Far Eastern Affairs A Russian Journal on China, Japan and Asia-Pacific Region
Editor-in-Chief: Vladimir Ya. Portyakov
Ya.M. Berger, Deputy Editor-in-Chief
A.S. Davydov, Deputy Editor-in-Chief
N.S. Tikhonov, Executive Secretary
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VOLUME 48, NUMBER 1
Chinese Business in Russia and Its Prospective Role in One Belt, One Road Initiative
Chinese-German Relations: Striving toward a Model
China's "Soft Power" and the BRICS Countries
Impact of Sanctions on North Korean Trade and Economy
G. Bulychev, I. Korgun
Belt and Road 2.0 Initiative and Russia
B. Heifetz, N. Stepanov
THEORY AND METHODOLOGY
Understanding China's Global Strategy
400 Years of Russia-China Relations: Ivan Petlin's Mission to China (1618-1619)
China's Consulates in the Soviet Far East and Siberia in the Great Terror Years
The 100th Anniversary of 1919's May Fourth Movement
New Literature on Pilot Free Trade Zones (Areas) in China
Mamayeva, N.L., Sotnikova, I.N., Verchenko, A.L.,
The Role of the U.S.S.R in the Reconstruction and Building of 156 Industrial Facilities in the PRC in the 1950s: New Facts and Circumstances of Soviet-Chinese Cooperation. Ed. N.L. Mamayeva; RAS Institute for Far Eastern Studies. Ves Mir Publishers, Moscow, 2018, 600 pp., ill.
N.V. Kukharenko and S.V. Kukharenko, The Chinese Communities in the United States and Europe: History, Culture, and Religion, State Pedagogical University Publishers, Blagoveshchensk, 2019
Author: Nataliya Zamarayeva
China and Problems of Reaching a Peace Settlement in Afghanistan
Nataliya A. Zamarayeva, Ph.D. (History), senior researcher, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Far Eastern Affairs, Vol. 47, No. 3, 2019, pp. 49-64
DOI (original): 10.31857/S013128120005264-1
DOI (translation): 10.21557/FEA.55555354
Abstract. This article analyzes China’s position on reaching a settlement on the crisis in Afghanistan. The dynamic of Beijing’s approach is described with allowance for inter-Afghan and regional challenges: strengthening the armed opposition in Afghanistan, its influence on the Muslim Uighurs of Xinjiang, and strengthening the strategic partnership between the United States and India in the region. The year 2015, when Beijing and Islamabad signed an agreement to create a China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC), was a landmark for the region.
Keywords: Afghanistan, combatants, government of national unity, China, Pakistan, United States, Uighurs
The events in Afghanistan and the 2001-2014 antiterrorism campaign conducted there by troops of the US-NATO coalition presented China with a number of challenges: the multiyear presence of NATO troops in direct proximity to China’s national borders; terrorist activity by the Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang and a stepping up of their struggle to create an independent state; insurgent Afghanistan blocking the gateway to the rich raw hydrocarbon markets of Central Asia, Iran, Turkey, the republics of the Caucasus, and the countries of the European Union; rivalry with India for influence in Afghanistan; and a rise in tension in Pakistan-Afghan relations over a number of issues.
The strengthening of strategic relations between the United States and India – China’s main economic competitor in the region – led in November 2018 to the Iranian port of Chabakhar (a New Delhi infrastructure project) being taken off the list of US sanctions.
A new challenge for China was the December 2018 announcement by US President Donald Trump that 7,000 American troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan. The failure of the US military campaign and the inconsistency in the actions of the American administration led to a political vacuum and a subsequent strengthening of the struggle for power among the intra-Afghan forces.
Beijing and Washington are pursuing different aims in Afghanistan. The White House’s 2017-2019 opening of a dialogue with the Taliban movement has the goal of “convincing” the Talibs to accept Afghanistan’s current constitution, lay down their arms, and cease following Islamic law. But its efforts continue to encounter armed resistance from the opposition.
Beijing’s policy for an ongoing dialogue with the opposing forces in Afghanistan has remained constant throughout the years of conflict. China’s military, economic, and political participation in Afghanistan is intended to protect its domestic security and economic projects. Beijing has, either alone or in cooperation with Islamabad, consistently urged the insurgents and the countries of the region to recognize its role in bringing peace to Afghanistan. It has taken a flexible approach, following a policy of “soft” power and investing in the country. Finally, it has negotiated with representatives of the government of national unity, different political parties, and the armed opposition. Beijing’s search for compromise with the Afghans has only aggravated American-Chinese disputes in the region, which grew with the June 2018 start of a trade war between the two countries.
Afghanistan holds a special place in the system of foreign policy priorities of Pakistan, India, Iran, China, and Russia, and has traditionally been an important element of their national security strategies. Considering the country’s geographic position at the junction of continents, the drawing out of the resolution to the Afghan crisis predetermined a clash between the transport, logistic, trade, and economic interests of the above countries:
· the Chinese Belt and Road initiative;
· the Afghan-Iranian-Indian transportation corridor from the port of Chabakhar and beyond along the overland route into Afghanistan;
· Russian proposals within the context of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and international North-South corridor.
The situation with security in the region is deteriorating, due to the shifting of foreign combatants of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization into Afghanistan. These challenges can be overcome by combined efforts, but only after the conflict ends.
The events of the early 1990s in Afghanistan, the armed struggle for leadership among ethnic groups, the coming to power of the Taliban movement in October 1996, and the proclamation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) influenced the shaping of the consciousness of China’s Muslim Uighurs living in the lands bordering Afghanistan in northwest China. Their call to arms for secession from the People’s Republic alarmed Chinese authorities. Despite Afghanistan’s international isolation in the last decade of the 20th century, Beijing made several attempts to open contacts with the leaders of the IEA.
Following the principle of maintaining relations with the country and not individual administrations, China in September 2001 was one of the first to recognize the new government after the fall of the Taliban regime. Beijing was the first capital to which Hamid Karzai made an official visit as head of the transitional government in January 2002. In June 2006, President Karzai and Chairman Xi Jinping signed a good-neighbor treaty of friendship and cooperation between China and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (IRA). China gave around $250 million in financial aid to Afghanistan in restoring its economy. In subsequent years, Beijing invested billions of dollars in its infrastructure, and in harvesting IRA mineral and energy resources.
India has also rendered Afghanistan financial aid, investing $2 billion since the start of the 21st century.
US President Barack Obama’s January 2009 announcement that American troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan triggered efforts by regional elites to start devising formulas for further relations with Kabul. They all had three components in common: developing economic ties, initiating security measures, and engaging in cultural exchange.
Beginning in 2013, Beijing intensified diplomatic efforts to settle the intra-Afghan conflict on both the regional and local levels. This coincided with the launching of its One Belt, One Road initiative. The creation of a unified regional transportation and logistical network was announced, one section of which was planned to cross Afghan territory and beyond, into Iran or the republics of Central Asia.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union in the 1990s opened new markets for China in the countries of Central Asia. However, the road to these lay through insurgent Afghanistan. The stability of socioeconomic and political development in Afghanistan guaranteed there would be no repeat of the events of the 1990s.
China followed the US attempts to organize negotiations with the leaders of the Taliban movement, whom it removed from power in September 2001. Beijing took advantage of the experience and blunder of their opponents in devising its own policy of mediation in the intra-Afghan conflict. It enlisted guarantees of support from each side of the conflict and powers in the region, especially Islamabad.
Pakistan has always had stronger levers of influence over Afghanistan than other countries, due to their combination of historical, cultural, religious, and ethnic ties. Most important, however, is the Pushtun factor, which was key in Islamabad’s official recognition of the government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in the 1990s.1
Along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan was one of the three countries to establish diplomatic relations with the IEA in the 1990s. There was a sharp turn in its strategic policy in September 2001, under the influence of events in Kabul and pressure from the United States. Yesterday’s allies, Islamabad and the Taliban movement became enemies. Islamabad nevertheless sheltered some Afghan Talibs on its territory. According to information from Pakistani media, Mullah Omar, the IEA’s spiritual leader, lived on the territory of Pakistan after fleeing from Afghanistan in 2001 and remained there until his death in 2013.
Beijing’s 2009-2019 efforts at mediation on the regional and international levels were perceived favorably, since China was never a party to the intra-Afghan conflict.
The negotiating process was stepped up in 2014 in the runup to the withdrawal of troops of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan. In July 2014, China’s foreign ministry appointed the high-ranking diplomat Xang Youzhi as Beijing’s special representative in Afghanistan. At the same time, Beijing held the first trilateral forum with the participation of Islamabad and Kabul and announced it was financing a number of large energy and infrastructure projects in Afghanistan.
China approached India and Iran with a proposal to expand the trilateral dialogue. At the same time, it also appealed to Saudi Arabia and other countries of the Persian Gulf, first of all viewing them as one of the main sources of financing for different groups of the Afghan Taliban, and second in seeking support for making contacts and organizing meetings with the Taliban. Chinese diplomats held a number of meetings with emissaries of the Afghan Taliban in Riyadh, Doha, and Pakistan, but no progress was made during these years.
The successful completion of the election process on September 28, 2014, the forming of the Government of National Unity (GNU), and the first peaceful transfer of power from one elected head of state to another (in the person of President Ashraf Ghani Achakzai) in the history of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan did not bring normalization of the situation inside the country any closer. Implementing the Program of National Reconciliation – negotiations with the armed opposition (i.e., the Taliban movement) – remained a challenge.
President Ghani was faced with the problem of engaging all of the country’s political forces together into the “legal sphere of politics.” Because of the Taliban’s 2001 rejection of direct negotiations, there remained the task of choosing an international intermediary. The GNU saw the six countries bordering Afghanistan (Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) as the first circle of those responsible for stabilizing the situation in the region. They were followed by the Islamic world, North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, and the members of NATO and the ISAF. The list finished with the United Nations, international civil society, and nongovernmental organizations.
President Ghani chose China, whose experience as an intermediate had two distinctive characteristics:
· First, the Chinese had embraced all of the main groups involved in the conflict, both in Afghanistan and in the region.
· Second, they displayed the most neutrality to all of the belligerents and were, therefore, judged worthy of authority even among the Afghan Taliban.
The Government of National Unity believed that the long-term stability of its economy could be guaranteed by expanding integration in the region and investment by the giants India and China. Following the example of the Karzai government, President Ghani originally wagered on China with the prospect of Afghanistan being included in the One Belt, One Road initiative.
President Ghani made his first international visit to China in October 2014, less than a month after his inauguration. Chinese leader Xi Jinping did not offer to replace the Western troops being withdrawn from Afghanistan; instead, he maintained that questions of internal security fell under the purview of Kabul. The elimination of foreign combatants remained a priority for both parties, along with financial and technical aid in building infrastructure facilities. Between 2001 and 2013, China provided Afghanistan with a total of $240 million in economic aid.2 China’s investment in the copper ore fields of Ainak and the Hospital of the Republic are well known.3 Beijing then offered Kabul a $327 million loan in October 2014 and invited 3,000 Afghan technicians to study in China. Beijing invested in the construction of pipelines, the building of electrical power networks, and other infrastructure facilities. Against the background of PRC diplomatic successes, Islamabad in turn announced it was resurrecting the CASA-1000 electrical power project in October 2014.
China was enticed by Central Asia with its rich trade markets and water and energy resources. Beijing believes large, mutually beneficial deals can be made along the Afghanistan-Pakistan-China transport, economic, and logistical chain. For example, the oil project in the Amudari Basin could eventually help Afghanistan revive its economy.
The relations among the three countries were described in 2014 as “special” and a “triangle of stability” with the declared aim of building a comprehensive and enduring partnership. Once again, there was talk of the so-called Pamir Group of countries the interlocked territory of which was a crossroads of goods, ideas, cultures, and religions between China, Central Asia, the Arab world, and Europe. President Ghani then announced the coming years would be a period of constant transformation of his country – an action program that would culminate with its inclusion in China’s Silk Road initiative.
The change in political leadership in Afghanistan in September 2014 helped ease the normalization of relations between Kabul and Islamabad. However, the terrorist act in Peshawar in December of that year, the responsibility for which was claimed by Taliban based in Afghanistan, once again aggravated bilateral relations.
Under these conditions, Beijing stepped forward as an intermediary and initiated a trilateral China-Pakistan-Afghanistan dialogue in February 2015. Its main goal was a joint campaign against terrorists in border regions and mutual humanitarian aid.4
The countries of the region also contributed to the settling of Afghanistan’s internal conflict. The first Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process conference, organized by Turkey, began on November 2, 2011. It would subsequently be held annually: in Afghanistan, on June 14, 2012; in Kazakhstan, on April 26, 2013; in China, on October 31, 2014; in Pakistan, on December 9, 2015; in India, on December 4, 2016; and in Azerbaijan, on December 1, 2017. Kabul welcomed the collective and cooperative response to the threats from nonstate actors, meaning the terrorist groups of the Islamic State on the territory of Afghanistan.
Despite the stability in their bilateral relations, Kabul and Beijing held different positions on a number of issues. China has a slightly more than 75-km-long common border with Afghanistan in the region of the narrow Wakhan Corridor. The Chinese have been sealing it since the 1990s, fearing that Uighur combatants would flood in from Afghanistan and the “Islamic wave” would reach as far as Xinjiang. China’s fears were reinforced between 2001 and 2014, during the ISAF’s antiterrorism campaign. Beijing also saw the training bases situated in Afghanistan and Pakistan for Muslim Uighurs from the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan (IMET) as a threat to national security, assuming that the combatants would return to China after the withdrawal of coalition troops from the region, which would then “sink into chaos.” Combatants from the Islamic State, fleeing from Iraq and Syria into Afghanistan, also pose a threat to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR).5
As early as the late 20th century, separatist ethnic Uighurs were calling for the creation of an independent state, East Turkestan.6 The organization known as the Islamic Party of Turkestan (IPT) was created in the 1990s. It operates in China and the countries of Central and South Asia. In the first decade of the 21st century, it had bases in the tribal zone of Pakistan and the border provinces of Afghanistan. The heads of IPT held key positions in Al-Queda. Abdul Shakur al-Turkestani and Abdul Khak al-Turkestani, a former IPT field commander, were members its ruling council. In the 1990s, Abdul Khak trained recruits at Al-Qaeda’s Tora-Bora training camp in Afghanistan. More than 1,000 combatants from China underwent military training in Afghanistan. They later participated in military actions against the Northern Alliance on the side of the Taliban and efforts to undermine China and the Central Asian countries. Abdul Khak then moved into Pakistan, to the center for training foreign combatants. IPT headquarters was located there as well, in the regional capital of Miran Shakh.
Chinese officials described the IPT as a terrorist organization, accusing it of acts of terrorism and threats to disrupt the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.7
As early as his first visit to China in October 2014, President Ghani convinced the PRC leadership to open the corridor to commercial traffic, confirming Afghanistan’s readiness to fight against the IPT. Beijing refused, since the region stretching from Karakorum to Wakhan, would remain extremely vulnerable in terms of security.8,9 China’s refusal, however, did not deter Kabul. In 2018, the two agreed Afghanistan’s national army would train a mountain brigade from the People’s Liberation Army to patrol the corridor.10
Beijing also assigns Wakhan Corridor the strategic role of the starting point for the Afghan segment of the One Belt, One Road initiative. Beijing views Wakhan itself as the site of a Central and South Asian industrial park and warehouse facilities.
The XUAR currently has a weak manufacturing base. Considering the difficult high-altitude natural and geographic conditions in the mountainous border regions of China and Pakistan, it is very expensive to build and operate large infrastructure facilities. China has in recent years made efforts to modernize and repair the Karakorum Highway joining China and Pakistan.
Islamabad took decisive action in the region prior to the withdrawal of ISAF troops from Afghanistan. On May 22, 2014, the army high command ordered the start of military operations to eliminate all foreign combatants (including Chinese Uighurs). The People’s Liberation Army had long insisted on their destruction.11 Military operations began soon after an attack by combatants in Urumqi (where 31 people were killed) and the kidnaping of a PRC citizen in northwest Pakistan, the responsibility for which was claimed by the Taliban movement.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry later asserted that the success of military operations in the zone of Pushtun tribes confirmed the viability of the Pakistani-Chinese concept of “Asian security.”
Most important to China, however, was that the separatist elements had not been destroyed. At the same time, efforts to force bands of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) from Afghan territory were intensified.
At the end of December 2014, the ISAF high command announced it had accomplished its mission. On January 8, 2015, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) assumed full responsibility for security inside the country. Since January 2015, the task of the new Resolute Support Mission (RSM) has been limited to consulting with and assisting the ANDSF. The Taliban and the foreign bands associated with them interpreted the withdrawal of ISAF forces as a victory over the occupying forces, which led to fierce armed resistance in Afghanistan.
Not only did the Taliban movement organize itself in the years of the ISAF military campaign, it had by 2014 evolved into an armed force that controlled half of the country’s territory, raising special alarm over the withdrawal of foreign troops.
For a number of reasons, the spring offensive of the armed opposition (a traditional feature of Afghanistan’s southern provinces) in 2015 was augmented with attacks on installations of the national army and civil administration in the eastern and northeastern regions. President Ghani’s position was weakened. Pro-Kabul forces were fragmented (nine months were needed merely to form the Government of National Unity). For Afghanistan’s leadership, the situation was critical. The possibility of attempts by Taliban groups to overthrow the government and seize Kabul once again according to the scenario of October 1996 could not be excluded. This generated fears of a further rise in transborder extremism and the threat of narcotrafficking in the region.
At the same time, there was a turning point in the Taliban movement’s position on the negotiating process. The combatants agreed to the dialogue format but refused to meet with representatives from the Government of National Unity.
The threat of the destabilization of Afghanistan, a renewed outbreak of Islamic extremism in the region, and thus an indefinite delay in completing the Afghan segment of the Silk Road, convinced China and Pakistan of the need to intensify mediation of Afghanistan’s internal conflict. The parties once again confirmed their support for the Afghan process toward a settlement and peace.12
The form of government, the structure of the state, and the division of power in Kabul were the main topics of negotiation between the Taliban movement and the international intermediaries, including China.
In February 2015, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi confirmed that Beijing supported Afghanistan’s government in the matter of mediation, with different political and armed groups, including the Taliban, ready to play a constructive role and extend cooperation. At the same time, China announced the financing of a 1,500 MWt hydroelectric project in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province. The opening of the dam would provide electricity to Pakistan as well. China planned to invest in the future in the construction of a motorway from Kabul to the Pakistani city of Peshawar, and a railbed from Quetta (the capital of Beluchistan province) to Afghanistan’s Kandahar.
The trilateral dialogue continued in May 2015, in the Chinese city of Urumqi. It should be viewed in the context of the preparations for the first direct dialogue between the Taliban movement and representatives of Afghanistan’s Government of National Unity. Prior to this, international intermediaries (China, Pakistan, the United States) met in an informal setting with members of the Taliban’s Political Commission (headquartered in Qatar). The Taliban demanded they be granted equal participation in governing the nation. In the spring of 2015, still other groups from the Afghan Taliban sat down at the negotiating table in Norway, France, Japan, and other countries.
