If since the end of the Cold War relations between China and Russia and each of the other great powers have experienced numerous complications, then the development of Sino-Russian relations has, on the contrary, been relatively smooth.1 As early as December 1992, the two governments announced that they were officially “friendly” and began to develop broad bilateral relations. A second stage commenced in September 1994, when China and Russia defined their relations as a “constructive partnership,” promised to give bilateral relations a long-term stable character, and began to seek opportunities to cooperate internationally. A third stage, which continues to the present, began in 1996 with the announcement that Moscow and Beijing would devote themselves to establishing and developing a “strategic partnership.”
The first task of the present paper is to offer a broad-ranging discussion of the content and conduct of Sino-Russian relations, expanding on a previous English-language article dating from 1997,2 and based on official Sino-Russian documents and leadership statements. The second task is to analyze the U.S. factor as it influences Sino-Russian and “triangular” relations. For quite some time observers have doubted whether this triangular relationship, a cliche´ during the latter Cold War, exists today. As the international situation develops and changes, this question seems more and more difficult to dodge.