A New Sino-Russian-American Triangle?

Americans have generally reacted to the rhetoric of Sino-Russian summit communique´s and official discourse by either casually dismissing it as out of touch with reality or expressing alarm that it means a revival of an “enemy” image by hardliners who have resurfaced.1 Little thought is given to the substance of the arguments about the evolution of the system of great powers. In his paper, Li Jingjie articulately summarizes that substance, emphasizing the reemergence of the strategic triangle. By carefully examining his arguments and responding to them, we can appreciate the challenge of communicating with Chinese and Russians who accept the logic of a new strategic triangle. These issues matter as we move beyond the simplistic dichotomy of “unipolar globalization” and “multipolar equality of great powers.”

Li is absolutely correct to say that at the top level Sino-Russian relations have advanced remarkably smoothly over eight years. This does not, of course, mean that when an agreement is reached, such as on expanding trade to $20 billion by the year 2000, both sides are committed to putting it into effect. But it does indicate that top leaders are determined to make this a solid partnership in a perilous world. They will go to great lengths not to jeopardize this relationship, and indeed Sino-Russian relations are likely to stay close and even to grow stronger over the coming decade.

Along with many other Chinese and Russian analysts, however, Li leaves largely unexamined the consequences of fragile relations between the two countries beyond geopolitical consensus…

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