Beginning in 2015, China and Pakistan increased their efforts to achieve a settlement in the Afghanistan’s internal conflict. This was also explained by the launching of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure project, the documents for which were signed in April 2015. Its cost was originally set at $46 billion, with a planned 3% annual rise in GDP. The implementation of this strategically important project, some of whose routes were planned to run in direct proximity to the borders of Afghanistan, forced Islamabad to take all measures needed for defense and security. Construction work on the CPEC project began in cooperation with armed units of a company representing one of Pakistan’s largest building corporations. The Afghan vector of Pakistan’s foreign policy was traditionally controlled by its military-backed ruling party.
China planned that in the future, the overland route from the port of Gwadar through Pakistani Beluchistan up to Kashgar would be extended over the territory of Afghanistan. This would allow Beijing to connect Kabul to the waters of the Strait of Hormuz while regulating the flow of trade and transport from the countries of the West to Shanghai. The outlet to the Strait of Hormuz would allow Beijing to control the traffic of tankers carrying crude oil from the countries of the Near East, triggering fears in the White House.
However, the opposing parties in Afghanistan stopped implementation of the project. Only the commercial interests of the Taliban and their participation in the Afghan part of the Chinese initiative could incline them toward negotiations and subsequent regulation.
The second half of 2015 became a turning point for the trilateral Chinese-Afghan-Pakistani forum. The deterioration of Pakistani-Afghan relations at the end of 2014 proved a challenge. Under the prevailing circumstances, Beijing unilaterally took steps in intra-Afghan processes and simultaneously emerged successfully as a mediator in settling the conflict between Islamabad and Kabul.
As part of its obligations to facilitate the intra-Afghan peace process and settlement, Pakistan received representatives from the Government of National Unity and the Taliban movement on July 7, 2015. The meeting was held in the context of a quadrilateral coordination group. China and the United States were present as observers. In contrast to the earlier years of consultations, this was the first round of negotiations where all of its participants (according to a statement from Pakistan’s foreign ministry) were granted official powers.
Islamabad referred to these negotiations as “breakthrough.”13 The parties expressed their intention to bring peace to Afghanistan and the region. The success of the negotiations laid the way to an active dialogue in Afghanistan with the participation of the armed opposition.
Several days later, information confirming that Mullah Muhammad Omar, the leader of the Afghani Taliban, was satisfied with Pakistan’s mediation appeared in the Pakistani newspaper The Nation. It was simultaneously emphasized that “the holy jihad to liberate our beloved homeland and reestablish the Islamic system remained imperative.”
However, subsequent events derailed the efforts of all parties involved in the dialogue organization. Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced that “… in connection with reports of the death of Mullah Omar and the ensuing uncertainty, and at the request of the leaders of the Afghan Taliban, the second round of the Afghan peace negotiations, scheduled for July 31, 2015, has been postponed. Pakistan and other countries friendly to Afghanistan have expressed the hope that the leaders of the Taliban will continue to participate in the peace negotiations with the aim of helping to establish a durable peace in Afghanistan…”
The loss of the second round of negotiations was followed by the publishing in the Pakistani media of information that Mullah Omar had died as early as April 2013. Many rumors circulated as to who let slip the great secret of the spiritual leader’s demise. The events of July 2015 strengthened the discord among the Afghan opposition groups, the Pakistani Taliban operating on the territory of Afghanistan, aggravated relations between the armed opposition and the Kabul government, and finally caused a long-lasting rift between President Ghani and Pakistan’s military and civil authorities.
The main beneficiary of the 2015 breakdown in intra-Afghan negotiations was India. New Delhi considered the ties between the Al-Qaeda combatants who operated in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 and armed Pakistani groups to be a threat to its positions in Kashmir, emphasizing that it was the combatants trained in the camps in northern Pakistan who committed the terrorist acts in Mumbai in November 2008 and July 2011.
In contrast to China, India maintained relations exclusively with Kabul’s governing administrations from 2002 to 2018, rejecting any negotiations with the Taliban movement. New Delhi believed strengthening of the role of Islamabad and Beijing would undermine the Afghan-Indian strategic partnership pact signed on October 5, 2011, thanks to which India obtained an institutional base for cultivating political potential in Afghanistan.14 The Indians contributed $2 billion in financial aid and investment to developing cooperation in trade, defense, and education. Its role in ensuring the internal security of Afghanistan was confirmed for the first time. The agreement included the Indian armed forces’ commitment to training Afghan security forces, including the police. At the same time, President Ghani adopted a policy of expanding cooperation with the United States, the European Union, and India to plan the future of his country.
That same year, President Karzai and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed two agreements for easing the energy crisis in Afghanistan and continued cooperation with the countries of South Asia.15
The tension in Pakistani-Afghan relations indirectly fueled a gradual head-on collision between President Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was pursuing his own goals in Afghanistan:
· blocking Pakistan’s efforts to restore its predominant influence;
· preventing attacks by Afghan combatants on Indian facilities;
· blocking the projects of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, citing China’s interference in Kashmir affairs.
India gave Afghanistan several symbolic gifts. In December 2015, Kabul received a new parliament building, and it was announced that $1 billion would be provided for projects to restore the country’s national economy, making India one of Afghanistan’s largest donors. In June 2016, the heads of government inaugurated a $300 million dam reconstructed with investment assistance from New Delhi. The 42 MWt dam was intended to irrigate 75,000 hectares of farmland. Erected in the province of Herat on the border with Iran as long ago as 1976, the structure had been damaged during the civil war of the 1990s. Its technical refurbishing required the efforts of 1,500 Indian and Afghan engineers.16 In July of that year, Indian Prime Minister Modi and Afghan President Ghani opened the Great Palace in Kabul, which had been restored with India’s financial support.
In erecting infrastructure and industrial facilities in Afghanistan, India was simultaneously attacking China’s economic interests in the region, and doing so with the cooperation of Afghanistan and Iran. Having restored the strained relations between Pakistan and Iran, New Delhi persuaded Kabul and Tehran in May 2016 to sign an agreement on the reconstruction of the Iranian port of Chabakhar by promising to invest $500 million in the project. The agreement was of exceptional benefit to both Teheran (since it expanded exports of Iranian oil to the international market) and India itself17 (since the announced trade route set the goal of ending the country’s isolation from the Central Asia region).
India is considering a project to rebuild the port of Chabakhar as the initial point of a trade corridor that would be an alternative to the CPEC. Like the CPEC, it would start from the shore of the Strait of Hormuz, but then traverse Iran and Afghanistan into Central Asia. There are several reasons why India opposes the CPEC. First, New Delhi has accused Islamabad and Beijing of seizing part of its territory to lay the road for the CPEC over disputed Pakistani-Indian regions of Kashmir. Second, India has protested the presence of Chinese naval units in the Pakistani seaport of Gwadar. The port, occupying a strategic position between the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf, provides Beijing with the shortest route to the markets of the Near East, Africa, and Europe. Third, New Delhi was worried that the CPEC would serve the goals of China’s economic development. With the best outcome of the situation in Afghanistan for China and Pakistan, the northern shoulder of the CPEC would take both Beijing and Islamabad to new trade, hydrocarbon, and overseas markets around the world.
In trying to lower the rising tension, China followed a diplomacy of “soft” power, inviting India to join in the Silk Road initiative. It emphasized the economic benefits for the capitals of the region, pointing out that a nondisputed Kashmir could potentially become the gateway to the republics of Central Asia.18
A new challenge to Indian interests was the December 2018 announcement by US President Donald Trump that the American military contingent in Afghanistan would be scaled down in 2019. This changed the prevailing security scenario in Afghanistan and the region. The struggle for power between the pro-Kabul forces and the armed opposition inevitably led to civil war. The strengthening of the Taliban’s stance in their homeland consolidated their position in Kashmir, which was unacceptable to India. It feared the rise of an independence movement in the Himalayan Valley.
Throughout the years of the conflict in Afghanistan, India supported the position of the official Kabul government: convince the Taliban movement to recognize the country’s constitution, lay down its arms, and join the political mainstream. In contrast to Beijing, New Delhi rejected direct negotiations with the armed Afghan opposition.
The new (December 2018) security scenario demanded that New Delhi reorient its policy toward Islamabad and the Taliban. In January 2019, confirming his country’s national interests in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Bipin Rabat, commander of the Indian army’s ground forces, called for negotiations with the Taliban without any preliminary conditions.19 The statement from the Chief of Staff contrasted with the position of India’s foreign policy establishment, which continued to support the Kabul formula of peace process and settlement in Afghanistan.
The next stage of organizing an intra-Afghan dialogue began in January 2016. It included the government of Afghanistan and an expanded number of international intermediaries: China, Pakistan, and the United States, all within the context of a quadrilateral negotiating process. However, the forum soon turned into a fiasco, since the Americans insisted on a direct dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban.20
In 2016, Russia stepped up its Afghanistan-oriented diplomatic efforts. In December of that year, Moscow hosted the first joint meeting with Beijing and Islamabad on reaching a settlement in the intra-Afghan crisis. The three parties discussed the deterioration of the security situation in the region; of special concern was the activation of extremist groups of the Afghan wing of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization. Kabul and New Delhi boycotted the meeting in Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that Russia was renewing its intermediary mission in the Afghan negotiating process, made during the June 8-9, 2017 summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Astana, evoked a clear reaction in Islamabad and Beijing. Neither China nor Pakistan were interested in Moscow participating in the settlement for the inter-Afghan crisis.
Beijing hurried to settle relations between Islamabad and Kabul. The tension between them was blocking resolution of the Afghan conflict, since a mere political settlement was insufficient without peace between Afghanistan and Pakistan. During this period, PRC Chairman Xi Jinping adopted a policy of presenting China as an alternative to the United States and Russia, abandoning the long-held policy of keeping a low PRC profile in international affairs. He once again offered a formula for negotiations: Afghanistan + China + Pakistan. In June 2017, PRC Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited both capitals with the aim of creating a platform for communication, i.e., working together to improve relations between Islamabad and Kabul in order to facilitate the process of reaching a settlement in Afghanistan. The negotiations were successful: mechanisms were developed for crisis management and dialogue between the three countries’ foreign ministers.
The success of the trilateral negotiations helped create a mechanism for reaching a settlement; most important, the meeting underlined China’s growing role in global hot spots. In the period under consideration, Beijing opened negotiations with leaders of Taliban movement groups and representatives of the political opposition in Kabul, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in particular, with Islamabad acting as an intermediary.
The destabilization of the political situation inside Afghanistan and the deterioration of Pakistani-Afghan relations reached a new level in 2017. Fuel was added to the fire by harsh statements from US President Donald Trump, who accused Islamabad of:
· harboring on its territory Afghan combatants who carry out transborder attacks on civilian and military targets in Afghanistan;
· promoting Pakistan’s strategic interests in the Afghan negotiating process by using its influence over the leaders of the Taliban movement.
The American administration’s May 2017 announcement that the size of the US military contingent in Afghanistan would be raised by 3,000-4,000 personnel evoked a negative reaction from Islamabad and Beijing. On June 1, 2017, Pakistan’s foreign ministry stated there could be no military solution to the Afghan conflict.
The strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia announced by the US President in August 2017 posed a new challenge to Islamabad and Beijing, putting their participation in the quadrilateral coordination group on hold.21 However, the two capitals continued their own independent negotiations with the Afghan authorities and the armed opposition.
Having wagered on a military solution to the intra-Afghan conflict in 2017, the White House scrapped the efforts of recent years oriented toward negotiations between the Kabul government and representatives of the opposition in the form of the Taliban movement, with the participation of China, Pakistan, and the United States as international intermediaries. At the same time, the United States tightened its sanctions against Pakistan. In response, Islamabad renewed threats to block the overland and aerial transit of cargoes for the American military personnel in Afghanistan, as it had done in 2011. The Americans hurried to open negotiations with Kazakhstan on an alternative route for shipping their cargoes. The Afghan Taliban responded with a number of terrorist acts.
The US strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia in 2017 underlined India’s leading role in stabilizing the Afghan situation. New Delhi viewed China’s growing role in Afghan negotiations as Beijing’s way of forcing it out of Afghanistan. That same year, New Delhi and Kabul launched “a new partnership for development” by announcing 100 new projects in the areas of education, health care, agriculture, energy, and resource management. India promised to implement projects for delivering potable water to Kabul, providing low-cost housing for refugees returning from Pakistan, laying pipelines to supply water to the city of Charikar, and building a polyclinic in Mazar-e Sharif. The media in Islamabad and Karachi reported that India was following a policy for the “strategic encirclement of Pakistan” in the region, saying it alone would be responsible for all the pain and suffering of the Afghan people. Islamabad and Beijing reacted negatively.
However, their next challenge would be the ultimatum issued by President Ashraf Ghani immediately after the October 2017 visit of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Afghanistan would join in the CPEC project only if Kabul were granted access to corridors along the border between Pakistan and India. Otherwise, it would restrict Islamabad’s transit to the markets of Central Asia. Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan were once more at a dead end, and only the persistence of China could unblock them. It insisted on holding a trilateral meeting in December 2017 as part of an initiative by PRC Chairman Xi Jinping to improve relations and develop cooperation.
Considering the variability of President Ghani’s position, Beijing held official negotiations during this period with Kabul’s political opposition, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in particular.22 The leader of the political party Hezb-e Islami of Afghanistan became the candidate of the combined political opposition prior to the 2019 presidential elections in Afghanistan.23
Planning long-term political cooperation with Afghanistan, Beijing embarked on an ambitious program of investing in the country’s economy and took part in negotiations with a wide spectrum of its political establishment and armed opposition.
The security situation inside Afghanistan has grown more complicated in recent years as a result of combatants belonging to the Islamic State terrorist organization rebasing themselves there from Syria. Fearing they would move into Xinjiang, China began negotiations with Kabul on establishing military base in the region of the Wakhan Corridor, while bearing responsibility for financing the project and training Afghan military personnel.
In June 2018, the American Congress once again adjusted the Afghan vector of its foreign policy in light of the minimal results gained against a 17-year background of paying for the military and civilian needs of the US and NATO antiterrorism campaign. Washington demonstrated its readiness to participate in the dialogue with the Taliban movement, but only if it were done jointly with representatives of Afghanistan’s Government of National Unity.
The combatants’ many years of refusing to negotiate directly with the Kabul government once again convinced the White House in December 2018 to alter its approach to both the Afghan situation and Islamabad. President Trump contacted Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan with a request to help arrange direct negotiations with leaders of the Taliban. At the end of 2018, as part of a dialogue organized by Islamabad, representatives from Washington and the Qatar office of the Taliban movement discussed two main issues without the participation of officials from Kabul: a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops (a demand from the Taliban) and the form of Afghanistan’s government (a demand from Washington). The negotiations were held, but the Americans’ concerns were not addressed.
The US response was the trilateral format for the Afghanistan-China-Pakistan negotiations organized by Beijing, which were also held in December 2018.
The current state of Pakistani-Chinese relations according to the “shared future” formula (i.e., the coinciding of fundamental national interests) was made possible by Pakistan’s military command presenting China with a number of its own Taliban provisions for launching a new stage of the Kabul process under the patronage of Beijing.
The American administration objected strongly to strengthening China’s role in reaching a settlement in the Afghan crisis. At the same time, Washington dealt another blow to Beijing’s position in the region: it excepted the Iranian port of Chabakhar from its sanctions policy, strengthening India’s regional position.
The conflict of interests between China and the United States excludes a settlement in the intra-Afghan crisis, regardless of how many rounds of peace negotiations are held and what their format is. The beneficiary of the ongoing armed conflict in the region remains the terrorist groups supported by the countries sponsoring them. Time has already shown that Beijing is winning the race for Afghanistan.
1. The Pushtuns are the Afghan state’s predominant ethnic group, separated artificially from the zone of Pushtun tribes in the Afghan-Pakistani border region. For Beijing, the Pushtuns (Afghan and Pakistani) were one of the most important factors in developing the strategy of trilateral China-Afghanistan-Pakistan cooperation.
2. Kazanin, M.V., O roli KNR v mirnom protsesse v Afghanistane [On China’s Role in the Peace Process in Afghanistan]. URL: http://www.iimes.ru/?p=28278 (Retrieved on May 8, 2016.)
3. China-Afghanistan Relations in 2009. URL: http://af.china-embassy.org/eng/zagx/ introduction/t853111.htm (Retrieved on August 30, 2011.)
4. China-Pakistan-Afghanistan: The Anti-Terror Tripod. URL: http://www.mushahidhussain. com/news-detail.php?id=MjM1&pageid=media (Retrieved on February 13, 2015.)
5. Beijing in Talks over Military Base in Remote Afghanistan: Officials. URL: https://www. dawn.com/news/1386840/beijing-in-talks-over-military-base-in-remote-afghanistan-officials (Retrieved on February 2, 2018.)
6. East Turkistan Islamic Party. URL: http://www.thefrontierpost.com/china-says-afghan-presi dent-vows-to-help-china-fight-militants/ (Retrieved on October 29, 2014.)
7. Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP). URL: https://www.trackingterrorism.org/group/turkistan-islamic-party-tip (Retrieved on November 12, 2018.)
8. Long Term Plan for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (2017-2030). URL: http://pc.gov.pk/ uploads/cpec/LTP.pdf (Retrieved on November 21, 2017.)
9. China Says Afghan President Vows to Help China Fight Militants. URL: http://www.dawn. com/ news/ 1141147 (Retrieved on October 29, 2014.)
10. US Sees China, Russia and Iran as Key Players in Afghanistan. URL: https://www.dawn. com/news/1453661/us-sees-china-russia-and-iran-as-key-players-in-afghanistan (Retrieved on December 26, 2018.)
11. Turkistan Islamic Party Target of Pakistani Army Incursion in North Waziristan. URL: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/05/turkistan_islamic_party_target.php (Retrieved on May 22, 2014.)
12. Foreign Secretary Attends First Round of China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Strategic Dialogue, Meets with His Counterpart and Calls on Afghan Ministers. URL: http://mofa.gov. pk/ pr-details.php?mm=MjU1Mg (Retrieved on February 9, 2015.)
13. Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on July 09, 2015. URL: http://mofa.gov. pk/pr-details.php?mm=MjkyOA (Retrieved on July 9, 2015.)
14. All Eyes on the Visit. URL: http://nation.com.pk/columns/02-Oct-2015/all-eyes-on-the-visit (Retrieved on October 2, 2015.)
15. Afghanistan and India Sign “Strategic Partnership.” URL: https://www.bbc.com/news/ world-south-asia-15161776 (Retrieved on October 4, 2011.)
16. Afghanistan, India Inaugurate Friendship Dam. URL: http://www.dawn.com/news/12627 35/afghanistan-india-inaugurate-friendship-dam (Retrieved on June 6, 2016.)
17. The New Great Game. URL: http://www.dawn.com/news/1264242/the-new-great-game (Retrieved on June 12, 2016.)
18. Zamarayeva, N.A., Kitaisko-pakistanskiy ekonomicheskiy koridor i pozitsiya Indiyi [The Sino-Pakistani Economic Corridor and India’s Position]. URL: http://va.ivran.ru/articles? artid= 7258 (Retrieved on March 25, 2017.)
19. Indian Army Chief Calls for “Unconditional” India-Taliban Talks. URL: https://nation.com. pk/10Jan2019/indian-army-chief-calls-for-unconditional-india-taliban-talks (Retrieved on January 10, 2019.)
