Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Distrust Runs Deep in Chinese-Russian Relations - Will Japan be Able to Play the 'Russia card'?
HAKAMADA Shigeki / Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University

August 29, 2001
In July, China and Russia signed the 'Good Neighborly Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation,' advocating closer cooperation in the areas of military and economic affairs and vowing that "the two nations will be friends forever, and will never become enemies." It has been 20 years since the 'Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance Between the USSR and the People's Republic of China' expired in 1980, and 40 years since conflict between China and Russia came into the open. Japanese media reported the event as the beginning of a new honeymoon era between the two nations. While the new treaty won't make allies out of China and Russia, it is by nature a semi-military alliance. Does this mean the two will join forces against the Western camp, causing a change in the strategic landscape? And how should Japan respond to this development?

In reality, distrust between China and Russia is deeply rooted, and bilateral relations are far from a state of long-term stability. Russian media blended irony in reporting the event, as seen in the July 10 issue of Kommersant Vlast, which said "Russia and China have now pledged 'everlasting friendship' for the third time in the past 150 years, but the last two occasions ended in war." To begin with, present day Russians cannot have an affinity for China, and a true relationship based on trust between the two peoples is impossible. Let me explain why.

First of all, Russians feel a strong sense of humiliation and defeat towards today's China. This is because China, an Asian nation, displaced Russia - once its teacher and older brother - to become a proud superpower now making blatant display of its superiority. Chinese economic standards, which was equal to Russia's around 1990, are now five times higher. Russia is piqued by the fact that even the United States, the sole winner in the global race, sees China as its rival in the 21st century. Russians don't mind being poor; but they can't tolerate their neighbor's success. The Chinese economy is plagued by serious problems, and its future isn't as rosy as it seems from the outside. Still, in the eyes of present day Russia, China is an enviable success.

Secondly, the Russian Far East and Siberia are in a state of collapse, and the rapid decline in population in that vast expanse of land has created something of a vacuum in the region. Meanwhile, across the artificial borderline, population-rich China lies in wait. The theory of osmotic pressure is enough to give the Russians an instinctive grasp of what this means, making them harbor a secret fear of China. The Russian inshore region furthermore had been Chinese territory in the past. In recent years, the shrewd and energetic Chinese have actually penetrated these regions through commerce and smuggling. The July 17 issue of the Nizavicimaya Gazeta carried the honest opinion of regional residents: "Japanese, Korean, German - they're okay. But cooperate with the Chinese? No way."

Thirdly, Russia feels that Central Asian nations that had once belonged to the Soviet Union are becoming increasingly more dependent, both politically and economically, on China. In 1996, China and Russia formed the 'Shanghai Five' with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in part to counter Islamic Fundamentalism. This forum was expanded into the 'Shanghai Cooperation Organization' in June this year upon Uzbekistan's participation. Russia has become suspicious that this may be China's ploy to control Central Asia, according to the June 26 issue of Kommersant Vlast'.

Despite such misgivings, 'strategic partnership' with China is imperative for Russia to prevent expansion of NATO and unipolar rule by the United States. Russia and China share a common view on this point. China needs a strategic tie-up with Russia to face the US administration of President George Bush, which has taken a hard-line stance on China. For Russia, China also happens to be its biggest market for arms. Today, the Russian defense industry owes its existence to the Chinese market. On the other hand, Russian technology is still essential for China in the areas of armament, airplanes, nuclear energy and aerospace. The two nations have thus come together not for any long-term relationship based on trust, but to fulfill immediate interests. This is completely different from speculation that relations between the two nations would stabilize in the long-term or develop into an axis, as reported by the media. Of course it would be a mistake to make light of the strategic partnership or economic relations between China and Russia. However, it is also a fact that, at least in economic terms, relations with the US takes precedence for both nations.

How should Japan respond to such developments? Relations with China poses more difficulties for the future of Japanese diplomacy. This is because China won't tolerate Japan's becoming the leader of Asia. It is symbolic that China is strongly against Japan's inclusion as a member of the United Nations Security Council, while Russia has expressed support. Currently, the following view is emerging in Russia: "Russian diplomacy must make tactful use of the complicated relationship between Japan and China. While avoiding conflict with China, Russia should at the same time use Japan's economic advance into the Far East and Siberia to counter Chinese penetration into those regions. Japanese presence would change the power balance in the region, and Russia and Japan could work together to limit Chinese influence." (Kommersant Vlast'; July 10 issue).

As we have seen, there is a perception in Russia that taking advantage of Japan's economic power - a safer 'card' to play than China - would hold the key in its China strategy. Turn this around, and such a view would also be a valuable diplomatic 'card' for Japan as well. At issue is whether Japan possesses adequate strategy for gaining command of the 'Russia card.' Japan is being required to show its wisdom and capability for using this card, not in order to challenge China, but to improve its relationship with China.

The writer is a Professor of School of International Politics, Economics, and Business at Aoyama Gakuin University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

袴田 茂樹 / 青山学院大学教授

2001年 8月 29日

実際には中露間の不信関係は根深く、両国関係は長期的安定にはほど遠い。ロシアのマスコミも「これでロシアと中国はこの150年に3回 <永遠の友好> を誓ったが、過去の二回は戦争に終わっている」と皮肉っぽい報道をした( [Kommersant Vlast'] №27 10 July 2001)。そもそも現在のロシア人が中国に対して好感を抱くはずがないし、両国民の真の信頼関係もありえない。その理由を説明しよう。


第二に、ロシアの極東・シベリアは経済的に破綻状態にあり、広大な地域の人口が急速に減少し、一種の真空地帯となっている。一方、人為的な「国境」なるものを挟んで、人口的に過飽和の中国がロシアに隣接している。浸透圧の原理から見ても、これが何を意味するかをロシア人は本能的に知っており、中国に潜在的な恐怖感を抱いている。しかもロシアの沿海地方は、かつては中国の領土だった。近年はしたたかでエネルギッシュな中国人が、実際にこの地域に商業や密輸などを通じて浸透している。沿海地方の住民の率直な感情は、「日本人でも韓国人でもドイツ人でもよいが、中国人との協力だけは真っ平」([Nizavicimaya Gazeta] 7.17.2001)というものだ。

第三に、かつてはソ連の一部だった中央アジア諸国が、経済的にも政治的にも中国に取り込まれつつあるとロシアは感じている。1996年にイスラム原理主義への対抗などを目的に中露とカザフスタン、キルギス、タジキスタンが「上海5」を設けたが(2001年よりウズベキスタンが加わって「上海協力機構」となった)、これは中国が中央アジアを支配するための策略ではないかという疑念がロシアには生まれている。([Kommersant Vlast'] №25 26 June 2001)


では、日本としてどう対応すべきか。日本外交の将来にとって、より難しいのは中国との関係である。中国は日本がアジアのリーダーになることは許せないからだ。日本の国連安保理常任理事国入りに対して、ロシアは支持しているが中国が強く反対していることも象徴的である。現在のロシアには次のような見解が浮上している。「日中の複雑な関係をロシア外交は巧妙に利用しなくてはならない。ロシアは中国との対立を避けながら、同時に極東・シベリアへの中国の浸透に対抗するために、この地域への日本の経済進出を利用すべきだ。日本のプレゼンスは地域の力関係を変え、ロシアと日本が共同すれば中国の影響を抑えることができる」([Kommersant Vlast'] №27 10 July 2001)


一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Distrust Runs Deep in Chinese-Russian Relations - Will Japan be Able to Play the 'Russia card'?