanghsia, the Qing rulers of China extended most-favored-nation status to the United States.

In the 1840s, the United States settled the Oregon boundary dispute with Great Britain and defeated Mexico, there by acquiring a long Pacific coastline and several major anchorages. Trade with and interest in China certainly increased, however, the locus of activity shifted eastward. As the British forced open ports north of Canton and as opium continued to devastate South China, many Chinese would emigrate and a goodly number immigrated to North America (the Burlingame Treaty of 1868 helped facilitate such immigration), settling eventually in so-called Chinatowns in Vancouver, San Francisco, and elsewhere. Indeed, the Chinese phrase for San Francisco is "jiu jin shan" or "old gold mountain." As the United States began constructing the transcontinental railway and also began mining the great mineral wealth of the West, many of these immigrants found terrible, dangerous work. As the railroad building boom wound down and as the tempo of mining operations changed and became less labor intensive, the periodic cycle of boom and bust turned to depression. Resistance to Chinese emigration increased greatly and violence sometimes resulted. In response, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, suspending Chinese immigration for ten years and declaring Chinese ineligible for naturalization. It was the only time in American history when such drastic immigration legislation was aimed at excluding a single ethnic group.

The pace of China's disintegration accelerated in the aftermath of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay produced the famous "Open Door" notes of 1899 and 1900. The western imperialist powers and Japan moved from Britain's model of informal empire that had dominated much of the mid-nineteenth century to grabbing territory and carving up China. While Hay certainly sought to preserve China for U.S. trade, he also was acting to preserve the idea of China and to help improve the image of the United States in China. The decision to use money from the Boxer Rebellion (1900) indemnity to educate Chinese youth also won favor, especially when compared to the actions of European countries and Japan.

The pace of change accelerated in China during the early twentieth century, as the Qing dynasty collapsed, Sun Yat-sen's Guomindang nationalists temporarily were frustrated by Yuan Shih K'ai, a military dictator, and China began a slow devolution into warlordism. Meanwhile, in 1915, as Europe was locked in mortal combat in World War I, the Japanese minister to China delivered the infamous "21 Demands" to Yuan; had Yuan agreed to them, China would have been made virtually a Japanese protectorate. President Woodrow Wilson helped Yuan by pressing Japan to withdraw the demands and the crisis ended.

Sino-American relations suffered following World War I. Modern Chinese nationalism began with the May Fourth Movement on 4 May 1919, when Chinese students in Beijing and other major cities rallied and were joined by towns people to protest the decision of the major powers to transfer Germany's concession in China to Japan. To China, it was outrageous, while, to President Wilson, it was a price to pay for passage of the Versailles Peace Treaty and to achieve his cherished League of Nations. The Washington Naval Conference (1921–1922) and the various treaties the attending powers signed, promising to respect each other's possessions in the Pacific and calling of an Open Door to China, in the words of historian Akira Iriye, left East Asia in an unstable state. Japan began taking aggressive action—first with the 1928 assassination of Chang Tso-lin, a Manchurian warlord, and then with the Mukden Incident in September 1931 and the takeover of this large and resource rich part of northeastern China. President Herbert Hoover and his secretary of state, Henry Stimson, would not intervene during these beginning years of the Great Depression but they engaged in a kind of moral diplomacy. During the 1930s, as Japan began expanding first into the Chinese provinces adjoining Manchuria, later crossing the Great Wall, and finally engaging in a more general war against the Nationalist government, President Franklin Roosevelt secretly supported the Chinese. Roosevelt ultimately began imposing sanctions on Japan, both to halt its aggression and to force it out of China.

After World War II (1939–1945), the United States became caught up in the Chinese civil war between the Nationalists and the communists, which had begun nearly two decades before. American marines went to North China to help accept the surrender of some 500,000 Japanese troops and found themselves defending communications and transportation as Nationalist leader Jiang Jieshr moved his best troops from southwest China to Manchuria. Communist leader Mao Zedong and his communist guerrillas, however, first won an overwhelming victory in Manchuria and later secured north China, crossed the wide Yangtze River and, in 1949, forced Jiang to flee the mainland for the island redoubt of Taiwan.