20. Zamarayeva, N.A., Vseafganskiy protsess primireniya: perspektivy i vyzovy [The Afghan Nation’s Peace Process: Prospects and Challenges]. URL: http://www.iimes.ru/?p=27432#more- 27432 (Retrieved on February 13, 2016.)
21. Zamarayeva, N.A., Pakistan i amerikanskaya strategiya v Afganistane i Yuzhnoy Aziyi 2017 i reaktsiya stran regiona [Pakistan and the American Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia in 2017 and the Reaction of Countries in the Region]. URL: https://ru.journal-neo.org/ 2017/09/10/pakistan-i-amerikanskaya-strategiya-v-afganistane-i-yuzhnoj-azii-2017-g/ (Retrieved on September 10, 2017.)
22. Chinese Envoy Talk Polls, Peace Process. URL: https://thefrontierpost.com/hia-leader-chinese-envoy-talk-polls-peace-process/ (Retrieved on October 26, 2018.)
23. Zamarayeva, N.A., Pakistano-afganskiye otnosheniya v usloviyakh regional’noy transformatsiyi (2016-2017 gg.) [Pakistani-Afghan Relations under the Conditions of a Regional Transformation (2016-2017)], Pakistan: istoriya i sovremenniye problemy. Sb. st. [Pakistan: History and Contemporary Problems (2016-2017). Collected Articles], Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Мoscow, 2018, pp. 170-194.
Translated by Terence C. Fabian
Author: Vladimir Petrovsky
American-Chinese Trade Wars: Economics or Geopolitics?
Source: Far Eastern Affairs, Vol. 47, No.2, 2019, pp. 62-71
Abstract. The dispute between the United States and the People’s Republic of China over trade and economic issues has a long history. It has now become clear, however, that Donald Trump’s protectionist policy is in direct contrast to China’s consistent position in defense of free trade, based on the principles of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Washington sees in Beijing its main strategic competitor and has adopted a policy of long-term opposition to China in all spheres, including trade and economics. Having launched a trade war against China, the United States is also doing its best to weaken by noneconomic means their growing competition in the field of high technology.
Keywords: trade and economic relations, WTO rules and principles, protectionism, trade wars, strategic competition, dialectic of rivalry and cooperation.
Trade negotiations are increasingly often used as a political instrument. This is the first thing that comes to mind when one tries to understand what has happened around the trade war launched by the Trump administration against China. Geoeconomics and geopolitics are, of course, strongly intertwined, but is it “kosher” to use trade negotiations as an instrument of political wheeling-and-dealing, and why do we see this more and more often?
The dispute between the United States and China over trade and economic matters has a long history. It has now, however, become clear that Donald Trump’s protectionist policy is in sharp contrast to China’s consistent policy of defending free trade, based on WTO rules. The thesis of defending free trade, promoted by Xi Jinping at the Boao Forum in April 2018 was drawn up as early as the 19th CPC Congress and presented at the most recent forum in Davos.
This is what lies behind the conciliatory phrases in statements by Chinese representatives to the effect that China is not working toward perpetuating a positive balance of trade and is prepared to increase imports and improve conditions for investment and access to its financial and insurance markets, with the aim of stimulating domestic consumption.
The May 2018 visit to the United States of the delegation headed by Vice Premier Liu He of the PRC State Council, and the subsequent visit to China by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, were capped with the signing of a joint communiqué on trade and economic consultations. China and the United States agreed to take measures that would reduce the American trade deficit. It was assumed this would be done, on the one hand, by American goods and services satisfactorily meeting the demands of growing consumption in China, and by jobs and prerequisites for economic growth being created in the United States, on the other.
The two parties agreed to increase imports of American agricultural products and energy carriers, and to determine the areas for developing cooperation, encouraging mutual investment, and creating a fair and competitive business environment. It was also decided to continue high-level consultations on trade and economic issues (there is no such format between the United States and other countries).
In June 2018, the PRC State Council’s press office published a White Book titled China and the WTO to show how China was meeting its obligations within the organization; explain Beijing’s principles, position, policy, and proposals with respect to a multilateral trade mechanism; and to describe the concept and action plan for the country in conducting its policy of reforms and openness.
This document, which summarized 30 years of results from China’s efforts to become a major participant in the system of world trade, turned out to be highly appropriate under the conditions of the U.S.A.-China trade war. It stressed that the outburst of antiglobalist sentiment in recent years has, in combination with the growth of protectionism, created major challenges for the multilateral trade system of which the WTO is the heart. This clear hint aimed at the Trump administration, whose policy has led to trade wars not only with China but against Canada, Mexico, the countries of the European Union, and others as well.
In addition, the White Book presented some very interesting data on the American Chamber of Commerce in China, according to which around 60% of the enterprises in one survey continued to view China as one of the world’s best places for investment, while 74% of the Chamber’s members intended to increase their investments in the Chinese economy.1
By the summer of 2018, the feeling had arisen that at a minimum, any trade war would be delayed. Then, however, came the “summer escalation.” In June 2018, the White House announced the United States would impose customs duties of 25% on $50 billion worth of goods imported from China. These were intended to affect such spheres as the aerospace industry, information and communications technologies, robotechnology, industrial equipment, new materials, and automaking.
Beijing responded in kind, setting 25% import duties for American goods for exactly the same sum. The list contained 659 goods, for 545 of which the elevated tariffs were to take effect on July 6, 2018; no deadline was set for introducing tariffs on the remainder. The elevated tariffs were to be placed on agricultural goods, seafood, automobiles, medical equipment, and chemical products.
In response, Trump ordered a list of Chinese goods totaling $200 billion to be drawn up for the possible levying of an additional 10% in tariffs on them, should China raise duties on American products in the future as well.
Trump also stated that he planned to shut Chinese companies out of investing in high-tech firms in the United States, and to block additional exports of high technology from the United States to China. The natural question arises here: Were the American actions due entirely to economic motives? Does the United States really wish to sabotage the growing competition in the field of high technology by noneconomic means?
In 2015, the PRC government drew up the Made in China 2025 (MIC2015) strategy for industrial development, which gave priority to developing high-added-value production in the field of high technology. Up to 40% of all Chinese industrial goods were to be raised to this level by 2020, and up to 70% of all parts, components, and subassemblies in the aerospace, telecommunications, power generating, and processing industries by 2025.
The U.S. Foreign Relations Council labeled MIC2015 “a threat to American technological supremacy,” since it put American manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage. It was said that China would obviously force foreign companies to transfer technology in exchange for access to PRC markets and continue its conditions for doing business inside the country.
China’s explanation that MIC2025 was not a discriminatory strategy and did not have the goal of forcing American manufacturers out of high-tech industries, or that China would never wish to steal technology – just the opposite; it seeks cooperation with American companies that possess the latest in cutting-edge technologies and could help develop the Chinese economy under mutually beneficial conditions – simply fell on deaf ears.
It would seem the United States misinterpreted the key figures given in MIC2025 for import substitution (40% and 70%). These are not hard-and-fast indicators; rather, they are targets – goals used for strategic planning by all countries, including the United States itself (for example, in the Clinton administration’s National Information Infrastructure program, or the program for doubling exports under President Barack Obama).
It should once again be emphasized that the thrust of China’s response to the tightening of protectionism lies not in so-called countermeasures but in continuing the policy of openness and reform. China’s economic ascent and the laws of a market economy put everything into perspective.
In disputes with the United States, the Chinese were originally inclined toward compromise, since a retaliatory imposing of tariffs would only ratchet up the mechanism escalating the trade conflict. China knows from experience (including the economic sanctions following the events on Tiananmen Square) that raising the stakes by introducing countersanctions, harshening rhetoric, and so on, is entirely without promise. Here, incidentally, both Russia and China have something to learn.
A brief walk through history is in order here. January 2019 marked the 40th anniversary of official American-Chinese relations, something remembered mainly in Beijing. PRC Foreign Minister Wang Yi granted an interview on the topic, in which he presented China’s view on the experience and lessons learned from bilateral relations over the last several decades.
He noted in particular that the fear a powerful China might pose a challenge to or replace the United States is “a seriously mistaken strategic judgement.” The Foreign Minister also noted that as with other countries, there could be competition in China’s relations with the United States, but this should be “friendly rivalry and correspond to the principles of competition.”2
Washington has never had a problem with its satellite countries, which are tiny and dependent on the United States. However, the principle of America First! has always interfered in building relations with such countries as China and Russia.
This became especially obvious after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, when the Americans began talking about the “End of History” and their absolute world leadership. However, the United States was never to experience this imagined unipolarity, forgetting once and for all how to consider the opinions and interests of others. If the United States had earlier done its best to demonstrate its global leadership in one way or another, it now considers it a kind of fixture with which the rest of the world should simply come to terms.
At the same time, the United States failed to note and grasp how China’s peaceful ascent and the growth of its economic and political capabilities in the period of openness and reform changed this outdated picture of the world. China’s gradual transformation into a new superpower (in one joke, “China still isn’t Number One in the world, but it sure isn’t Number Two.”) is viewed by Americans with alarm and concern, and a desire to “restrain” a dangerous rival by any means possible.
We are not talking here about the rules of honest competition. Instead, anything needs dictate is allowed: attempts to achieve economic advantage by noneconomic means, imposing sanctions, hypocritical rhetoric in defense of human rights, and so on, and so on. And all of this against the background of both powers’ unprecedented trade and economic connectivity, and a gigantic volume of mutual trade turnover.
According to Joseph Nye, who originated the concept of “soft power,” interdependence is not a curse but a blessing, so long as it is used properly. It would seem, however, Washington has decided to ignore him, and the theory that economic interdependence between the United States and China will keep them from open conflict is, unfortunately, no longer being developed.
Washington sees Beijing as its main strategic rival and has adopted a policy of long-term opposition to China in all spheres. On October 4, 2018, Vice President Mike Pence delivered a sensational speech at the Hudson Institute, in which he said Beijing was interested in seeing President Trump turned out of office, and that the Chinese leadership was obviously making unprecedented attempts to influence the November mid-term elections to Congress and the next presidential campaign. Pence emphasized that these Chinese attempts to influence the American public were much more extensive than those “deployed by the Russians in 2016.”
After this, and against the background of other American attempts to accuse China of every deadly sin, the logical question arises: How serious is the deterioration of American-Chinese relations, and how long can it continue?
Fairly pessimistic prognoses have already been made. For example, Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group, says the trade war between the United States and China could drag on for two decades. Ma notes that the current tension between the two countries over trade will most likely affect large Chinese companies very quickly. To avoid U.S. import duties, they will be forced to transfer their production to other countries.
How serious and long-term Washington’s protectionist intentions are can be judged from one of the clauses of the new agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada (USMCA), destined to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). According to this provision, if any one of the three USMCA countries enters into a trade deal with a “nonmarket country,” the two others may withdraw from the agreement after six months and conclude their own bilateral trade deal.
Neither can anything good come of the anti-Chinese spy-o-mania campaign launched in the United States. According to (entirely unconfirmed) data from Bloomberg, the Chinese military conducted a massive cyber-espionage campaign, ostensibly to pressure local manufacturers of server equipment for American companies to place in motherboards chips “the size of a grain of rice” that are capable of intercepting data and downloading malicious codes into servers on command.
However, yet another walk through history is needed in order to grasp fully “how bad” and “how long” this could be. In his speech, Pence himself incidentally tried to perpetuate it by saying that China is playing “for the long term,” and in a “100-year marathon” has done much to acquire the image of a world power.
This means that with its many thousands of years of traditional strategic thought, Beijing truly knows how to wait and plan its development on a long-term basis. If one partner or another (in this case, U.S.A.) tries to upset this, a wide variety of steps could be taken, from patient attempts to reach agreement to harsh countermeasures and readiness to simply outwait an undesirable American administration.
In his speech, Pence incidentally noted that American-Chinese relations could simply be “torpedoed,” and made it clear Washington would not cross over “the red line.” He mentioned in particular that the United States would in the future adhere to the principle of “one China,” although he considered Taiwan’s political model to be better for the Chinese people.
In terms of recent history, the American Vice President recalled the events of the late 1990s, when the United States seriously believed that after the fall of the Soviet Union “freedom in China would expand in all forms.” These expectations (based partially on the internationally televised events on Tiananmen Square in June 1989, the first attempt at a color revolution in contemporary history) proved to be unjustified.
China made the historic choice of continuing its market reforms while keeping a one-party system to maintain stability and prevent the country’s collapse. Chinese leaders were not about to sacrifice political stability and the country’s territorial integrity to the demands of accelerated political modernization.
This was followed by harsh American sanctions that China knew how to survive. Despite opposition from the United States, it was even able to join the WTO more quickly than usual, and on its own terms. Pence, however, complained that “America agreed to give Beijing open access to our economy, and we brought China into the World Trade Organization.”
If attempts to contain China’s economic development failed then, they are even less promising today. China knows how to wait; its opponents can win battles, but they can hardly win the war. This most likely means the current period of deteriorating bilateral relations could be comparatively short (if Washington recognizes the uselessness of pressuring Beijing) and equal to how long the Trump administration remains in power.
Against this background, the meeting between U.S. President Trump and PRC Chairman Xi Jinping at the G20 summit of November 30-December 1, 2018 was categorized as a “temporary trade ceasefire.” Each side presented its interpretation of the results from what had been achieved. Donald Trump called his relationship with Xi “great” and presented the results from talks with him as meeting the American conditions: Washington would not be raising tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports as of January 1, 2019, while Beijing would “buy more U.S. products, based on market demand.”
On his part, the PRC Chairman said the heads of the two countries had arrived at a consensus on halting the introduction of new tariffs and ordered economic groups to step up consultations on reaching a concrete and mutually beneficial agreement aimed at lowering all tariffs. He stressed that Beijing was prepared to open markets, expand imports, and help in mitigating the corresponding trade and economic conflicts between China and the United States.
The Chinese government agreed in particular to lower or abolish tariffs on automobiles imported to China from the United States, which can be as high as 40%. Beijing officially announced that on the whole, China will actively expand imports (by way of, e.g., holding the first China International Import Expo) to satisfy the consumer needs of its people. It was noted in the closing documents of the G20 summit that China would lower its general level of tariffs from 9.8% to 7.5% in four rounds of adjustments during 2018.3
Because of the American-Chinese trade war, the world economy continues to be in a state of chaos (according to IMF estimates, the world GDP could fall 0.75% by 2020, due to the increased trade tension between the two countries. The key points of contention between Washington and Beijing over the future of the world’s trade and economic system remain unresolved. Trump’s slogan America First! fundamentally contradicts the views of Beijing, with its own growing economic might, on the state and future of the international trade system, based on the central role of the WTO.
It is sufficient to recall the recent APEC summit in Papua-New Guinea, which did not end with the signing of the traditional joint communiqué, due to the inability of the American and Chinese delegations to agree on the appropriate wording. If the Americans would not eliminate their remarks on protectionism, which upsets world trade, the Chinese refused to delete theirs about “unfair trade practices,” which would supposedly lead to the same result.
We should not, however, believe the narrative devised by the Western media on this matter. They claim that while the trade and economic giants clarify their relations, the rest of the world is standing by and waiting to see how it all ends. The thesis of the equal responsibility of the United States and China for the future of world trade does not stand up to scrutiny: the latter favors strengthening the central role of the WTO and its norms and principles, which postulate battling protectionism. Meanwhile, the White House has yet to explain to the rest of world what exactly “unfair trade practices” are.
Attempts by the U.S. administration to restrain China’s economic growth to the benefit of American supremacy, particularly by using trade restrictions to block implementation of the Made in China 2025 strategy, are likely to continue. However, it is worth noting the Chinese commentaries on the meeting in Buenos Aires, according to which the development of Sino-American relations demands that “friction between the two countries should be settled in good faith.”4
However, the ink had barely dried on the commentaries of those who viewed the Buenos Aires meeting between Trump and Xi as a ceasefire in the trade war when something occurred that was reminiscent of hostage-taking and the opening of a second front. The detaining in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, under pressure from the United States, became a full-fledged international scandal with far-reaching consequences.
U.S. federal officials demanded that Canada extradite Meng and presented Huawei with a list of 23 charges that included industrial espionage, financial fraud, violation of sanctions, and obstruction of justice. Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker announced the charges had been brought in both New York and Seattle.
In response, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the United States to rescind the order to arrest Meng and “to avoid going further and further down a mistaken path.” Whitaker’s qualification that the charges were made not against China but in regard to a specific company was hardly convincing. In a statement by a representative of China’s Foreign Ministry, it was emphasized that the United States “has been using state power to smear and attack specific Chinese enterprises, destroying the legitimate operations of the companies,” and that “there is strong political motivation and manipulation behind it.”5
Other countries, and Russia in particular, have already encountered this more than once; it is sufficient to recall the cases of Bout, Yaroshenko, and the Russian hackers who, legally or illegally, were extradited to the United States and handed over to American justice.
This is why Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, while noting that Russia will take no part in the American-Chinese trade war, stated “this is another example of a policy that has been rejected by the overwhelming majority of normal countries and peoples: a policy of extraterritorial application of national laws.” He went on to say “This is very arrogant, great-power politics that no one supports. It is being rejected even by the closest allies of the United States. They should put an end to this.”6
The problem was undoubtedly the American authorities’ dissatisfaction with the operations of Huawei itself. The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Justice Department had long been investigating the company’s violations of American sanctions against Teheran. Matters went much farther than sanctions, however. The Americans accused Huawei (as they did earlier with China’s ZTE) of potential threats to the security of telecommunications networks, allegedly stemming from attempts to use tracking devices. The United States demanded from its closest allies (primarily Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, with which it had created the Five Eyes system for the joint gathering and use of intelligence data) that they refrain from including 5G technologies developed by Huawei in their tenders for government purchases.
There are grounds for assuming that the main issue is not ensuring security but a simple desire to avoid competition. Huawei has become a generally recognized leader in the development and application of 5G technologies and equipment on which the future will depend: the Internet of Things, smart cities, driverless automobiles, and much else. Since technologies and equipment are accompanied by the standards for their use, a behind-the-scenes battle is being waged to force the 5G standards developed by Huawei out of world markets.
So far as the claim “They should put an end to this!” is concerned, the question is: How? The extradition of detainees to the United States formally proceeds within the confines of national law, but upon American request (often accompanied by rude and humiliating pressure from American authorities that is normally hushed up).
There is also the American Congress’ historic practice of scrutinizing and unilaterally altering signed international treaties and agreements during their ratification. This is also a pure manifestation of J William Fulbright’s “arrogance of power.”
The issue can be raised in the UN Security Council, where any examination of it can be blocked by the representative from the United States. However, there remains the moral and ethical aspect of the current political practice with which work begins on the corresponding norms of international law.
If China, Russia, and other countries with similar claims were to submit a draft resolution On the Unacceptability of Attempts by UN Member Countries to Extend the Norms of National Law Extraterritorially, it would surely receive enthusiastic support from the overwhelming majority of UN General Assembly members – with the possible exception of the dozen or so most zealous followers of Washington’s policies.
