A Growing Relationship
Are Russia and China friends or foes? History reveals that they have been both. For decades, this hot-cold relationship has been on the rocks. Like an unstable marriage, these two have experienced the good times, the bad times and, more often than not, times of indifference.
After generations of turbulence, the Soviet Union and China experienced a significant friendship during the first half of the 20th century. During the mid-1950s to early ’60s, this evolved into cautious indifference, and then into bitter hatred during Cold War times. Now, recent events indicate that these two have grown intimate once again.
What’s going on between the Chinese dragon and the Russian bear? Where is this relationship leading? For clues as to the answers, first let’s look at the history of these prominent nations.
China’s Surrogate Mother
From its earliest recorded history, going back more than 4,000 years, China has been ruled by a series of dynasties based on a powerful religious foundation. For generations, the principles and philosophies of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism significantly influenced successive Chinese rulers. Paradoxically though, this pervasive religious influence did not lead to lasting peace and prosperity. Rather, China’s history is saturated with rampant violence, intertribal warfare and death.
Due to its geographical size, the country was seldom ruled by one government. Often two or three kingdoms would co-exist, leading to the occasional eruption of battles and wars between various kingdoms and tribes. Although China has a rich history of high culture, art and religion, its aspirations as a world power have been limited by ethnic segregation, internal discord and war. Prior to the 1900s, China had not been politically united for any extended period.
In the early 1920s, having fought against Western invasion for decades, things began to change for China. Under revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen, China accepted political guidance and support from the Communist Soviet Union, and Sun proceeded to sow the seeds of unity in China. With the assistance of the Soviet Communists, he forged an alliance between his Nationalist Party and the fledgling Chinese Communist Party (ccp).
After Sun’s death in 1925, a deep rift developed between the ccp and the Nationalist Party, resulting in civil war. During the early 1940s, the war subsided and the parties hesitantly formed a weak alliance to fight the Japanese. But by 1946, after Japan’s defeat, civil war prevailed once again. After three years of guerrilla warfare, the ccp overcame the Nationalist Party and, by 1949, the Communists were in control of China.
At the vanguard of the rising Communist movement was one of the greatest mass murderers of the century: Mao Zedong. After having murdered 20 million dissenters and driven the remaining Nationalist Party members to Taiwan, Mao declared the birth of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.
Like a surrogate mother, the Soviet Union stood by the ccp during these years of warfare, providing military and economic support to Mao and his comrades. Soon after the Communist victory and Mao’s announcement, the Soviet Union blazed the way in officially recognizing the People’s Republic of China. In 1950, Stalin and Mao signed a treaty of friendship, and before long, the Soviet Union was providing technical, economic and industrial support to China in its quest to develop an atomic bomb. Times were good between the two nations.
Old Friends Split
Mao was a radical thinker. Shortly after he took over the country, China’s entire political, economic and social landscape was transformed. By incorporating policies and practices used by his Soviet friends, and through numerous drastic political changes, Mao quickly accomplished the heretofore unthinkable: a unified China. At the helm of this soon-to-be-great nation was the meticulously planned, all-powerful Central People’s Government Council. This council, with Mao as chairman, exercised complete executive, legislative and judicial powers over the nation. By 1954, the National People’s Congress had finalized China’s first constitution. By the mid-to-late ’50s, these political changes, together with other far-reaching economic and social changes, had thrust China into the spotlight as a new world player.
For the Soviets, life was not so good. After Stalin’s death in 1953, the Soviet Union’s political and foreign policy dynamics underwent radical change. By 1956, the Soviet Union was ailing, caught in the throes of de-Stalinization, while China continued to grow as a global power. The once-firm Sino-Soviet alliance began to fracture.
By 1960, the Soviet Union had severed all economic and military aid to China; two years later, the breach between the two countries turned into military hostility. China now began to position itself to become a significant player on the global scene. For the next decade, Russia and China continued to eye each other cautiously.
