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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 6, January 30, 2010

Sino-Russian Ties: Beijing’s Attempts to Rewrite History

Monday 8 February 2010, by Mansoor Ali

For long the Chinese Government has been relying on plain nationalistic sentiments bordering on chauvinism while pursuing its foreign policy goals.

Lately there have been some indications of China’s distinct attempts to rewrite the history of its relations with the Soviet Union (whose successor-state today is the Russian Federation).

First, notwithstanding the fact that all Chinese arms and armaments are of Russian origin, Beijing is presently trying to conceal this basic truth.

Secondly, the leaders running the administration in Beijing today, for reasons best known to themselves, are assiduously highlighting negative aspects of Sino-Soviet interactions in the context of their current ties with Russia and in the process seeking to ignore the crucial role that the USSR played in helping China eventually emerge as a world power. (Incidentally this aspect of Sino-Soviet relationship the Chinese Communists constantly emphasised while speaking to foreign guests in Beijing in the fifties, that is, before Mao Zedong unveiled his weird ideas aimed at global hegemony at least in the international communist movement.)

However, try as much as they would, they could not present at the military perade held at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the Chinese Revolution on October 1, 2009 a single item of indigenous military hardware—almost all the planes, tanks, guns and warships of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are still based on the old and partly new Soviet or Russian designs with the exception of a few European systems of pre-1989 vintage.

Here it needs to be pointed out that all victories of the PLA during the struggle against the Japanese, Kuomintang and the US in Korea were achieved with colossal Soviet assistance in war material and expertise. Despite Beijing’s recent concerted propaganda exercises to the contrary, the military adventures that the People’s Republic of China waged on its own (for example, the Sino-Soviet border clashes in 1969 or the invasion of Vietnam in 1979) ended in fiasco following massive failures. So, for obvious reasons China does not want to recall those incidents in which it received a bloody nose. But China’s neighbours, notably India (which is quite suspicious of Beijing’s motives), are well aware of this past record. They also know that Chinese designs are all geared towards promoting its self-interest quite unlike the approach of erstwhile Soviet Union and present-day Russia. (This is comprehended best by India due to its past experience.) Thus Beijing’s latest move to strengthen relations with African and Latin American countries has just one specific objective: to acquire the natural source of energy for its own benefit.

In this connection it must also be noted that India is ahead of China in terms of sophisticated weapons precisely because of New Delhi’s growing political and military ties with Russia (which run deeper than those China has with that country) apart from its access to weaponry derived from French and other Western arms manufacturers.

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