Conflict next broke out in Korea in 1950, which soon widened into a fight between the United States and the new and communist People's Republic of China. As the Korean War dragged on until 1953, U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy began searching for communists in the State Department and other government agencies, while some politicians questioned "who lost China" and a witchhunt began. Thereafter, in the wars breaking out in Indochina, the French received increased support from the United States while the Viet Minh received support from communist China. The Geneva Conference of 1954 brought a temporary halt to the fighting, but it resumed several years later, and President John Kennedy, convinced by the so-called domino theory (that if communists were permitted to take over Vietnam all Asia would eventually fall to communism), expanded the U.S. presence. When President Lyndon Johnson ordered large numbers of troops to South Vietnam beginning in 1964, he did so in part because he believed that the Chinese communist rulers needed to be contained.

In the summer of 1971 President Richard Nixon announced that he would travel to China early in 1972. In February, Nixon flew to Shanghai, then traveled to Beijing and met with both Premier Zhou Enlai and communist leader Mao Zedong. The visit benefited both the United States, which was seeking to balance Soviet expansionism and reduce its involvement in Vietnam, and China, which was concerned about the possibility of a Soviet preemptive military strike within its borders.

Since Nixon's visit, tens of thousands of Americans have visited China, and many thousands of Chinese have come to the United States to study and to work. Trade has increased, especially if the goods made in China and transshipped through Hong Kong are considered. Nevertheless, great points of stress still exist in the Sino-American relationship. Taiwan remains a source of tension, for Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait believe there is only one China, while the United States continues to support, in a fashion, a separate Republic of China situated on Taiwan. Another source of tension is that China does not always honor patent and copyright regulations and enjoys a huge balance of trade surplus with America while restricting American imports into the mainland. The Chinese crackdown on young people gathered in Tiananmen Square in June 1989 also upset the United States, although China viewed it as an internal matter. In addition, for many years, China sold arms to various groups that threatened the stability around the world and, often, American interests. In the aftermath of 11 September 2001, there appeared to be more concurrence in Sino-American thought on the threat of radical Islamic-based terrorism. The United States is currently the world's preeminent superpower, while China is the emerging power in eastern Asia; the relationship will have to continue to mature and develop.


Anderson, David L. Imperialism and Idealism: American Diplomats in China, 1861–1898. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.

Cohen, Warren I. America's Response to China: A History of Sino-American Relations. 4th ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

Davis, Elizabeth Van Wie, ed. Chinese Perspectives on Sino-American Relations, 1950–2000. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edward Mellen Press, 2000.

Fairbank, John King. The United States and China. 4th ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983.

Foot, Rosemary. The Practice of Power: U.S. Relations with China since 1949. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Ross, Robert S., and Jiang Changbin, eds. Re-examining the Cold War: U.S.–China Diplomacy, 1954–1973. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Van Alstyne, Richard W. The United States and East Asia. London: Thames and Hudson, 1973.

Young, Marilyn. The Rhetoric of Empire: American China Policy, 1895–1901. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968.

Charles M.Dobbs

See alsoChina, U.S. Armed Forces in ; China Trade ; Chinese Americans .

China, relations with

views updated May 23 2018

China, relations with. Direct British trading contacts with China began in 1637, and were soon followed by a considerable artistic and cultural interest in the world's longest-established civilization. Difficulties in finding suitable exports to China, coupled with the problem of dealing with an empire which acknowledged no equals in the world, led to the first China (Opium) War in 1839–42. A British victory was rewarded with many privileges in five ‘treaty’ ports (a number later much increased), and by the acquisition of Hong Kong. Further differences precipitated the second China War when the Chinese were finally forced (1860) to conform to western ideas of diplomatic practice. The British thereafter had no wish to see China weakened further since they already enjoyed the lion's share of trade and investment. Competition for trade and concessions increased in the 1890s, and Britain participated in an international force to raise the siege of the legations in Peking by the Boxers (1900). In the 1920s and 1930s Chinese nationalism was strong enough to persuade the Foreign Office to start the renegotiation of the unequal treaties. On the other hand, from 1931 Britain was unable to assist China against growing Japanese pressure, while victory in 1945 temporarily made the USA the leading outside power in Chinese affairs. Britain, unlike the USA, recognized the new communist regime which came to power in China in 1949, and tried to moderate American policy towards Peking during and after the Korean War (1950–3). China insisted on the return of Hong Kong when the lease expired in 1997, and firmly opposed British efforts in 1993–4 to extend democracy in the colony.

C. J. Bartlett