During the Nixon administration in the U.S. in the early 1970s, tension between the Soviet Union and China continued to escalate. The United States, with a focused military agenda, moved to strengthen ties with China. China, foreseeing the benefits that would come from the relationship, welcomed the U.S.’s gesture. But at the foundation of this strange Sino-American kinship was not the economic, trade and military benefits it would bring—but a mutual dislike for the Soviet Union. Through this new friendship, the United States had a powerful presence in Asia that easily counterbalanced the formidable Soviet Union. China continued to hastily expand (especially technologically and militarily) without any fear of altercations with the Soviet Union.
The unlikely alliance between the U.S. and China pushed the Sino-Soviet relationship from passive tension to occasional open hostility.
After Mao’s death in 1976, China’s new leader, Deng Xiaoping, followed in the wake of his predecessor and continued to solidify the Sino-U.S. relationship. It was a strong, mutually beneficial relationship. America continued to have a powerful associate to offset the Soviet threat, while China, as it charged up the ladder of prosperity, having ready access to American technology and military information, also maintained a gigantic trade partner.
During this time, news analysts around the globe predicted that the Sino-Soviet relationship would never again prosper. A look at today’s headlines shows they were wrong. While most news media during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s were misled about the future of the Russian-Chinese relationship, there was one analyst who was not.
For five decades, Herbert W. Armstrong foretold the eventual uniting of Russia and China as part of a Eurasian superpower—even when these two countries were practically at each other’s throats. Was he right? Consider the burgeoning Sino-Russian relationship as it is today.
During the late 1990s, the world witnessed the first steps toward reconciliation between the Russian bear and the Chinese dragon. With the Russian economy in tatters following the Cold War, and in desperate need of international help—and with U.S. interest in China declining as its strategic value lessened—Russia and China once again looked to each other.
After three decades of animosity, then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, began the process of restoring the Sino-Russian alliance. Their first step was the creation of the “strategic cooperative partnership.” Reversing its former policy of seeking to contain Soviet power under the bi-polar Cold War era, China’s primary motive behind this was to form an alliance competitive with the world’s one and only superpower at the time—the United States.
The current Chinese president has continued this process. According to the Russian Press Digest, the end product of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s May visit to Moscow will be “Cooperation in the trade, economic, military, technical, scientific, energy, transportation, nuclear energy, space and aviation spheres ….”
During this visit, Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Hu signed a joint declaration, stressing that the “development of friendship, cooperation and strategic collaboration between the two countries would remain a priority for Russia and China” (ibid.). With Russia searching for economic stability and development, and China feverishly probing for future energy resources, it is easy to see how they can mutually benefit each other.
Wracked with poor management, lack of internal investment and catastrophic corruption, and with a reputation for instability, the Russian economy continues to struggle. Periodically, reports filter into the West indicating impressive reform and economic growth, yet hundreds of thousands of Russians have no electricity, mafia monopolies continue to operate, and living standards for the masses have not improved. With its citizens having little money to spend, the Russian government is relying on foreign investment and trade to boost its economy.
In the eyes of the Russians, China is a large part of their solution. Russia currently has registered trade of $12 billion with China annually. According to President Putin, “If commercial and economic cooperation develops at such a pace we can reach the level of $20 billion in four to five years” (Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union, May 27). In the first quarter of 2003, trade between the two nations increased by 30 percent. Their bilateral trade is better than it ever has been.
In contrast to Russia’s poor economic condition, China has a burgeoning economy. But with a mammoth population of more than 1 billion people, the government is struggling to keep up with the energy needs of the nation. China’s solution? Tap into the colossal oil resources in Russia.
In May, Russian oil giant Yukos and China National Petroleum Corp. signed a $150 billion agreement to ship 700 million tons of oil to China over a 25-year period. As the same time, presidents Putin and Hu discussed a 1,500-mile oil pipeline from Siberia to China. Intelligence think tank Stratfor called this “a major step toward the construction of a pipeline that would strongly tie Russia and China together” (May 29). The oil supply will keep the Chinese happy, while the income will keep the Russians happy.