Why is the Huawei story unfolding now? Is it not associated with the competitive battle over 5G communications network standards in the world market? Huawei Technologies produced the world’s first chip whose conductivity exceeded that of its predecessors by 2.5 times. In addition, 5G base stations can be erected in half the time of their 4G analogs. Huawei Technologies has already signed 30 commercial agreements on 5G technology and delivered more than 25,000 5G base stations around the world.
There is obviously an attempt under way to quash competition by any means necessary. In mid-January 2019, it was revealed that the United States intended to limit the operations of Chinese telecommunications companies. An Executive Order was drawn up calling for restrictions “over national security concerns” for those telecommunications companies that have ties to the PRC government and do business in the United States.
This was against the background of constant accusations against Chinese companies (including Huawei) of stealing American technologies and intellectual property. Huawei, however, calmly denies this. It has long been investing its efforts and money in the basic sciences and technologies. According to a company statement, “We were the first to make a breakthrough in the key technologies of the broad commercial use of 5G.”7
Open extortion and attempts to employ foreign economic means are unacceptable in trade negotiations. Events show the Chinese must cultivate strategic patience in order to bring trade and economic negotiations to an end and reach a deal. China is interested in this so that the trade war does not distract it from solving strategic problems associated with the growth of the economy and strengthening its position in the world trade.
It is thought this is where the key lies to understanding how U.S.A.-China relations look now and what lies ahead for them. Resolving differences is a possible and necessary prerequisite for revitalizing relations between the two world powers. The system of a multipronged strategic dialog of which they were once so proud, and into which they invested so much time and effort, is breaking down increasingly often under Donald Trump and needs a reboot. Beijing is aware of this; we must continue to hope that Washington grasps it as well.
Traditional thoughts on how the enormous mutual trade turnover and close trade and economic connectivity of the United States and China ensure against an escalation of rhetoric and conflict are not living up to expectations. However, if the two sides manage to devise a mechanism for resolving differences, making a really big trade deal would revive both American-Chinese relations and the world economy.
Beijing is calling on its American partners to remember the dialectic of cooperation and collaboration, noninterference of politics into economics, and honest competition and observing the rules of the game. China is consistently building its relations with the surrounding world, including the United States, based on the principle of mutual benefit and mutual respect for national interests.
Along with everything else, China’s attempts to establish evenhanded and respectful relations with the United States is one part of its efforts to create a new world order based on multipolarity. By developing relations of a reliable strategic partnership with China (which will not grow into a military and political alliance), Russia too is playing a far from minor role in this.
1. China and the World Trade Organization: Full Text. URL: http://english.gov. cn/archive/white_paper/2018/06/28/content_281476201898696.htm
2. URL: https://rg.ru/2019/01/17/mid-knr-kitaj-ne-sobiraetsia-stanovitsia-ssha-ili-zameniat-ih.html
3. Buenos-Ayresskiy plan deystviy [Buenos Aires Action Plan]. December 1, 2018. URL: http://www.kremlin.ru/supplement/5375
4. URL: http://russian.news.cn/2018-12/03/c_137646572.htm
5. URL: https://www.interfax.ru/world/648166
6. Vystupleniye i otvety na voprosy SMI ministra inostrannykh del Rossiyi S.V. La-vrova na press-konferentsiyi po itogam 25-go zasedaniya SMID OSCE, Milan, December 7, 2018. URL: http://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_pub lisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3437709
7. URL: http://russian.news.cn/2019-01/25/c_137771930.htm
Author: Andrei Davydov
China, THE UNITED STATES AND RUSSIA ON THE WAY TO REWORKING THE WORLD ORDER
Source: Far Eastern Affairs, Vol. 47, No. 4, 2019, pp. 49-66
Persistent URL (original): https://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/54242315
DOI (translation): http://dx.doi.org/10.21557/FEA.56992457
Abstract. This article considers the countries of the so-called “Big Three” and the relations among them today. An attempt is made to predict the places and roles of the three countries in reworking the world order, based on the views they hold and features of the existing and future world order. Recommendations are made for their optimization and building harmonious relations capable of establishing a durable and long-lasting peace.
Keywords: China, the United States, Russia, “Big Three,” world order, reworking, conflict paradigm, rivalry management
In recent years, relations between China, the United States, and Russia – the countries of the so-called “Big Three” – are under constant scrutiny not only by political scientists but by wide circles of the international community as well, for a number of reasons.
This is primarily due to their constituting the trio of the largest world powers, each of which differs objectively and uniquely from the world’s other countries. The United States has the most modern economic, scientific, and technological potential. China has unparalleled demographic resources. Russia has the largest territory and the most extensive mineral reserves. Due to these and other special properties, the above countries aspire to a leading global role. In their desire to claim leadership, each one strives to rely on the characteristic approaches and ideological values unique to it.
The United States counts on the principles of a market economy and democracy to cover its frequent intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries, making them subordinate and spreading a political order that corresponds to American interests.
China, in expanding its now universal penetration of developing and developed countries on different continents, calls for creating a global “common destiny community,” based mainly on strengthening trade and economic ties.
Russia, while rejecting the old Soviet ideology of socialism and communism, nevertheless continues its often paternalistic approaches toward building relations with some of its partners, though it does try to do so on a case-by-case basis.
The collapse of the earlier bipolar system that had lasted four decades, a fundamental reason for which was undoubtedly the progressive Soviet-Chinese discord of the 1960s, made the problem of reworking the world order especially relevant, down to creating a new system of international relations.
This process has been unfolding since the early 1990s. It has passed through several stages, from the establishing of monopolarity, when the United States as the winner of the Cold War tried to dictate its will and conditions of existence to the rest of the world, to the current efforts of China and Russia to undermine the American monopoly on world hegemony and promote alternative plans for global development.
Under these conditions, the United States, which even a decade ago imagined its hope of world leadership and dominance was guaranteed, began to reexamine its earlier position, moving away from the trends of globalization it had so recently initiated and in which it was an active participant, replacing them with economic nationalism. This would eventually lead to a renewal of the celebrated trade war with China, essentially marking the start of a battle to alter the existing world order.
All three of the leading world powers are thus rejecting the archaic former international structure in one way or another and favor reworking it, though each one has its own idea of what is required for it.
For the three considered countries, 2019 was a jubilee and (in some sense) culminating year. For China, it was the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, the 40th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations with the United States, and the de facto 50th anniversary of the start of American-Chinese rapprochement, which dates from Richard Nixon’s arrival at the White House in 1969.
For Russia, it was not only the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China,1 but the 50th anniversary of the bloody events in the island of Damansk, which marked the culmination of the Soviet-Chinese conflict and the peak of hostility in relations between the two countries, which threatened to grow into a full-scale war between them.
For the United States, Richard Nixon’s coming to power fifty years ago is associated with both the normalization of relations with the People’s Republic of China and the simultaneous start of American-Soviet détente.
Considering 2019 to be a year of culmination enabled China, the United States, and Russia to dispel illusions. China was forced to recognize that in contrast to its economic ascent, which the United States views with relative calm and restraint, its geopolitical and technological growth evokes outright displeasure in Washington and could have the most negative consequences not only for Chinese-American relations but for the global situation as a whole.
The idea that its chances for preserving and maintaining a monopolar world are nowhere near as great or indisputable as it thought ten years ago has penetrated deeply into the United States. It, therefore, must rework not only its tactics but its strategy as well.
Among Russia’s political elite (though far from all of them), the illusory faith in their country and China having a “single path and common goals, and all we need do is form an alliance with it; or if worst comes to worst, do even more to develop ties of partnership, and we have nothing to fear,” since such cooperation brings purported “rapid and abundant benefits,” has begun to crumble.
Recent events in bilateral relations, including Xi Jinping’s last visit to Russia, have actually shown that despite the great enthusiasm expressed in the state media, both countries must still make enormous efforts to ensure their current reconciliation is not opportunistic but genuine and productive.
The year 2019 also became a virtual landmark on the road for each of the three countries to achieve the goals set by their leaders. Let us recall that during his election campaign, US President Donald Trump promised to “make America great again.” Chairman Xi has spoken repeatedly about hopes to realize the “dreams of the great rebirth of the Chinese nation” by the middle of the 21st century, and promised to provide the world “global leadership with Chinese specific features.” Vladimir Putin’s statements about Russia’s desire to regain the great power status that the Soviet Union had in its day have also struck a chord with his fellow countrymen.
These highly ambitious aims have nothing to do with one another; instead, they fully correspond to the aspirations of all three countries, which are obviously based on shoring up the baggage they accumulated earlier.
After the end of World War II, America inevitably emerged as one of the world’s leading powers, first in a bipolar world, and then, after its collapse, on a global level.
Beijing is attempting to comfortably apply the Han civilization’s ancient principle of “Sinocentralism,” according to which China is destined to be at the focus of world consciousness. Since it is “surrounded by barbarians,” it must “constantly clash with them” to ensure its own survival and subsequent rebirth.
As the largest country in the world, Russia finds it disgraceful to be satisfied with the status of a mere interregional power, since it has a nuclear arsenal comparable to that of the United States and is the legal successor to the Soviet Union.
It is clear, however, that great power ambitions must be based not only on past achievements but the corresponding defining criteria as well. As is well known, for any country to claim superpower status it must have supremacy (or at least parity) with its rivals in most of the four following spheres: economics, modern science and technology, military might, and geostrategic status and influence.
Only the United States currently meets all of these criteria. China is comparable to it in economic and (to some extent) technological parameters. Moscow can compete with Washington only in the military aspect.
China has a high global economic rating, gained after many years of acting as “the world’s factory” with cheap labor. In return, it has acquired state-of-the-art Western technologies and broad access to trade, along with the economic benefits granted to developing countries by the WTO.
Russia, initially recognized under Yeltsin as a full partner with the West and then finding itself completely subordinate to it (and virtually one step away from losing sovereignty), began its own rebuilding under Putin with a reexamination of “partner roadmaps” and the restoration of its lost military might, which it has largely succeeded in doing.
However, neither China nor Russia has yet managed to surpass America in all of the above criteria. The main common factor in their efforts to reach global heights remains agreeing that multipolarity is in their view the only acceptable future world structure, but their visions of the roads leading to it do not at all coincide.
China, which holds leading positions in the world economy while firmly denying it has any desire for hegemony, has actually demonstrated an indefatigable wish to confirm its status as a global (rather than regional) power, with its subsequent transformation into a superpower. Its plans, set forth in many Chinese government and Party documents, testify to this directly and obliquely.
The trade and economic policies followed by China in recent decades eventually gave the country a real opportunity not only to catch up to the more economically developed Western countries but to join the ranks of the world’s leaders in technologies and industry. The media in the Western countries now talk increasingly about how the United States and Europe lag behind in developing new technologies. “Robotechnical systems based on artificial intelligence, automated learning, quantum calculations, or intellectual mobility, are all being created in China, and not the United States.”2
It is well known that Chinese supercomputers are some of the fastest in the world. Also, the world’s largest radio telescope is in China. Finally, China intends to dominate the next generation of informational technology, including the world’s 5G networks.
The United States and China are not only competitors and rivals in this, but mutually dependent partners as well. The United States depends on China in a number of key areas, from inexpensive consumer goods to loan obligations totaling more than $1 trillion. China depends in turn on preserving the ability of American consumers to buy Chinese goods, and on current American technologies in certain key areas.
To achieve its set goals, China is taking a number of determined steps in the political, military, social, and demographic spheres, in addition to economics and other areas of equal importance. As was indicated in Xi Jinping’s report to the 19th CPC Congress, one of these is achieving “world leadership in omnifaceted national power and international influence” by the middle of this century.
China is taking active measures in this direction. Along with military reform to bring the combat and organizational structures of the People’s Liberation Army into line and equip it with new types of weapons, it is increasing its participation in different regional and international missions.
China is strengthening its military and strategic positions in adjacent waters and in the Asia-Pacific Region as a whole. Under certain conditions, its execution of the Belt and Road concept could make it easier to improve not only its trade and economic position but its strategic efforts as well, and on the global level.
In the last two decades, China – which not so long ago was closed to and had essentially isolated itself from the outside world – has sharply expanded and intensified its international ties, having strengthened its influence and authority in practically every region of the world through trade and investment.
The special Chinese approach to developing countries frequently compels the latter to believe that only Beijing is capable of adequately understanding the problems and difficulties they have and providing effective support and assistance. Remarkably, the available data show that the export of Chinese capital in the form of direct investments, including those made in the developing world, grew 53,300% between 2000 and 2017, while the export of goods only tripled.3
China’s efforts and resources for improving its geostrategic position nevertheless are still inferior to the abilities and means available to the United States for such purposes, let alone the two countries’ comparative strategic military potentials. Even if we consider the nuclear missile component, the scale of which Beijing is actively increasing (while carefully hiding it from others) but still does not meet that of the Americans, the United States’ advantages over China in military might remain secure today.
It is thought that China recognizes this and is refraining from rash actions. Although the rivalry between the United States and China has already gone beyond pure economics, it has still not (in my opinion) reached the stage where war is the only way of settling their dispute. At the same time, the past unthinkability of such a war was categorically denied in a report from the respected Rand Corporation’s analytical center in the summer of 2016.4
The results from the continuing rivalry between the two countries in economics, trade, high technology, and the strategic military sphere will determine in the long run if America can maintain its leading positions in these areas, or if it will be pushed into second place by the energetic and rapidly developing Chinese Juggernaut.
In contrast to the friction between America and China, which is classified as “regulated,” Russia’s leading political analysts consider their country’s bipolar relationship with the United States to be “unregulated.”5 This is not, however, indisputable.
Russia’s relations with the United States did not deteriorate all at once. They spiraled downward gradually over a bit more than ten years. While applauding globalization and declaring in the early 1990s that Russia would join in the process, the country’s leadership at the time either did not notice or lost sight of its reverse side simultaneously being the ubiquitous transplant and spread of proverbial American stereotypes and ideological values, the Russian people inevitably adjusting to them, and increased dependence on and subordination to the United States.
The first signs of Russia’s dissatisfaction with the world order established by the West after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the place allocated to the country within it, emerged as early as the presidency of Boris Yeltsin, in the actions of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. His famous turnaround over the Atlantic, and the dropping of Russian paratroopers into Priština, showed that Russia would not swallow any Western line silently and without question.
Vladimir Putin’s February 10, 2007 speech in Munich was a sharp rebuttal to the Western dictate that, it is true, only aggravated the situation and reinforced the negative perception of Russia and its leader in Western society. By that time, however, Russia and countries friendly toward it had already taken the first steps toward creating structures (e.g., the SCO, BRICS, RIC, and the EAEС) destined to lay the foundations for a future multipolar world order that would be an alternative to Western monopolarity. All of this proceeded virtually in parallel with the Turn toward the East campaign, under the slogan “Catch the East Wind in Your Sails!”
A result of Russia’s future actions, the most important of which was the annexation of the Crimea, was its exclusion from the G8 in March 2014. This marked the beginning of the true crisis in its relations with the West, which started to grow in totality as it deepened. This systemic crisis, which unfolded against the background of a number of serious domestic quarrels in Western society, became even worse with the arrival of Donald Trump’s administration in the United States.
By the middle of summer 2018, Russian-American relations could not have been worse. Many compared them to the Cuban Missile Crisis, with Secretary General António Guterres in particular saying there was a new Cold War.6 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was even more categorical, saying that the situation was more critical than in the distant past, since “there were then channels of communication, and today there are none.”7
The first communication occurred on July 16, 2018, when talks between Putin and Trump were held in Helsinki. Assessments of these ranged from restrained pessimism to cautious optimism in the Russian media, and from paranoid spyomania to accusations of “betraying national interests” coming from one element of the American Establishment. The second was heard recently, during the Osaka meeting of the G20.
Why did Russia’s fifteen years of moving toward the West and its efforts to make their relations more comfortable and trusting end with its de facto isolation and locking out?
At the height of the Cold War in the 1980s, US President Ronald Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire.” This was meant to be offensive and insulting, but the average Soviet citizen liked hearing the word “empire” even in that negative context, since it meant they were not alone; rather, they were surrounded by allies of a sort – or at least by satellites.
The Russia of today is far from being an empire, but the collective, coordinated efforts of the West have for a minimum of five or six tears been aimed at pushing it into the company of such “rogue states” as North Korea, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and others like them.
It is also true that Russians feel more alone in the world than before, despite the new types of advanced and supermodern weapons their country now seems to have, and the heralded great technological breakthroughs in the military sphere proclaimed by President Putin. The term “strategic solitude,” toward which respected Russian political analysts are inclined more favorably than negatively, has even emerged.8
“We must become stronger economically, and then others will come to us. But who is coming to us now? Those who come to us with their hands out, and we are unable to spoon-feed them caviar. We must provide for ourselves.” These words were spoken by General of the Army Vyacheslav Trubnikov, former Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.9 There is nothing more to add.
A country with a strong developed economy, capable of not only providing for itself but offering the rest of the world a wide variety of its own products in addition to raw materials and weapons, can hardly remain in the vacuum of isolation. Neither can it be confounded by the task of seeking doubtful allies while attracting them by issuing obviously unrecoverable credits that will have to be compensated for later with “domestic resources.”
Unfortunately, the Russia of today has virtually no truly effective treaty allies. Of the former Soviet republics along the perimeter of the Russian Federation, it has official alliances with only the five other members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, which it has pledged to defend at any cost “down to the use of nuclear weapons,” based on the obligations of collective defense. In reality, however, nuclear aggression against these countries is, according to prominent international experts, “hard to imagine.”10
Russia’s relations with another six former Soviet republics (Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, and – to some extent – Estonia and Moldova) are downright hostile, or close to being so. With the remaining three (Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan), they are neutral or restrained. It is clear that with such relations inside the former Soviet Union, we should not expect a separate monopolar system grouped around Russia to be created in the future.
As noted above, China, which long ago positioned itself as Russia’s “trustworthy strategic partner,” undoubtedly has power and influence around the world. Talks on transforming the partnership relations between Russia and China into a formal alliance have been held for many years, primarily under pressure from representatives of the military and security services, who are only vaguely aware of the specifics of the issues. They could be reactivated once again after a recent high-level Russian-Chinese meeting.
However, China will never become a true treaty ally of Russia, mainly because it is fundamentally opposed to entangling itself in alliances. It believes that any alliance obligations are accompanied by a partial loss of sovereignty, especially in the military field.
Today, Russia itself should have to be apprehensive about such an alliance with China. First of all, some of its sovereignty would hypothetically lie in China’s hands if one were concluded. Russia would have to think carefully about building an alliance with a country whose population is ten times larger than its own, while its GDP is only several percent that of China’s. Neither should it forget that Chinese investment in Russia comes exclusively through government channels, and not from China’s private businesses.
Second and most important, Russia’s positions do not always agree fully with China’s, and on some issues they differ markedly. Each side has its own priority interests. It is worth remembering the differences between the two countries’ views on the economic development of Central Asia, and the activities of the SCO, and other regional structures. The statistics on Russia and China’s voting in the UN Security Council and General Assembly are interesting, as they reveal the dissimilarity in their approaches to assessing important international problems.11 China holds a “special position” on the Crimea and Russia’s territorial dispute with Japan, and is inclined toward solidarity with the United States where the Arctic is concerned. Beijing scrupulously follows all of Washington’s financial and economic sanctions against Russia and does not wish to participate in multilateral talks on disarmament.
