Essay

Russia and China’s Diplomatic Dance

The Russian ballet that offended Mao and harbingered the Sino-Soviet Split – by Eveline Chao

On June 30, China’s state-owned paper People’s Daily declared “China-Russia ties better than ever in history”. A few days later, Xi Jinping reiterated the sentiment during a state visit to Russia. While rhetoric never quite reflects truth, it’s certainly a major leap forward from 1969, when the two nations spent seven months in undeclared military conflict over their shared border, during the height of the Sino-Soviet split.

Unsurprisingly for two enormous and ambitious countries, relations between the two have always been touchy. One the one hand, they have been brought together by common concerns: fighting in the Korean War, countering the United States, and, more recently, keeping North Korea in check. On the other hand, they are also rivals: they have fought often for control of Mongolia and Manchuria, and each nurtures a vision of former glory that, if restored by one, could put the other at a disadvantage. Each country’s fate impacts the other’s.