China and Russia also recently completed a feasibility study on developing natural gas fields in Siberia.
As trade and energy ties continue to flourish between Russia and China, they will become increasingly reliant on each other.
Over the past decade, China has also grown to become Russia’s leading weapons purchaser.
With Chinese shipping companies now owning various global sea gates formerly possessed by Britain and the U.S., China’s continual quest to conquer Taiwan, and the size of the great nation’s coastline, China is working hard to expand its naval fleet. Who has agreed to deck out China with immense artillery to support this effort? Russia. The great bear has committed itself to a $4 billion agreement to supply China with arms over the next four to five years. This vast assortment of weapons will include at least eight submarines, two destroyers, anti-aircraft missiles and more than 40 fighter-bombers.
China’s military investment in Russia will help keep many of Russia’s military-related industries alive. Dmitrii Trenin, an expert on Russian foreign policy at the Carnegie Institute in Moscow, said that “China will not present a military problem for Russia, because Chinese arms purchases … are orientated toward other tasks—above all Taiwan and to a lesser degree toward Chinese-American relations” (Asia Times, May 28; emphasis mine). Obviously, China’s artillery build-up is not directed at Russia.
Joint Space and Nuclear Program
Russia has always been a leading global player in nuclear research, development and production. China has not. News watchers can only imagine the global power gained if Russia, with its history in nuclear development, and China, with its increasing wallet, agree to work together in the nuclear field.
Soon they won’t have to imagine. At the end of July, the seventh session of the Russian-Chinese sub-commission for nuclear issues was completed. After the conference, a Russian Atomic Energy official commented, “Russia does not have such comprehensive contacts in the nuclear area with any country as it has with China” (bbc News, July 23). Bilateral nuclear deals between the two countries are in the hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
During the July conference, the countries also discussed the construction of a thermal-emission reactor as an energy source for satellites. Also discussed were joint efforts in designing advanced computer systems as well as electrical and laser equipment.
Cooperation in nuclear and space projects is perhaps the most startling facet of the firming relationship between Russia and China. Military and nuclear development is proof that this Sino-Russian relationship is not for purely internal benefits. Both countries have global motives.
Where Is This Leading?
But why is this Sino-Russian relationship important? Where, if anywhere, is it leading? Most countries have bilateral relations with other countries, especially their neighbors—so why is this particular relationship significant?
The details of the partnership between Russia and China are not nearly as important as where it is leading. When viewed in the light of end-time Bible prophecy, the significance of this Sino-Russian alliance can be understood.
Mr. Armstrong said that approximately one third of the Bible is devoted to prophecy and that most biblical prophecy referred to the times in which we now live! He also explained that the framework of prophecy is found in the books of Daniel and Revelation, and only in Revelation “do we find events of the various other prophecies correlated in order of time sequence” (The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last!). Indeed, many Christians around the world recognize that Revelation describes the events leading to the return of Christ.
Chapters 8 and 9 of Revelation are primarily dedicated to describing the terrible events of the Day of the Lord—the year immediately preceding Christ’s return. Verses in these chapters reveal that Russia and China will be directly involved in the events of this terrible Day of the Lord period (Rev. 9:14-19). This means that when we see Russia and China drawing closer together, the Day of the Lord must also be approaching! A significant Sino-Russian relationship is a part of the prophesied world events leading to the return of Jesus Christ!
To further understand the immediate future for Russia and China, request our free booklet Russia and China in Prophecy. This book will provide you with an in-depth understanding of the prophecies relating to this mushrooming Sino-Russian relationship. As you continue to watch this relationship develop, study the Russia and China in Prophecy booklet as an aid to understanding these powerful end-time prophecies—and you will clearly comprehend where this alliance is leading!
World events are unfolding at lightning speed! The return of Jesus Christ is just around the corner. A firm Sino-Russian relationship is one of the signs indicating that we are almost at the end of the road of man’s attempts to govern himself. Current events show that we are passing that sign now! Will you read it and respond?