At times it seems that China sees Russia not so much as an economic and political partner but as a kind of counterforce capable of working with it to oppose American actions in the Asia-Pacific Region and worldwide over against the Chinese interests. Such an important factor as the compatibility of national psychologies should obviously be considered in creating treaty alliances. If it is ignored, the results from such efforts could be unpredictable.
It is difficult to imagine not even an alliance but a single Russian-Chinese pole in the coming world architecture, since the problem of “leader and led” would inevitably arise, given the two countries’ ambitions, and this could aggravate existing disagreements. Nevertheless, current Russian-Chinese relations must be cultivated by every means possible. Attention should be given to strengthening ties and finding ways to stimulate interest in them among the Chinese.
It was noted above that despite its still intact superpower status, the United States is dissatisfied with its current position in the world. The reason for this is not merely its waning hopes of world domination but its dashed dreams of increasing its supremacy and advantages by initiating the process of globalization, in which America was to be an active participant. Instead, the levers of globalization have easily been taken over by the Chinese.
The universality of globalization was zealously defended and upheld by the team of Democrats headed by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who in America represented the interests of the international speculative financial and oligarchical elite. While affecting the political climate inside the United States, the departure of “globalist” Obama and the arrival of “antiglobalist” Donald Trump at a difficult moment of turbulence in the world led simultaneously to interference in foreign affairs as well.
The changing of the guard in Washington was not limited to the traditional party-based shuffling of officials. Instead, it was key to a shift in priorities on the path of American society’s development and the shaping of domestic and foreign policy.
Moving to strengthen domestic markets, revive and expand the industrial base within the United States, restrict the influx of immigrants, withdraw from international trade agreements that could result in economic losses for America, reject speculative deals, increase the production of domestic oil and gas while limiting imports and simultaneously trying to force Europe and the rest of the world to buy expensive American shale oil instead of cheaper Russian petroleum, and similar steps taken by the new president both altered the situation inside the country drastically and provoked an international reaction that included such statements as “the United States risks losing its role of world leader,” and “the traditional internal bipartisan unity in foreign politics is virtually on the brink of collapse.”
The situation worsened when Trump was accused of conspiring with Russia to ensure his victory in the presidential elections. It was largely due to this factor that relations between the two countries became tense and difficult. Even if Trump’s desire to improve them was sincere, he could not openly display his amicability toward Russia, since he had already positioned himself in the American media as something akin to an “agent of the Kremlin.”
Characteristically, the main reason for the deterioration of Russian-American relations was not so much the events in Ukraine or Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, which merely provided an excuse for maneuvering by the United States. The prime cause was that during the January 2009 change in administrations, the Democrats and Republicans failed to notice the demise of monopolarity and, believing the consequences of the collapse of the bipolar world system had finally been put to rest, dismissed Russia as a global player.
The pragmatic Vladimir Putin’s return to power in 2012 upset the deck for the Americans, shattered their division of the world according to interests, and led to a renewal of a whole range of conflicts that brought a gradual worsening and finally the complete deterioration of Russian-American ties, long before the events in Ukraine. The American reaction to these, and to Russia’s role in them, appeared to be one manifestation of the United States’ resistance to the first steps toward laying the foundations of global multipolarity.
A chain reaction of anger toward Russia traveled from the United States to the European countries, expanding the policy of sanctions and producing countersanctions. This led to infringement of Russian rights to normal activity within international formats, including participation in a number of forums. The West closed ranks against Russia for one reason and one reason only: It had no desire to watch Russia’s rebirth as a great global power, which ran counter to their plans and frightened them more than anything else.
Russian-American ties are perhaps one of the most difficult problems of the new US administration. Russia is itself largely to blame for this, since many of its politicians, political analysts, and media figures began to exaggerate “Trumpomania” immediately after the elections,12 expressing unfounded optimism in hopes of a rapid improvement in relations with America. None of these proved to be justified. The rise in optimism observed in the days immediately after the renewal of high-level Russian-American contacts is now void of any real content and cannot be taken seriously. In the opinion of many American analysts, expressed even before Trump was inaugurated, it is highly likely that the state of Russian-American relations will depend largely on what happens in Moscow and Beijing.13
Where the last is concerned, experts believe there has long been a viewpoint within the American strategic community that “the United States must prevent China from becoming a world power by instigating domestic unrest and, if this does not help, by resorting to preemptive war.”14
Even having normalized relations with Beijing in 1972, Washington has in reality kept its ideological intolerance and strategic goals of its policy toward China, which are to eventually replace its political structure and social system and install a regime friendly to the United States. This, as is confirmed by war games in so-called Chimerica and other things, is one of the main reasons for the buildup of conflict potential in American-Chinese relations.
Considering its plans for modernization in the first half of this century, aggravation of the conflict with the United States would be a disaster for China, one capable of slowing the country’s development and returning to its original position. Until recently, relations between the two countries were, therefore, described in China as “a combination of cooperation and competition,” but with no elements of confrontation.15 At the same time, Beijing has never agreed to act as the United States’ junior partner.
Trump’s intention to restore the grandeur of America on a new, stronger foundation, could not help but reflect on the character of American-Chinese relations. Even under Obama, China, having become the world’s second (and according to some indicators, first) economy, was increasing its participation in global management, expanding it from economic to security affairs and thereby announcing it aspires to the role of a global leader.
This possibility was unthinkable not only for Obama, who tried to prevent China from strengthening its position in the Asia-Pacific Region. It turned out to be unacceptable to Trump as well, despite his proclaimed inclination to favor Chinese initiatives for expanding cooperation with the countries in the region.
The United States could not tolerate China’s dominance in the APR, since the loss of Pacific Asia would deprive the Americans of a platform underpinning the foundations of their global leadership. At Trump’s initiative, a new area has thus emerged in the geopolitical sphere: the Indo-Pacific region, or the so-called Indo-Pacific.
While continuing to call relations between the United States and China “the most important bilateral relationship in the world,” Washington listed China among its main strategic rivals for the first time in the 2017 National Security Strategy. It drew back from two important postulates in the previous administration’s policy toward Beijing:
- Maintaining the earlier balance of power in the APR and East Asia could contain China’s drive to alter the established American order in the area.
- In the hope of subsequent liberalization of China’s regime from within, there should be no further attempts to integrate China into the general world order created under US patronage.
In the political and legal sphere, the United States charges China with the militarization of the South China Sea, increasing its pressure on Taiwan, violations in the field of human rights and freedom of religion, cyberespionage encouraged by the authorities, modernizing Chinese military installations by stealing American technology through hacker attacks, and expanding its geopolitical ambitions.
In the financial and economic sphere, Beijing is traditionally accused of (among other things) manipulating the yuan exchange rate, establishing and taking advantage of discriminatory trade barriers, dumping goods leading American industry to ruin, introducing restrictions on trade with the United States, and constantly demanding that China have access to new American technologies in exchange for allowing US companies onto its markets.
Although the United States was first to announce it was in a trade war with China, Washington maintains it began with Beijing challenging America. At the same time, reasons for the outbreak of the war offered by Russian analysts range from accusations that China ignited it (consciously or unconsciously) by failing to observe generally recognized rules of international trade, to the United States being at fault for not wanting to accept China’s efforts to acquire global power status.
In this context, Trump’s actions are viewed as deliberately restraining China’s technological development in order to slow its advance toward that goal, particularly by upsetting the Made in China-2025 program, since the main targets of US protectionist measures are precisely those industries given priority under its provisions.
The very existence of the current American-Chinese conflict attests to the emergence of some fundamentally new points in relations between the two countries:
- Close trade and economic ties and a huge volume of trade turnover are no guarantee that the disputes between the United States and China will not grow into a major confrontation, and perhaps result in all-out conflict.
- Trade disputes are levers not only of economic pressure but of political pressure as well.
- China’s status is changing in its relations with the United States. It is being transformed from a competitive partner to one of America’s geopolitical rivals, confrontation with which could easily spread from economics to other spheres.
- Mechanisms of dialogue between the United States and China, the effectiveness of which has been muted by the deterioration of their relations, should be restructured or revived.
- Conflicts of an ideological and humanitarian nature in matters of, e.g., democracy and totalitarianism, rights and freedoms, and the definition of the rule of law are clearly growing in relations between the two countries.
- New conflicts have emerged: US demands for the need to include China in Russian-American negotiations on the topic of nuclear missiles met a sharply negative response from the Chinese.
- The difference between approaches to organizing the future world order remains: the Chinese advocate multipolarity, while the United States continues to adhere to the idea of a monopolar world.
What will the future world order be? It is difficult to predict this, though it can be outlined in more detail if we consider the aims of the countries in the trio and the current situation in their relations with one another.
The stipulated deadlines for settling the trade and economic dispute between the United States and China are constantly being extended, and the parties’ negotiations have obviously reached a dead end. This strongly indicates that even if there is an eventual agreement between them, the fundamental conflicts that have built up in Chinese-American relations will not be fully resolved. The confrontation that began as a trade war threatens to grow into a permanent state of mutual hostility, to which the two countries’ strongly expressed intention not to give in to each other attests.
Obviously not expecting a quick and amicable resolution of its economic conflict with the United States, Beijing has characteristically abandoned the restrained and diplomatic rhetoric it was using not so long ago, and now intends to “get tough” with America and “achieve peace through struggle.”16 Each country has its own version of the truth. China believes it has subsidized the American economy for decades by loaning the United States money and supplying it with industrial goods, so it can easily cause it to implode by cutting off such support.
The United States does not believe this approach will harm only it but China as well, since the growth of the Chinese economy was guaranteed over the same decades through preferential access to American technologies, capital, and markets. Washington is, therefore, confident that cutting China’s economy off from the American system (if events lead to a total embargo and dollar sanctions) “cannot help but deal China a rather painful blow it will have to ameliorate with prolonged and difficult reforms.”17
China’s dumping of US bonds, which would bring serious grief to the average American, would, therefore, play into Trump’s hands, since it would weaken the dollar and simultaneously help reduce the country’s trade deficit with China.
To overcome the emerging conflict, China was prepared to
(a) increase imports from the United States by substituting unfinished American goods for products from other countries,
(b) agree to reforms in the area of intellectual property and making its economy more open, and
(c) make concessions in sectors dictated by the very logic of economic reform.
This did not, however, satisfy the United States. It additionally insisted on denying the Chinese government support from high-tech industries and curtailing other forms of subsidization. For China, this was obviously a black mark it could not overlook. It would seem Xi Jinping himself forbade any further Chinese concessions to the United States.
At the same time, it is thought that after indulging the Mueller Commission, Trump no longer had to strike a quick deal with China. Though this might have been a tactical success, it could have seemed a strategic failure in the policy of making America “great again” in the runup to the 2020 presidential elections.18
Viewpoints differ as to the prospects for the American-Chinese conflict growing in the future. One of these is that the current American administration clearly intends to pressure China as far as it can, since the question of whether the United States will retain its status as the world’s monopole in the 21st century is being settled. Escalation will continue so long as its consequences are not intolerable to either China or the United States. Chinese leaders are in turn clearly counting on their people having a higher threshold of pain, and their system being able to endure more than their opponents’.
Another opinion is that Beijing has given up on finding a solution to the problem with the Republican administration and will do everything it can to encourage the return of the Democrats to the White House in 2020, especially since the son of their potential candidate Joe Biden has ties to Chinese business.
It must be admitted that Trump’s policy is gradually reducing the United States’ trade deficit with China, due primarily to the drop in Chinese exports to America, which in 2018 was already as great as 2.4%.
The United States has drastically limited direct Chinese investments in its strategic industries, especially in the sphere of developing artificial intelligence and 5G standards. It is also pressuring its partners and allies to refrain from participating in the Belt and Road initiative, and to step up their military activities where China is concerned. These include patrolling the East and South China Seas better to guarantee freedom of navigation.
However, we cannot exclude the possibility of the Chinese leadership disagreeing over the future course of relations with the United States against a background of outward “monolithic unity.” Testifying to this is the divergence of opinion among China’s expert community, which is seriously influencing the evolution of Beijing’s policy. While members of the “progovernment bloc” (Beijing and the northeastern part of the country) advocate increasing resistance to America on nearly all fronts, the business-oriented and prosperous regions of southeastern and southern China (Shanghai, Guangdong, and others) insist on seeking “channels of communication.” This is hardly surprising when we consider the income they risk losing.19
So far, Beijing has taken measures in response to the United States raising duties on Chinese imports from 10% to 25% in May, to the tune of $200 billion. Starting on June 1, 2019, China raised its tariffs on 2,493 goods imported from the United States from 10% to 25%. Tariffs on another 1,078 goods were raised from 10% to 20%. All American claims against China were simultaneously denied, including demands for US access to Chinese markets in return for technology transfer, which the newspaper Renmin ribao dismissed as “pure fantasy.”
American claims against China in the nuclear missile sphere were also denied. Beijing’s position is that the countries with the largest nuclear arsenals ought to fulfill their obligations for disarmament, continue observing arms control agreements, and extend the corresponding treaties.
China itself, which has ostensibly promised “not to be the first to use nuclear arms against other countries” while an estimated 80% of its strategic arsenal consists of intermediate-range weapons, claims its nuclear missile forces are kept “at the minimum level.” It will, therefore, not participate in any negotiations on trilateral agreements for them. Meanwhile, the People’s Liberation Army has already begun to build aircraft carriers and establish foreign bases.
China’s refusal to participate in such negotiations is nevertheless not the worst thing that could happen in relations between the quarrelling rivals. Beijing’s current program to internationalize the yuan and crowd America’s hard currency out of China’s domestic market threatens to have even more serious consequences. Having accumulated reserves of US dollars up to 2014, China changed its strategy five years ago, preferring to make hard-currency investments abroad. China’s plans are to cease using the US dollar in international trade in the future, after which its economy will need no longer fear foreign sanctions.
What would this mean for Russia and the rest of the world?
In its trade relations with China, Russia has agreed to expand the practice of paying in national currencies. So far, as much as 76% of the two countries’ trade is conducted in US dollars, and a full transition to the yuan and ruble would entail definite risks. The devaluation of the yuan due to the trade war with the Americans results in losses for those who hold them. This happened to the RF Central Bank in 2018, bringing the share of yuan in its hard-currency reserves to 15%.
Where world consequences are concerned, the problem is that the US economy, while laboring under a $20 trillion national debt, still manages to stay afloat, largely because of the dollar’s use as the world’s main currency, so long as Washington issues it. The de-dollarization of the international economic system, one of Beijing’s main goals, could upset its coherency and produce viable independent issuers that rely on the yuan, gold, or some other standard, and are controlled by forces authorized to make political, economic, and other such decisions.
Other isolated financial systems of global importance might emerge alongside new issuers. This could provoke a new Cold War, but on financial and economic (rather than political and ideological) grounds. It could also launch a new stage of de-globalization – or at least fragment the world economy. Fighting harder for the future restructuring of global markets does not exclude the possibility of the economic Cold War turning hot in the long run.
Ninety-six-year-old Henry Kissinger, the main architect of American-Chinese relations and initiator of the two countries’ rapprochement, believes there is no way out of the situation in which they find themselves today, that is free of conflict. The confrontation is further exacerbated by the divide separating America and China continuing to follow ideological lines to which they have from time to time tried to turn a blind eye.
It follows from Kissinger’s assertion that the probability of “soft” alternatives to the harsh variant, in which the rivals might grope toward agreement, is practically zero. At the same time, the possibility of the two parties both realizing the consequences of escalating the conflict between them, and what it would mean for the global community and security, keeps alive the hope they will not dare go so far. It would, therefore, be desirable for the future development of the current situation if they sought peaceful solutions, regardless of how long and intricate they might be, through compromise and concessions. The end result could be the creation of a new bipolarity – or a flimsy structure on the brink of collapse.
What are Russia’s place and role in these searches? Today, it is caught between Atlantic Europe and China, which are already prepared for the transition to the next technological era and a new level of digitization. Russia’s choice of its political orientation could thus also become the path of its future technological development. Or, it could be the other way around – technologies might determine its policy. In light of today’s overwhelmingly confrontational paradigm, the temptation of siding with China is quite great.
Prominent politicians Igor Ivanov and Dai Binguo called for the creation of a bilateral Russian-Chinese pole at the last joint forum held under the aegis of the Russian Council of International Affairs in Moscow in May 2019. This proposal was definitely applauded by those in Russia who say categorically that “in league with China, we’re an indomitable force.” This formula, indisputable at first glance, is dangerous because it aims to maintain the permanence of confrontation and the inevitability of armed conflict, and could play a negative role. However, there should be no permanent confrontation.
Those who today advocate a hasty consolidation of friendship with China down to reviving the old slogan “Russians and Chinese – brothers forever!” should remember certain aspects of China’s national mentality, where talk frequently differs from actions, and the zigzags and nuances in the 70-year history of their relations with each other. They should also consider the comparative statistics of China’s trade and economic ties with Russia and the United States.20
In addition, the Russian media recognize that the same emotional component which was present in Chinese-American ties when official diplomatic relations were established between the two countries nearly fifty years ago is playing a large role in today’s Russian-Chinese rapprochément.
Political relations between Russia and China are today better and more extensive than their economic collaboration, while Chinese-American trade and economic ties, despite the growing conflict, are still deeper and stronger than relations in the political sphere. Unfortunately, Russia now seems to be the weakest member of the trio in terms of economic parameters, geopolitical weight, and international influence.
The confrontational paradigm will continue to dominate so long as the Americans strive for hegemony, while long-term plans for creating a new international order to replace the Brussels-Washington system prevail among Russia and China.
It, therefore, follows that the most important factors in moving toward a new world system are switching from a paradigm of confrontation to one of cooperation; from perceiving the world as a combination of problems and conflicts to recognizing the need for it to develop along lines of collaboration; and replacing the principle of a balance of power with one of a balance of interests.
This does not mean, however, that in moving along this path to collaboration with China, Russia should indulge it wherever possible and act exclusively in its interests while ignoring its own. Above all, it is not in Russia’s interest to try to reconcile China and America. The classic formula of relations in a trilateral format, where those of one side with each of the other two sides are better than those among all three, could turn out to be best for Russia.
Russia’s foreign policy priority should consequently be establishing ties with the United States, which would require a major reworking of the practices, forms, means, and approaches of Russian diplomacy. For Russia, key points along this path would be seeking support from a number of economically important, politically neutral, and militarily strong countries other than China, and finding grounds for compromises with the United States in areas that are acceptable to both sides.
The recently floated idea of holding an EU-RF-PRC-APR forum on problems of peaceful coexistence and reworking the world order is, therefore, interesting. It would be useful to invite representatives from the United States to participate in such a forum as well.
Ideally, the parties to the conflict should understand the need to reach agreement on constructive ways of managing their rivalry, in which cooperation in some spheres should proceed simultaneously with healthy competition in others. It would then be possible to build a new international order based on the understanding that any rising power must play a definite role in shaping global rules and institutions.
Such approaches once guided China in proposing principles for managing the situation in the South China Sea to the United States. They could form the basis for dealing with the consequences of the old Cold War era – the lines of demarcation on the Korean Peninsula and in the Taiwan Strait.
1. By “Russian-Chinese relations,” the author means the bilateral ties between the Soviet Union/Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China since October 1, 1949.
2. Tressel Leon, Kitai ne ostavlyayet Amerike ni odnogo shansa [ China Leaves America No Chance]. URL: https://svpressa.ru/economy/article/ 228252
3. See: Otyrba, A., O chyom kitayskiye vlasti signaliziruyut Rossiyi? [What Is the Chinese Government Signaling to Russia?], May 23, 2019. Firefox HTML
4. Batyuk, V.I., Rossiya i Kitay v strategiyi administratsiyi Trampa [Russia and China in the Trump Administration strategy], Perspektivy mnogostoronnego sotrudnichestva ShOS s mezhdunarodnymi strukturami v interesakh razvitiya strategiyi Organizatsiyi [Russia and China in the Strategy of the Trump Administration: Prospects for Multilateral Cooperation between the SCO and International Structures in the Interests of Developing the Organization’s Strategy], Institute for Far Eastern Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, 2019, p. 31.
5. Said by V.N. Garbuzov, Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies, at a joint seminar for scholars of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies and the Institute for US and Canadian Studies, held at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies on March 26, 2019.
7. BBC interview on April 16, 2018.
8. Karaganov S., Svoboda v vybore puti [Freedom in Choosing a Path], Rossiyskaya gazeta, July 7, 2018.
9. Argumenty u fakty, # 24, 2018.
10. Ibid., # 11, 2018.
11. See: Vystupleniye A.Ch. Mokretskogo na ‘kruglom stole’ po problemam rossiysko-kitayskikh otnosheniy [Address of A.Ch. Mokretsky at the Round Table on Problems of Russian-Chinese Relations], Problemy Dal’nego Vostoka, # 3, 2019, pp. 17-18.
12. In January 2017 alone, Trump was mentioned 202,000 times in the Russian media, as compared to 147,700 times for Vladimir Putin, who had been in power six of the preceding years. Nezavisimaya gazeta, March 1, 2017.
13. Ibid., January 10, 2017.
14. Ibid. (Scenarios), # 12, 1998.
15. Xiandai guoji guanxi, ## 1-2, 2002, p. 93.
16. URL: https://news-front.info/2019/05/16
19. This was made clear in addresses by Chinese analysts during the 5th International Conference “Russia and China: Cooperation in the New Era,” held in Moscow under the aegis of the Russian Council on International Affairs on May 29-30, 2019.
20. China’s exports to Russia in 2018 totaled $45.8 billion; imports from Russia, $56.5 billion. China’s exports to the United States totaled $456.5 billion; imports from the United States, $147 billion. In 2018, Russia accounted for 1.9% of all Chinese exports; exports from Russia accounted for 2.8% of all Chinese imports.
Author: Boris Heifetz, Nikita Stepanov
Belt and Road 2.0 Initiative and Russia
Boris A. Heifetz, D.Sc. (Economics), chief researcher, RAS Institute of Economics, professor, Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation. E-mail: email@example.com
Nikita S. Stepanov, Ph.D. (Economics), senior researcher, RAS Institute of Economics. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: International Affairs, Vol. 66, No. 1, pp. 31-46
This article analyzes the six-year period of implementation of the global Chinese project One Belt, One Road (OBOR), or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Its positive aspects are highlighted: expanding the number of participants and their areas of interaction, creating a powerful financial base, creating new transborder transportation routes, increasing trade and investment among the countries participating in the project. Prob- lems have been identified, including the lack of transparency of OBOR pro- jects, insufficient consideration of national interests and local needs of China’s partners, increasing their geopolitical risks, and the “debt trap” of Chinese loans. Possible ways of deepening the Russian-Chinese interaction at the new stage of BRI 2.0 development are proposed.
One Belt, One Road, soft power, hybrid economic partner- ship, debt trap, conjugation with the EAEU, fourth industrial revolution, Northern Sea Route (NSR).
The First Results of the OBOR Project
In March 2019, six years passed since Xi Jinping proclaimed the new geopolitical and geoeconomic project the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) of the 21st century. The terms One Belt, One Road (OBOR) and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) appeared due to the expansion of the project’s horizons and the desire to give it a more concise name. But more importantly, rebranding gives a clearer indication of its main purpose: to create a belt (network) of partners (friends, allies) based on common, primarily economic interests. . . .
OBOR is a reflection of China’s soft power policy, which envisages China’s consistent and gradual foreign policy and foreign economic expansion in the global economy. It is expressed in a number of strategic projects: SCO, BRICS and BRICS plus, Partnership on the New Industrial Revolution, etc. At the same time, OBOR may become the most successful such project due to its coverage of a large number of countries and constant expansion of cooperation areas, taking into account changing development conditions.
There is another crucial prerequisite for the implementation of OBOR. This is the serious material base that China has for the project. At the beginning of 2017, the Big Four of China’s state-owned commercial banks – the Bank of China, the Agricultural Bank of China, the China Construction Bank and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China–financed loans and share purchases for the BRICS project. The State Chinese Development Bank accounted for 38% of this finan ing and the Export-Import Bank of China for only 11%, as well as some new organizations that have just begun operations (the Silk Road Foundation, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the BRICS New Development Bank).
In this respect, OBOR seems to be a more attractive project for third countries than the similar idea put forward by Russia in 2016 to create a Greater Eurasia from Lisbon to Vladivostok, which has no such economic backbone.
It would be a mistake to believe that the OBOR project has no serious opponents among both developed and developing countries. Many projects under the OBOR initiative are cancelled, revised or delayed. Host countries are rethinking the costs and benefits they will derive from cooperation with China. With OBOR, China is implementing a financing model in which the majority of loans actually go to Chinese companies – construction firms, manufacturers of various necessary goods and service providers. That is, lending to “themselves.”
At the same time, one should not overestimate the relatively small fee for such loans. Chinese companies participating in such projects can put their rate of return in the price of the goods and services they supply, which will give a completely different assessment of the cost of Chinese loans. In addition, China insures its loans by taking liquid assets as collateral from the credited states. For example, loans to Venezuela, Angola, and Ecuador are secured by oil.
The Center for a New American Security experts’ report identifies seven main problems that have manifested themselves in OBOR implementation. Among them are the following:
(1) Subversion of national sovereignty.
Chinese investments give “control over individual infrastructure projects through equity participation agreements, long-term leases or multi-year operating contracts.”
(2) Lack of transparency.
Chinese projects often involve “nontransparent bidding procedures for contracts and financial terms that are not subject to public scrutiny.” The situation is complicated by the mechanism of project implementation, mainly with the help of Chinese contractors.
(3) Increased financial instability.
Higher default risk, difficulties in repayment of loans and in payback of a number of projects.
(4) Insufficient consideration of local needs.
Chinese contractors do not transfer skills to local workers, and sometimes use unfair profit-sharing mechanisms and are not oriented toward local economic needs.
(5) Geopolitical risks.
Projects implemented by China may jeopardize the telecommunications infrastructure of the recipient country.
(6) Negative impact on the environment.
In some cases, ongoing projects did not have adequate environmental impact assessments, which could lead to serious public health consequences.
(7) Potential for corruption.
In countries that have a high level of kleptocracy, projects have already brought serious revenues to politicians and bureaucrats. . . .
The OBOR project has actually entered a new stage of its development, when its main contours, methods, and forms of interaction have been more clearly defined and many implementation problems have become apparent. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde called this stage BRI 2.0, when it is necessary to learn from the work done and to address new more complex tasks. In her view, BRI 2.0 could benefit from increased transparency, open procurement with competitive bidding and better risk assessment in projects preparation.
OBOR is not a panacea for project participants, it can only become an important supporting tool for their economic progress. The main burden of structural and technological modernization and social stability of the project participants lies precisely on them as sovereign states. On the other hand, they have full responsibility for making decisions about the degree, forms, and risks of participation in China’s OBOR.
In this regard, Russia, which is in a difficult geopolitical and economic situation, faces very difficult tasks. In order to handle them, it is necessary to make better use of China’s opportunities in the areas of infrastructure, the development of high value-added industries, and a number of technological activities.
A very important area of interaction between the two countries should be the development of informal ties “from below” – at the level of private companies, primarily small and medium-sized businesses, regions, nonprofit organizations, etc. It is these communications that are becoming increasingly developed in the context of the Internetization and digitalization of the global economy and are defining a new stage of globalization (Globalization 4.0).
At the same time, it is necessary to take into account our own experience of cooperation with China, as well as the already manifested negative consequences of other countries' participation in OBOR, and constantly adjust the existing mechanisms of cooperation. Only such a balanced and flexible approach can become a rational route for Russia along this difficult Chinese route.
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Author: Yevgeny G. Kalkayev
China's Consulates in the Soviet Far East and Siberia in the Great Terror Years
Author: Yevgeny G. Kalkayev, researcher, China Department of
the RAS Institute of Oriental Studies.
Source: Far Eastern Affairs, Vol. 48, No. 1, pp. 107-126
Abstract. The paper examines the position of the Republic China consulates in the Soviet Union in 1937-1938. During the Great Terror period. Chinese consulates found themselves in an ambiguous position. On the one hand, they represented a friendly state and were not closed down as many other foreign consulates were at the time. But on the other, NKVD charged many of their staff with working for the Japanese intelligence service, while the consulates' efforts to protect their nationals were viewed by the Soviet side as hostile.
Keywords: Great Terror, NKVD, China Operation, Chinese community, PCFA, consulates of the Chinese Republic, Soviet Union, Soviet-Chinese relations.
The Great Terror when the Stalin policy of reprisals peaked was inextricably linked to apprehensions that the Leader of Nations felt about the impending war, which seemed virtually unavoidable, and its likely consequences for the proletarian state. Under these circumstances, the efforts to consolidate the uniform Soviet community and suppress the potential Fifth Column took the shape of mass operations of 1937-1938 when hundreds of thousands of people were exterminated.1
The fears of the Party honchos over the subversive activity by hostile states manifested themselves as a whole complex of measures to combat potential spies and saboteurs.2 And the people who seemed most suspicion were foreigners. "It has been established that the overwhelming majority of foreigners residing in the Soviet Union are the organizing source of espionage and subversion," alleged the NKVD instruction of August 22, 1937.3 This agenda was also kept up by regular publications in the press. Just how important those were can be seen from the fact that Stalin personally took part in editing the article "On Certain Perfidious Recruiting Techniques of Foreign Intelligence Services."4
Cutting Down Foreign Consulates in the U.S.S.R.
Active countermeasures were also taken against foreign consulates. Thus, the point of NKVD Order 00698 of October 28, 1937 was to curb hostile activity by the embassies and consulates of the countries considered to be the chief adversaries of the Soviet Union: Germany, Japan, Italy, and Poland. The Order provided for a wide range of secret service operational measures aimed at maximum isolation of these offices, including intense shadowing, reprisals against Soviet nationals known to contact them, and foreigners assumed suspicious.5
In the same year, they embarked on the policy of reducing the foreign consular presence in the Soviet Union. It was based on the principle of consular parity (i.e., equal number of consulates), which the Soviet Union insisted on unswervingly from then on.6 On the one hand, that entitled the Soviet Union to demanding that the countries, which had more consulates on Soviet territory than the U.S.S.R. had on theirs, reduce their number. And on the other, by closing down more of its own consulates, the Soviet Union could also achieve a further reduction of the foreign consular network.
In 1937, it was resolved to close down 14 consulates (five Italian, five German, two Japanese, and two Polish). In early 1938, the process continued; stage two provided for closing down another 17 representations, among them, on top of the remaining German consulates, were those of Great Britain, Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Denmark, and Japan.7
These developments proceeded mostly under the motto of exterminating the "hotbeds of foreign espionage." That was how foreign consulates were described by Andrei Zhdanov, an active opponent of their presence in the country, who had been elected Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Commission under the Supreme Soviet.8 Besides, as mass reprisals unfolded, removal of foreign representations helped not only conceal from unwelcome attention the goings-on in the country more effectively, but also deprive many foreigners in the Soviet Union of consular protection.9
Discussions of elimination issues and elimination itself frequently went on in a fairly tense atmosphere. Although the officials at the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs were doing their utmost to convince their counterparts that the closing down of diplomatic representations was not directed against corresponding countries, the representatives of those countries, especially those whose nationals resided in the Soviet Union in large numbers, took it badly. Consular agreements and international law were cited to contest the very need to maintain consular parity.10
Thus, the closure of Japan's and Germany's consulates was fiercely confrontational and frequently involved a wide range of pressurizing techniques. One of the tougher episodes of this standoff was the closure of the German consulate in Kiev. In January-February 1938, the entire operating staff of the representation was arrested; NKVD officers often tampered with door bells and locks in the officials' apartments, practiced blackouts, switched off telephones, stopped water supply. Several apartments were flooded with sewage water through toilet cisterns. Each official was obtrusively shadowed.11 Similar measures were proposed for closing down Japan's consulates as well.12 On May 1, 1938, the PCFA declared inoperative the consulates in Blagoveshchensk and Khabarovsk, yet the consuls and staff refused to vacate the premises. Assuming that the official invitation to leave will evoke no reaction, People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov suggested applying to them "the same measures that NKVD has recently used with regard to the German consulate in Kiev and the Italian one in Odessa."13
Against this background, the Soviet treatment of the consulates of the Chinese Republic seemed nothing short of unique. The history of Soviet-Chinese relations had abided in numerous conflicts until the period under examination. Some role in that was played by the White Guard émigrés who had settled in China, and the activity of Chinese communists sent from the Soviet Union. Nor can one ignore the standoff at the Chinese Eastern Railway in 1929 that degenerated into a military operation. However, as Japan's aggression in China progressed, the situation started to change. The Chinese Republic required considerable aid in its straggle against invaders, and the last thing the Soviet Union wanted was to see China defeated in the war. In that case, the chance of Japan assaulting the Soviet Union would have increased manifold. The countries started looking for points of rapprochement, which resulted in the Soviet-Chinese Nonaggression Pact signed in 1937, and the Soviet Union started rendering significant financial and military-technical aid to the fighting Chinese Republic.14
By 1938, the Soviet Union had had ten Chinese consular offices in operation. Five of them in Central Asia had connections with the authorities of the Chinese Province of Xinjiang that the central government had practically no control over. They were located in the Kazakh SSR (in Alma-Ata, Zaisan, and Semipalatinsk), and in the Uzbek SSR (in Tashkent and Andizhan), and occasionally were referred to in documents as West Chinese. The other five consulates of the Chinese Republic were on the territory of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, in Far Eastern Territory (Vladivostok, Khabarovsk Blagoveshchensk), in Chita, and in Novosibirsk.15 Four of them, moreover, had the status of consulate general, and the diplomatic office in Chita, that of consulate.
As other countries' consular offices continued to close down in droves, it looked somewhat ambiguous that so many Chinese representations were still functioning. So little wonder that in early February 1938 Litvinov called Stalin's attention to the fact. "We as yet have done nothing about consular relations with China, considering that country's special situation at present," the People's Commissar wrote in his letter. "Since, however, we are cutting down the number of all countries' consulates, it is difficult to leave intact the Chinese ones...."16 Litvinov pointed out that the Bolshevik Party CC Politburo Commission for Xinjiang deemed it desirable to preserve all the five Soviet consulates in that province, and therefore, proceeding from the principle of parity, the Soviet Union could not close down West Chinese consulates on its territory. But the other Soviet consulates in the Chinese Republic were in the Japanese occupation zone, and "so," he wrote, "we might suggest that China close down at least two of the five consulates it has, the one in Novosibirsk, and one more wherever it prefers."17
But the proposal was not welcomed by the top Party leadership. When in late March 1938 the Chita Regional Party Committee raised the matter of closing the consulates of China and Manchoukuo in the region, the People's Commissar had already changed his tone. He wrote to Stalin, "With regard to cutting down the number of Chinese consulates in the Soviet Union, I wrote to you on February 8 of this year, No. 5042. Apparently, given our current relations with China, it appears unwise to reduce its consulates here."18 That is, if the text is anything to go by, Litvinov had never got his February proposal approved, and justly interpreted that as a signal that the overall Soviet policy toward consulates did not extend to the Chinese Republic that was "special."
The Start of NKVD China Operation and the Consulate General of the Chinese Republic in Vladivostok
The specific role played by the Chinese Republic in indirect support of Soviet security, however, did not mean that the friendly spirit automatically extended to the Chinese community in the Soviet Union. The rapprochement of the two countries occurred during the mass reprisals of 1937-1938, when extrajudicial punishment involved both hundreds of thousands of the so-called anti-Soviet elements, and hundreds of thousands of those who were identified as "counterrevolutionary national elements."19
Most Chinese residents in the Soviet Union did not easily fit the image of the ideal Soviet citizen. The majority of them were low-skilled workers who often changed their employment area. A lot of them were engaged in nonproduction activity, including commerce, arrived in the Soviet Union illegally, and were mixed up in smuggling or crime, including den keeping. The negative image was aggravated by the traditionally close-knit and isolated nature of the Chinese community and poor command of Russian.
Besides, the very affiliation with ethnic minorities, should they have ties with another state, had by then become a major sign of potential threat.20 And in case of the Chinese one could speak of ties with were controlled by the puppet state of Manzhoukuo and Japan. Add to this the fact that a good deal of the Chinese lived in the Far Eastern region next to the border,21 and the sum total of these factors made Chinese an almost ideal target for the repressive operation against a specific ethnic group.
However, large-scale arrests of Chinese in the Far East at the end of 1937 were not immediately included in the context of the ethnic operation. The pretext for that was the case about a provocation being prepared that was forged by the Far Eastern NKVD Directorate. Falling back on information about the upsurge of anti-Japan sentiment among the Chinese expressed in threats, assaults, and vilification of Japanese, NKVD officials overlooked the fact that this was happening against the background of an acute phase in the Sino-Japanese War. Cheka men in the Far East interpreted the unrest of the Chinese community as the result of provocation by Japanese agents. According to them, the purpose of those provocations was assassination of Japanese nationals (preferably, diplomats) so as to give Japan an excuse to declare war against the Soviet Union.22
In this connection, on December 22 and December 23, People's Commissar for Internal Affairs Nikolai Yezhov dispatched two directives to the Far East. The first one provided for immediate apprehension of "all Chinese, regardless of their citizenship, who displayed provocative activity or terrorist intent," the second one was an order to do away with dens in the region. These directives were what provided the reason for launching an anti-Chinese campaign in Far Eastern Territory. Even though nominally they affected only criminals, in practice mass arrests of thousands of people implied no proof of the guilt of individual detainees. From the end of December 1937 and to the end of March 1938, the major populated localities of the area witnessed several waves of arrests.23 Under Yezhov's orders, mass arrests of Chinese in the Far East ceased after June 10, 1938.24 By then, over ten thousand persons had already been arrested in the region.25
As to the case hearing procedure, the second directive provided for examining the cases of Soviet nationals "exposed as persons engaged in anti-Soviet activity, spying, smuggling, and active criminals" by threes (i.e. within the framework of the operation against anti-Soviet elements), while foreign nationals exposed as similarly guilty were to be sent out of the Soviet Union on court orders. As for the rest, that is those who, according to investigation, were not involved in similar doings, they were to be tried likewise and banned from living in Far Eastern Territory, the Chita and Irkutsk Regions.26 Thus, under the initial directives of the NKVD leadership, extrajudicial inquiries were to concern primarily Chinese who were Soviet nationals, while the subjects of the Chinese Republic, including those suspected of heinous crimes, were to be deported.
But soon things changed. On January 31, 1938, the Politburo, making a decision on continuing the current ethnic operations and starting new ones, included in them also a separate Chinese line. On February 1, Yezhov sent out ciphertext # 233 composed on the basis of that resolution.27 In practice that meant sanctioning new arrests of Chinese all over the country, including in the areas where those were not yet made on a massive scale, and also examining all cases of the arrested (foreign nationals included) extrajudicially (according to the so-called album procedure).28
As for Chinese consular representations, already while the China Operation was being initiated in Far Eastern Territory, the local NKVD Directorate placed the Consulate General in Vladivostok practically in the center of this wild plot. Thus, one of the first reports sent to the center by deputy head of the NKVDD Kagan that alleged preparations for a provocation began with information about the Chinese consulate in Vladivostok organizing anti-Japan work among the members of the Chinese community and encouraging traders, water carriers, and auxiliary workers to boycott Japanese and the Japanese consulate.29
Reports were also coming in to say that apart from occasional verbal attacks and threats to Japanese, some Chinese contemplated murdering Japanese nationals. They allegedly planned similar acts under the impact of talk by certain Tuan Qiyuan Jiang30 and Jiu Jia Ting at the consulate. In particular, a waiter at the Golden Horn restaurant, Mao Yu, confessed that Tuan Qiyuan Jiang and Jiu Jia Ting "fanned up resentment against Japanese in him, the result of which was Mao Yu's decision to assassinate the Japanese consul."31 After conversations at the consulate about the war, a similar desire allegedly swept also one Lti Zhi Kong arrested in late December; he gave evidence to the effect that he kept a revolver "with a view to assassinating the Japanese consul and lurked in the street in the hope of meeting the man."32 Thus, the staff of the Chinese Consulate General became the protagonists of the Japanese provocation concocted by the Far Eastern Cheka men.
Subsequently, the number of accusations directed at the consulate merely increased. In late February 1938, the leadership of the Territorial NKVD Directorate reported to the center the "provocative stand" of the acting consul general in Vladivostok, Wu Aicheng. This resulted from Wu's failure to deny refuge to his fellow countrymen, when, after yet another large-scale wave of arrests that had broken out on February 22, some 1,000 Chinese decided to seek shelter in the consulate premises, telling the consul that they would not budge until he took measures to save them from arrests.33 Wu Aicheng did not have the heart to oppose them and allowed putting up the Chinese in every cellar, storeroom, and closet of the representation, as well as giving them food.34
Reporting that to Yezhov, Head of the Far Eastern NKVD Directorate Lyushkov noted that "the current situation stirs up the remaining part of the Chinese resident in Vladivostok and inspires in them a recalcitrant mood with regard to our measures,"35 that is to say mass arrests. Lyushkov blamed the situation on Wu Aicheng saying that "judging by some information, this concentration of Chinese is the result of organized work by the Chinese consul." And to make his allegations more credible, he added that, according to an anonymous information received earlier, Wu Aicheng was himself a Japanese secret agent.36
Recruiting Consulate Staff and Using Consular Ties during the Ethnic Chinese Operation
A look at even a portion of 1938 reports by regional directorates and republican people's commissariats of internal affairs suggests that at the time of the Chinese ethnic operation all consulates of the Chinese Republic in the Far East and Siberia were charged with various degrees of subversive activity, espionage, and sabotage.37
On the one hand, that was the result of normal counterintelligence work disorganized under conditions of virulent spy hysteria; under the influence of the country leadership's guidelines that work was being done not just with the kind of fervor normally expected from this kind of agency, but also with liberal resort to forgery and machinations. The result was that by arbitrarily equating suspicion or opportunity of crime commission and intent, or even concrete deeds, NKVD officials effortlessly multiplied unfounded charges.
On the other hand, the very practice of mass falsifications in ethnic operations provided fertile ground for turning foreign consulates into convenient targets for similar accusations. Investigators who had to churn out case materials in quick succession almost automatically presented any contact with diplomatic offices as proof of the arrestees' criminal ties with foreign countries. And although when investigated Chinese cases mostly revealed evidence of contact with diplomatic representations of Japan or Manchoukuo, the consulates of the Chinese Republic likewise came under fire.
This kind of NKVD attitude to representations of the countries whose nationals became objects of persecution as part of ethnic operations was also encouraged by Yezhov's directive of February 1. Point Four of said ciphertext 233 provided for identifying and removing "all those connected with foreign missions, embassies, consulates, concessions, and other foreign establishments."38 That is including Chinese in the general list of "spy and saboteur contingents" nominally implied also viewing Chinese consulates as sources of threat.
As I have shown, the very pretext for launching a campaign of reprisals against Chinese in the Far East linked the Vladivostok consulate and the imaginary provocation. As the operation unfolded, accusations against the consulate staff snowballed. For instance, whereas at the end of February the only thing reported was some anonymous information about Wu Aicheng's work for the Japanese, in April Lyushkov reported that Wu Aicheng and the consul general in Khabarovsk, Quan Shien,39 gave orders to have Japanese spies arriving in the Soviet Union sheltered in the Chinese hospital.40 There were other charges, too, made against the Khabarovsk consul general. Lyushkov informed the center that NKVD agents in Khabarovsk "noted Qiuan Shien's nipponophile sentiment," and registered instances of the Khabarovsk consul general meeting with an "identified Japanese spy," whose role was played by one Song Yu Ting, a cook at the Japanese consulate.41
There was also a fat file on Qian Jiadong, who was consul general in Novosibirsk from the end of 1937, and until then had held a similar post in Khabarovsk. A special summary report signed by the head of the NKVD Directorate for Novosibirsk Territory G.F. Gorbach, with a reference to agents' materials, mentioned the ties of the Chinese diplomat with the Japanese and German consulates, and also the large-scale intelligence work he was engaged in. It said that in Khabarovsk Qian, by means of "questioning Chinese nationals who visited the consulate [...] identified NKVD secret and official staffers and communists of the Chinese nationality. He found out the number of Chinese nationals and Chinese with Soviet citizenship within Far Eastern Territory. He discovered and looked for skilled specialists and workers among Chinese, in particular, blast furnace operators and railroad workers who worked on trains, steam engines, and at locomotive depots."42 Besides, he displayed interest in information about Chinese internees. And after instructions allegedly received from the Japanese intelligence service, he started gathering information about the Red Army and Navy units and weapons, railroad, motorway, and military construction, Koreans residentbi in the Territory, and even the address of Blucher and the Bolshevik Party Territorial Committee secretary, as well as that of the canteen where they ate.43 It was also mentioned that Qian helped the Japanese buy up Soviet banknotes, which were afterwards used for intelligence work.44
According to Gorbach, Qian Jiadong continued in the same vein in Novosibirsk as well, where he likewise sought new contacts with Chinese nationals and internees,45 went on paying special attention to the army and gathering information by personal observations and from the public press.46 Among Qian's contacts, as Novosibirsk Cheka men alleged, were supporters of Japan, both in the Soviet Union and in China. In particular, Novosibirsk consulate secretary Zhang Wenyuan and his counterpart in Vladivostok Huang Tichu, who were described as Nipponophiles engaged in intelligence activity.
Charges of setting up intelligence cells on U.S.S.R. territory against Qian Jiadong were reiterated in the report by head of the Altai Territory NKVD Directorate S.R Popov. The report said that in 1936 Qian demanded from one Lu Fa who had arrived in Novosibirsk to collect his national passport that he "organize a group of spies and saboteurs from Koreans and Chinese internees resident in Barnaul." To the same end, the Chinese consul allegedly sent to Barnaul an internee, name of Zhi Wu Li. Eighteen members of the group, according to the investigators, "repeatedly toured the cities of Tomsk, Biysk, and Tashkent in 1936-1937 and gathered information about the location of military units and defense industry enterprises." While Lu Fa "systematically visited the Chinese consul in Novosibirsk to hand over to him whatever information he had gathered.. .. The group members who had settled at various Barnaul enterprises were tasked with having prepared a number of acts of sabotage by the moment of military complications between Japan and the U.S.S.R."47
Another person named as a Japanese secret agent was Zhang Wenyuan, a Novosibirsk consulate official mentioned earlier on in connection with Qian Jiadong. According to the local NKVD Directorate, he headed the spy-and-saboteur cell of Chinese turncoats and smugglers after the Japanese consulate in Novosibirsk was closed down.48 And, say, the cook of the railroad restaurant, Song Gui Tang, was allegedly connected with the vice consul in Chita, Zhang Chen.49 As the NKVD Directorate for the Chita Region reported, Song was in charge of gathering information about passing troop trains and military freight, and also about the units and aircraft fleet deployed in the city.50
According to 1938 reports from regional NKVD Directorates, a considerable portion of the arrested Chinese were secret agents planted by the Chinese consulates in the 1920s and the first half of the 1930s. Obviously, that was the legacy of the period of troubled relations between the Chinese Republic and the Soviet Union. Japan was hardly ever mentioned in these cases, but the thing typically implied was work in China's favor.
For instance, one of the reports spoke of Li Ya A, a gold digger, who was said to have confessed that back in 1920, while leaving Harbin for the Soviet Union, he had been recruited by a Chinese agent, and later, in 1925, had been re-recruited by an official at the Chinese consulate general in Blagoveshchensk. It was pointed out that on orders from the latter Li allegedly involved in espionage another dozen Chinese, and received 20,000 rubles for collecting military information.51 Another example is the story of one Chang Chyucheng (Vysotsky) who confirmed at the investigation that he had been recruited in 1930 by the doorman of the Novosibirsk consulate of the Chinese Republic. Chang Chyucheng was alleged to have been passing to his supervisor information about the local airfield, aircraft, and food stores.52
Another name mentioned among the originators of spy networks was Geng Kuang who was 2nd secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Moscow in the first half of 1938. According to the NKVD Directorate for the Chita Region, as the consul in Chita in 1934, Geng Kuang recruited Chinese national Dong Hong, a carpenter at the lumber mill, so that the latter would "gather information about the position of military units, the airfield, and the location of the artillery regiment."53
The result was a clear-cut picture painted by the NKVD reports of late 1937 and early 1938 of all the Chinese consulates in the Far East and Siberia acting as the strong points of ramified adversary networks. In the view of the painters of that picture, the networks had in part been formed earlier to work for the Chinese secret services, but in 1937-1938 the vast majority of those worked in the interests of Japan.
The appearance of a large body of similar charges resulted from gradual inclusion of the Chinese within the scope of ethnic operations. Back in 1937, the concoction of a pretext for the operation in the Soviet Far East was accompanied by accusations against the Vladivostok consulate. The Soviet services' resent merit of Chinese representations also deepened after the reaction of the latter to mass arrests. I will dwell in more detail on that later, while here I would merely remind the reader that the attempt to resist NKVD measures on the part of Wu Aicheng must have been the reason for charges of espionage against him. It is also worth noting that Yezhov's directive 233 that formally included the Chinese line in ethnic operations not only provoked new accusations against consulates by this very fact, but also specifically focused the attention of NKVD officials on consular and embassy ties.
The trademark NKVD methods of forgery, in which the leaders of the Far Eastern NKVD Directorate and Cheka men elsewhere were very well versed, allowed the staff of Chinese consulates to be charged with a wide range of anti-Soviet activity kinds.54 Just as easily they got any confessions from the arrestees; resort to illegal methods (from psychological pressure and deceit to physical violence) became perfectly commonplace at the time.55
However, one can sometimes detect signs of falsification by merely looking at documents attentively. A researcher cannot fail to get suspicious learning that professional Japanese scouts, when preparing a provocation to unleash a war, repeatedly disclosed the end goal of these acts to rank-and-file executors. It is also worth noting that the local NKVD Directorate had reported organization of similar provocations before, in particular that was the charge made against the participants of the so-called Korean Insurgent Organization,56 yet no evidence of real attempts on the life of Japanese diplomats had appeared. Or, for instance, despite the cited reports by the head of the NKVD Directorate in Altai Territory, Qian Jiadong could not have handled the passport of Chinese Lu Fa in Novosibirsk in 1936, given him errands, or sent the recruited persons anywhere. At the time Qian worked in Khabarovsk, and he was not transferred to Novosibirsk until the end of 1937.
Thus accusations could rest not only on falsified materials, but also on those selected in a rather slipshod fashion, and fairly contradictory ones. Nevertheless, both the leadership of the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs, and that of the country turned a blind eye to that, because ethnic operations were in keeping with Stalin's general idea of combating the potential fifth column and threats to the country's security.
The Consulates of the Chinese Republic and Members of the Soviet Foreign-Policy Office
Despite the fact that the predicament in which Chinese consulates found themselves in 1937-1938 was largely due to the work of NKVD agencies, it would be wrong to overlook the interaction of consulates with members of the Foreign Affairs People's Commissariat. For it is the latter that Chinese diplomats had to turn to for matters related to the Chinese community. However, one should not forget that a major part of the context for these relations was the difficult situation in which the Soviet foreign policy department existed at the time. The increasingly frequent verbal attacks on Litvinov on the part of the Party leadership, the worsening relations with NKVD, and arrests of many of the People's Commissariat staff - all of that seriously affected the work of both the central apparatus and the regional branches of the PCFA.57 One of the consequences of that state of affairs became the fear of decision-making that paralyzed diplomatic staff. For instance, an agent of the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs in Novosibirsk did not even dare authorize medical assistance to the Chinese consul's wife who was in labor without an OK from NKVD.58 That could not fail to affect the contacts between Soviet and Chinese diplomats.
A telltale conversation which graphically exposed the position of the Chinese consuls with regard to arrests of Chinese nationals and the response of representatives of the Soviet Foreign Policy Office took place on October 17, 1937, between Chita consul Jiao Jihua and diplomatic agent PL Ryzhov. By then, i.e., already at the height of the Great Terror, but before the NKVD Chinese operation started in the Far East, over a thousand Chinese had been arrested in various parts of the Soviet Union. Typically, they were charged with espionage for Japan. In his consular district, Jiao Jihua was in charge of several dozen were put in custody, and possibly even over a hundred,59 and the diplomat tried to complain that he was practically deprived of any chance of protecting the interests of the Chinese Republic citizens.
The reason was that the consulate was isolated and poorly informed. It did not receive the necessary notifications about Chinese nationals being arrested, and if similar information did come from some other sources, the diplomatic agent through whom the consulate was to maintain contact with other Soviet bodies in many cases could not make inquiries even about the charges made and the identity of the arrestees.60 Jiao also reminded Ryzhov that he had not received the data about the total number of arrested Chinese, and also complained about body search performed on all those visiting the consulate. Under these conditions, said the consul, his presence in Chita "was pointless, for it failed to fulfill its purpose."61
Speaking of the commonest charge, Jiao pointed out that he found it hard to believe that the Chinese nationals arrested, who were largely illiterate, could seriously engage in espionage, and called the attention of his interlocutor to the fact that if they were criminals, they should be tried. "So why don't your authorities let the Chinese consul attend the court hearings, the way you do when you try German nationals?"62 he rightly wondered.
Ryzhov could not say anything about timely information in response, still less about open trials, but he observed rhetorically that the Soviet side had never concealed information about arrests of Chinese engaged in espionage, and did not intend to do so.63 After that, the diplomatic agent even went over to the offensive saying, "You should see better than anyone, Mr. Consul, that a Japanese spy today, whatever his passport, is an enemy of our peoples. This obligates not only us, but you as well, Mr. Consul, to fight against similar enemies. It would be right if you thus understood your functions of protecting the interests of Chinese nationals. Alas, my impression is that you have pretensions to functions of protecting Japanese spies by questioning our reports of the reasons for arrests. Meanwhile, no one doubts today the Japanese intelligence and espionage. Not to worry, please, we will never harm Chinese nationals, if they work honestly."64
That is the consul's doubts as to the validity of mass arrests, reference to his failure to be informed of arrestees, and mention of absence of unbiased public trials,65 were answered merely with a lot of verbiage about widespread Japanese espionage, and nothing threatening honest workers in the Soviet Union. Moreover, Ryzhov remembered to rebuke Jiao for failing to appreciate the attitude and friendly feelings of the Soviet people toward China while the war was on.66
Naturally, the stand of the PCFA official was conditioned by the very need to justify mass reprisals. However, his position was aggravated by the fact that NKVD was not in a hurry to release information about arrested foreigners and answer inquiries about the lot of specific persons.67 In the circumstances, in order to cut down the criticism from the consul, Ryzhov even proposed that PCFA "issue special orders to relevant agencies to stop them publishing in the press information about court rulings,"68 i.e. practically conceal from the consulate information about Chinese nationals.
At the end of 1937 and the beginning of 1938, things got worse, as the number of arrests skyrocketed. The Chinese side repeatedly stressed that the scale of arrests suggested that NKVD did not give itself trouble to prove the guilt of persons suspected of espionage, subversive activity or less heinous crimes, such as keeping dens and black marketing. This point of view voiced first by consulate staff was also expressed in the note by the Embassy of January 6, 1938. The note read, among other things, "the mass scale of arrests shows that the reason for them is not individual guilt of this or that person, and the Chinese Embassy is honored to request that the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of the U.S.S.R. urgently apprise the Embassy of the cause of the said arrests and take measures for immediate release of the arrestees."69
As for the position of the Soviet foreign policy office, it boiled down to alleging that the persons subjected to arrests were chiefly criminals and those connected with espionage who cluttered up the Far Eastern region strategically important for the U.S.S.R. That position fully coincided with NKVD directives registered in the letter by deputy people's commissar for internal affairs M.P. Frinovsky. He wrote to Litvinov on February 8, "In addition to personal negotiations on the essence of your letter I can tell you that arrests of Chinese subjects and Chinese citizens of the Soviet Union in 1937 were made by us not indiscriminately, but on the basis of concrete materials in each individual case.
"Most of the arrestees are secret agents of the Japanese intelligence agencies, and also den keepers, smugglers, and other sociohazardous scum.
"Clearing our Far East of this element will do nothing but good.
"We fully take into account the existing friendly relations between the Soviet Union and China and believe that resolute liquidation of these Japanese agents from among Chinese traitors has not only benefited the Soviet Union, but is also doing a favor to China, as we are thus protecting its national interests."70
These directives, not infrequently using the same phraseology, were more than once reproduced by Soviet diplomats when communicating with the staff of consulates and embassies,71 however, there was never any mention of proof to substantiate the guilt of individuals.
In June 1938, the number of arrests among Chinese in the Far East plummeted. After the talks that had lasted several months72 Chinese nationals were allowed to leave for Xinjiang. They could take with them their wives and children, and also persons released from jail where they had been kept for minor crimes ("barring those convicted for and accused of espionage, active sabotage, and terror").73 Those opting for a stay in Far Eastern Territory were granted this right, but strictly outside borderline and banned zones, in specially agreed areas.74
Against this background, a PCFA diplomatic agent in Khabarovsk reported to Moscow that Consul General Qiuan Shien was "engaged in active agitation, both among Chinese nationals, and also among Soviet citizens of Chinese origin, to get them to leave for Xinjiang and renounce their Soviet citizenship."75 According to the agent, many members of the Chinese community who had initially volunteered to stay in the Soviet Union, after a meeting at the embassy changed their minds, and that happened under the influence from consul general. Thus, one Ting Ki Xiang quoted the consul as saying that in the Kur-Urmi District of the Khabarovsk Region, where, among other places, Chinese from Khabarovsk were to be moved, "the Chinese will be starved to death."76
And of course the issue of principle for the Soviet authorities was that of the Chinese granted Soviet citizenship. The talk to this effect and attempts by Qiuan Shien to attribute the reception of citizenship by Chinese to their "backwardness" were resolutely dismissed by the diplomatic agent,77 as the affairs of Soviet citizens could not be within the scope of foreign consulates' interests.78
While admitting that in negotiations about arrested Chinese the consul was invariably civil, the diplomatic agent concluded that although Qiuan Shien "displayed loyalty toward the Soviet Union on the face of it," the facts cited in the report "suggest that the consul's ostentatious loyalty is hiding actions aimed at discrediting the U.S.S.R. (intimidating Chinese by threats of starvation if they fail to go to Xinjiang, persuading Chinese to renounce their Soviet citizenship)."79
Thus, one can state that mass reprisals of Chinese during the Great Terror, and also issues that emerged when those staying free were evicted from "banned areas," resulted in serious contradictions between consulates, which tried to influence the proceedings at least in some way and protect the rights of their citizens, and PCFA representatives who had to justify NKVD actions and decisions by the country's leadership. Caught between the powerful repressive apparatus and legal norms (including those declared by the Soviet Constitution), the staff of the Soviet foreign-policy office had to reproduce the NKVD directives under which most of those arrested were involved in a variety of anti-Soviet and criminal activity. Moreover, any questions about public court hearings, or proof of guilt remained unanswered. PCFA officials were also hard put to it to obtain information about those arrested from NKVD and so were unable to pass these data on to Chinese diplomats.
Under these conditions, a species of protective reaction was reciprocal rebukes of the Chinese consulates' staff. These boiled down to allegations that by their actions and protests Chinese diplomats connived at Japanese espionage and thus played into the hands of the enemy of China and the U.S.S.R. They were also directly blamed in so many words for "provocations" and work for the Japanese. The consul's appeal to his fellow-countrymen to leave the country while they could still do so, where thousands of Chinese had just been arrested on serious charges without adequate evidence, was also seen as an attempt at discrediting the Soviet Union.
Those Recalled and Those Staying Behind
The understandable desire of the Chinese government to avoid aggravating relations with the Soviet Union resulted in recalling the diplomats that irked the Soviet agencies the most. On July 15, 1938, the Chinese Embassy notified the PCFA that Wu Aicheng and Qian Jiadong were being recalled to China. Later, in November of the same year, Qiuan Shien also left the U.S.S.R. Some of their staff likewise departed together with the consuls.
And even there things did not proceed without mishap. When Qiuan Shien about to leave and the persons accompanying him got to the Metropol Hotel in Moscow, even though they had all the necessary stamps in their documents, they were told to obtain additional registration from the militia. Embassy staffers spent several days trying to settle the problem applying to the protocol department of the PCFA and the visa and registration office, while Qiuan Shien and his companions were continuously threatened with eviction. In the end it transpired that no special registration was necessary, and "all of that turned out to be someone's fancy."80 In this situation a representative of the Chinese Embassy, emphasizing that he had no intention to defend the exconsul general, still begged PCFA to take measures to rule out similar trouble in the future.81
But although the Chinese government tried to meet halfway the Soviet side and rotated the consulate staff, many of the officials accused by the NKVD in 1938 of organizing subversive activity and ties with Japanese continued to work at Chinese representations.
One of them was Xu Deguang who in 1938 held the post of vice consul in Novosibirsk. Until August 1937, he worked in Chita where, as the report forwarded from the Chita NKVD Directorate on February 26, 1938 alleged, he had organized spy work and gathered information about the local garrison and economy of the region.82 That did not prevent him from keeping his post and subsequently perform the duties of consul general.83 Earlier on I mentioned charges against Geng Kuang who was alleged to have been recruiting Chinese for spying in the mid-1930s. In the first half of 1938, he worked as the 2nd secretary of the embassy and in that capacity took an active part in talks on the lot of the Chinese community in Far Eastern Territory. And after Wu Aicheng left Vladivostok, Geng Kuang was transferred to that city to work as consul general.
Staying behind in the Soviet Union were Novosibirsk consulate official Zhang Wenyuan and vice consul in Chita Zhang Chen. Though the former allegedly had been head of the spy terrorist group handed over to him after the closure of the Japanese consulate,84 and among the charges against the latter was recruitment for espionage.85 Afterwards Zhang Wenyuan acted as attache at the consulate general in Vladivostok, and Zhang Chen for several years headed the consulate in Chita.
These examples are enough even for this incomplete list to show how badly the Chinese consulates continued to be "cluttered up" with Japanese agents and anti-Soviet elements, if one can seriously take on trust the reports by regional NKVD directorates, that is, at the time of the Great Terror. And I failed to discover any traces of attempts to get rid of those officials, not even of any reproaches to them on the part of PCFA staffers during talks with members of the Chinese Embassy. Nor has anything been known to this day of the reaction by the top Soviet leadership apprehensive of a war with Japan that received copies of those reports.
Apparently, both the Soviet leadership and the NKVD were fully aware that accusations against those consulate workers were conditioned by the peculiarities of mass ethnic operations, during which consular ties were a convenient and popular mechanism of case forging. In the circumstances, making tough and unjustified demands, to say nothing of reprisals with regard to representatives of an allied country, was utterly unreasonable. However, things changed if the incriminating materials reached a considerable scale, and diplomats fought too actively for the rights of the community members, or moreover, hampered NKVD measures. In those cases, it was virtually inevitable that the presence of one or another person in the Soviet Union would be pronounced undesirable.
* * *
The situation in which Chinese consulates in the Soviet Far East and Siberia found themselves in 1937-1938 turned out to be fairly ambiguous, as has been shown above.
On the one hand, the events in the Chinese Republic played an important role in the Soviet-Japanese standoff. The Soviet Union rendered great aid to the straggling China, but by doing that it also pushed the war away from its own frontiers. In the circumstances, refusal to cut down the Chinese consular network in the Soviet Union looked as a political gesture that emphasized the really special ally relations between the two countries.
But on the other hand, the domestic situation in the Soviet Union largely took shape under the impact of mass reprisals unleashed by Stalin and carried out under his immediate control and guidance. The ethnic operations are an inalienable part of these reprisals, and they did not spare the Chinese community either. There was every prerequisite for that, including the transborder nature, ethnic ties with occupied territories, and living next to the national border, to say nothing of the marginality and poor adaptability of the Chinese community.
The anti-Japanese activity of the consulate general of the Chinese Republic in Vladivostok became the grounds for the forged case, along with some other, which served an excuse for starting the operation against Chinese. Subsequently, consular ties were repeatedly used by various regional NKVD directories in fabricating cases against Chinese. On top of the fact that the practice was perfectly normal in the work of NKVD investigators who saw foreign representations as the hubs of hostile activity, this kind of attitude was also encouraged by Yezhov's instructions where the Chinese were included in ethnic operations as a separate line in its own right. The response of Chinese diplomats to unlawful mass arrests of their fellow countrymen triggered off both new charges against consulate officials on the part of the NKVD, and serious friction between the consulates and members of the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs.
Thus, the ambiguous position of Chinese consulates was due to the fact that in the context of Soviet foreign-policy declarations they were representations of a friendly side, while in terms of Soviet domestic policies, they were viewed as defenders of the interests of the so-called ethnic spy-and-saboteur contingents.
Moreover, the functioning of the Chinese consulates during the Great Terror enabled them to inform the government of the Chinese Republic, in time and fairly fully, of the problems faced by the Chinese community. However, under conditions of critical dependence on Soviet aid, the Chinese side tried to avoid conflicts when protecting the interests of its citizens. The agreements achieved then, including resolutions on moving to Xinjiang and releasing persons arrested for petty crimes, allowed a portion of the community to be shielded from NKVD attacks. But at the same time, a good deal of people arrested on trumped-up spy, terrorist, etc. charges were destroyed in the course of ethnic operations. In Far Eastern Territory alone, which supplied nearly half of the Chinese arrested in the Soviet Union, according to preliminary data, the number of death sentences exceeded 4,000.86
1. Khlevnyuk, O.V., Khozyain. Stalin i utverzhdeniye stalinskoy diktatury [The Master. Stalin and the Establishment of the Stalin Dictatorship], Moscow, 2010, pp. 13-14.
2. See, Khaustov, V.N. and Samuelson, L., Stalin, NKVD i repressiyi 1936-1938 [Stalin, NKVD and Reprisals in 1936-1938], Moscow, 2010, pp. 39-41.
3. Cherez trupy vraga, na blago naroda. "Kulatskaya operatsiya" v Ukrainskoy SSR 1937-1941 [Over the Dead Bodies of the Enemy, for the Good of the People. "The Kulak Operation" in the Ukrainian SSR in 1937-1941]," Vol. 2, Moscow, 2010, pp. 565-566.
4. Khlevnyuk, O.V., Op. cit., pp. 295-296. The article was published in the daily Pravda, # 121, May 4, 1937.
5. See, e.g., Okhotin, N.G. and Roginsky, A.B., Iz istoriyi "nemetskoy operatsiyi" NKVD 1937-1938 [From the History of the "German Operation" by NKVD in 1937-1938], Nakazanniy narod. Repressiyi protiv rossiyskikh nemtsev [The Punished People. Reprisals against the Russian Germans], Moscow, 1999, pp. 45-48.
6. Belkovets, L.P., Rossiya na puti k diplomaticheskomu i konsulskomu pravu (1917-1938) [Russia on the Way to Diplomatic and Consular Law (1917-1938)], Novosibirsk, 2010, pp. 433-434.
7. Ibid., pp. 440-441.
8. Dullin, S., Uplotneniye granits: k istokam sovetskoy politiki. 1920-1940 [Soviet Borders as Thickening Zones. The 1920s-1940s], Moscow, 2019, p. 300.
9. Ibid., p. 301.
10. See, e.g., Dokumenty vneshney politiki S.S.S.R. [Documents of Soviet Foreign Policy], Vol. 21, January 1-December 31, 1938, Moscow, 1976, p. 703 (Note 19); Bolshevik Communist Party. The Comintern and Japan. 1917-1941, Moscow, 2001, p. 196.
11. Belkovets, L.P., Op. cit., p. 444.
12. The first two Japanese consulates were closed in 1937 likewise with the help of pressure on the part of NKVD.
13. Archives of RF Foreign Policy (AFPRF), Folio 05, List 1, Folder 137, File 1, Sheet 302.
14. See, e.g., Sotnikova, I.N., Pomoshch S.S.S.R. Kitayu v antiyaponskoy voyne 1937-1945 [Soviet Aid to China in the Anti-Japanese War of 1937-1945], Rol' S.S.S.R. i Kitaya v dostizheniyi pobedy vo Vtoroy mirovoy voyne [The Role of the U.S.S.R. and China in Attaining Victory in the Second World War], Moscow, 2012, pp. 37-46.
15. AFPRF, Folio 05, List 18, Folder 137, File 1, Sheet 38.
18. Ibid., pp. 161-162.
19. The lot of "anti-Soviet elements" in accordance with NKVD Order 00447 of July 30, 1937, was decided by the notorious threes, while the scale of the operation was controlled by means of "quotas" issued by the center for categories one and two (i.e., execution or imprisonment, respectively). Ethnic operations, likewise extrajudicial, were carried out in the "album manner," as the arrestees were divided into the same two categories in the course of investigation, after which the lists initialed by the head of the local NKVD and the prosecutor and stitched together as "albums" were sent to the U.S.S.R. NKVD. In Moscow, these were approved by the commission of the Internal Affairs People's Commissar and the U.S.S.R. Prosecutor (or their deputies), after which the sentences were carried out (see, Petrov, N.V. and Yansen, M., "Stalinskiy pitomets" - Nikolai Yezhov [Nikolai Yezhov, a Stalin Disciple], Moscow, 2008, pp. 98-105; 113-114).
20. Shearer, D., Policing Stalin's socialism: repression and social order in the Soviet Union, 1924-1953, New Haven, 2009, pp. 316-317.
21. Dullin, S., Op. cit., pp. 267-269.
22. For more detail on the start of the "Chinese" Operation in Far Eastern Territory, see, Kalkayev, Ye.G., Kvoprosu о nachale 'kitayskoy' operatsiyi NKVD (1937-1938) [On the Start of the "Chinese" Operation by NKVD (1937-1938)], Voprosy istoriyi, # 12, 2018, pp. 66-87.
23. See, e.g., Chernolutskaya, Ye.N, Prinuditel'naya migratsiya na sovetskom Dal'nem Vostoke v 1920-1950-ye gg. [Forced Migration in the Soviet Far East in the 1920s-1950s], Vladivostok, 2011, p. 260.
24. Lubyanka. Stalin i Glavnoye upravleniye gosbezopasnosti NKVD. 1937-1938 [Lubyanka. Stalin and the NKVD Chief State Security Administration. 1937-1938)], Moscow, 2004, p. 539.
25. According to preliminary NKVD data, by the beginning of April 1938 there had been 10,282 Chinese arrested in the Territory (FSS Central Archives, Folio 3, List 5, File 49, Sheet 261); head of the Far Eastern Territory NKVD Directorate G.S. Lyushkov who later defected from the Soviet Union spoke of 11,000 Chinese arrested in the course of the operation (Lyushkov, Soren shakaishugi hihan [Criticizing Soviet Socialism], Gekkan Rossia [Russia Monthly], # 5, 1939, p. 50.
26. Stalinskiye Deportatsiyi, 1928-1953 [Stalin Deportations of 1928-1953], Moscow, 2005, p. 101.
27. See also, Kalkayev, Ye.G., Op. cit., pp. 78-82.
28. Here it is important to note that the cases of more than 1,000 Chinese arrested by February 1938 for espionage and other kinds of anti-Soviet activity were typically also examined as part of the Harbin "album" line, which was practically interpreted also as the Japanese espionage line.
29. For more detail, see, Kalkayev, Ye.G., General'noye konsul stvo Kitayskoy Respubliki vo Vladivostoke vperiodprovedeniya 'kitayskoy operatsiyi' NKVD (1937-1938) [Consulate General of the Chinese Republic in Vladivostok during the NKVD "Chinese Operation" (1937-1938)], Obshchestvo i gosudarstvo v Kitaye [ Society and the State in China], Vol. 49, Part 2, Moscow, 2019.
30. Given that in the 1930s most Chinese names were recorded in Russian in a fairly arbitrary manner, all spellings that have been distorted or unconfirmed by hieroglyphics are italicized. The spellings of names whose hieroglyphs are known are not thus singled out. In the documents cited I used the modern accepted spelling as far as possible.
31. FSS Central Archives (CA FSS), Folio 3, List 4, File 861, Sheet 259.
32. Ibid., Sheet 258.
33. Ibid., List 5, File 39, Sheet 314.
37. I used in my work copies of documents sent in 1938 by Yezhov and Frinovsky to the top Party leadership.
38. Kalkayev, Ye.G., "K voprosu...", p. 79.
39. Qiuan Shien was at the time one of China's oldest representatives in Russia. Back in 1911, as an attaché at the embassy, he was also a teacher of Chinese at St. Petersburg University. In subsequent years, he was vice consul in Khabarovsk, a consul in Chita, consul general in Vladivostok, and at the end of 1937 returned to Khabarovsk as consul general. (See, the list of persons on the staff of the St. Petersburg educational district by January 1, 1912, St. Petersburg, 1912, p. 26; Yan Guodong, Chinese Teacher at St. Petersburg University until 1917, Confucius Institute, March 2012, Issue 11, # 2, p. 27.)
40. CAFSS, Folio 3, List 5, File 49, Sheet 258.
41. Ibid., p. 259.
42. CAFSS, Folio 3, List 5, File 53, Sheet 181.
43. Ibid., Sheet 182-183, reverse.
44. Ibid., Sheet 180-181, reverse.
45. Ibid., Sheet 185.
46. Ibid., Sheet 185-186.
47. CA FSS, Folio 3, List 5, File 37, Sheet 77-78, reverse.
48. CA FSS, Folio 3, List 5, File 45, Sheet 54-55, reverse.
49. The text speaks of consulate staffer Zhong Shing, but to all intents and purposes the reference is precisely to vice consul Zhang Chen. In documents in Russian his name was usually spelt as Zhang Shing or Zhang Shin, and this is how it occurs in other NKVD reports.
50. CA FSS, Folio 3, List 5, File 44, Sheet 389.
51. CA FSS, Folio 3, List 5, File 59, Sheet 169.
52. CA FSS, Folio 3, List 5, File 43, Sheet 371.
53. CA FSS, Folio 3, List 5, File 44, Sheet 389.
54. About Lyushkov, see, e.g., Khaustov, V.N. and Samuelson, L., Op. cit., pp. 95; 301-302.
55. Petrov, N.V. and Yansen, M., Op. cit., pp. 125-128.
56. Kalkayev, Ye.G., "Kvoprosu...", p. 84 (footnote 52).
57. For more detail, see, Dullin, S., Stalin iyego diplomaty: S.S.S.R. i Evropa [Stalin and His Diplomats: the Soviet Union and Europe, 1930-1939], Moscow, 2009, pp. 199-255; Dullin, S, Uplotneniye granits..., pp. 305-318.
58. Belkovets, L.P. and Belkovets, S.V., Istoriyagermanskogo konsul'stvavNovosibirske [The History of the German Consulate in Novosibirsk], Sibirskiye ogni, # 8, 2013, p. 180.
59. According to the consulate data, by July 1937 alone there had been 22 Chinese nationals arrested for espionage and another 50 were in custody (FPA RF, Folio 0100, List 21, Folder 52, File 3, Sheet 95 reverse).
60. FPA RF, Folio 0100, List 21, Folder 187, File 9, Sheet 7 reverse.
61. Ibid., Sheet 9.
62. Ibid., Sheet 8.
63. Ibid., Sheet 5.
65. However, at the time of "ethnic" operations most of the Chinese "spy" cases were examined extrajudicially, which did not imply court examination.
66. Ibid., Sheet 6.
67. Similar problems were encountered by the PCFA central apparatus as well; its officials could not reply to inquiries from the Chinese Embassy about certain persons because of long delays on the part of Section 8 of the NKVD State Security Chief Administration (FPA RF, Folio 0100, List 22, Folder 191, File 30, Sheets 8, 9). As for the heads of NKVD directorates, they could not refuse to give information to diplomatic agents about the total number of arrestees without sanction from on high (FPA RF, Folio 0100, List 22, Folder 191, File 30, Sheet 82).
68. FPA RF, Folio 0100, List21, Folder 187, File 9, Sheet 11.
69. FPA RF, Folio 09, List 29, Folder 121, File 24, Sheet 20.
70. FPA RF, Folio 0100, List 22, Folder 190, File 16.
71. See, e.g., the records of a conversation between the assistant of head of the 2nd Oriental Department M.S. Mitskevich and Embassy secretary Geng Kuang (FPA RF, Folio 9, List 29, Folder 121, File 24, Sheets 24-25).