Sino-Russian relations since 1991

Sino-Russian relations since 1991
Sino-Russian relations
Map indicating locations of Russia and China



Diplomatic relations between People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation dramatically improved after the fall of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Russia in 1991. The two countries share a long land border which was demarcated in 1991, and they signed a Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation in 2001.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with Hu Jintao whilst on a state visit to China in May 2008.
SCO and CSTO members


Country comparison

China People's Republic of China Russia Russian Federation
Area 9,640,011 km² (3,717,813 sq mi) 17,075,400 km² (6,592,800 sq mi)
Population 1,341,150,000 142,905,200
Population Density 140/km² (363/sq mi) 8.3/km² (21.5/sq mi)
Capital Beijing Moscow
Largest City Shanghai (23,019,148) Moscow (14,837,510)
Government Unitary socialist republic Federal semi-presidential republic
Official languages Chinese Russian
GDP (nominal) $6.988 trillion $1.477 trillion
GDP (PPP) $11.316 trillion $2.222 trillion
GDP (nominal) per capita $5,184 $8,680
GDP (PPP) per capita $8,394 $10,945
Human Development Index 0.663 0.719
Foreign exchange reserves 2,622,000 (millions of USD) 501,100 (millions of USD)
Military expenditures $78 billion $39.6 billion (FY 2009–10)[1]


China and the USSR became enemies after the Sino-Soviet split in 1961, and fought a brief border war in 1969. Their enmity began to lessen after the death of Mao Zedong, but they still had poor relations until the fall of the Soviet Union.

On December 23, 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin made his first official visit to China and there he and Chinese President Yang Shangkun signed a Joint Statement on the Foundation of Mutual Relations, in which the two countries pledge to establish good-neighbourly, friendly and mutually beneficial relations; Chinese and Russian officials also sign 24 other statements, documents and memoranda of understanding on cooperation on a range of issues, including border demarcation and reductions in armed forces.[2]

On September 3, 1994 at the end of a summit meeting in Moscow, Yeltsin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin issued a joint statement defining their bilateral relationship as a ‘constructive partnership’. The two leaders pledged that their countries will not initiate the use of nuclear weapons and will not target their strategic nuclear forces against each other.

On May 3, 1998 the Russian and Chinese foreign ministries exchanged notes confirming the start of the telephone Hotline link between the two countries’ presidents.[2] In December of that year, at the end of Prime Minister Li Peng’s visit to Moscow, Russia and China issue a joint communique pledging to build an ‘equal and reliable partnership’.

In 2001, the close relations between the two countries were formalized with the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation, a twenty-year strategic, economic, and – controversially and arguably – an implicit military treaty. A month before the treaty was signed, the two countries joined with junior partners Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The PRC is currently a major Russian customer of imports needed to modernize the People's Liberation Army, and the foremost benefactor of the under construction Russian Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean oil pipeline.


During USSR's last years and after it dissolved it was highly important on the Russian agenda to settle the Russian-Sino border. Gorbachev needed to substantially reduce Soviet troops on the border with China so that he could allocate national resources to a more urgent priority of the Soviet Union, its economy. Against this background, In 1991, the Sino-Russian Border Agreement was signed apportioning territory that became contested during the Sino-Soviet border conflict. The initial 1991 agreement left the most sensitive parts for a later stage. The joint demarcation commission proceeded based on the terms stipulated in the 1991 agreement, and moved forward with a special emphasis on the technical aspects of hydrographic measurement and topography. They also created practical solutions to address cross-border problems, such as several agreements onvisiting schemes for the two countries’ nationals to border areas, and joint economic use of parts of territories in Zabaykalsky Krai’.[3] On China’s side, the negotiations were affected by the Tiananmen incident in 1989 and Deng Xiaoping’s reform policy: the high priority placed on these internal tasks enhanced Chinese willingness to settle territorial disputes with Russia. Uprisings in Xinjiang in the 1990s also pushed China to settlement with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan on borders facing that province. Chinese leaders were eager to gain support from the Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Tajik governments to prevent separatism and the spread strengthening of pan-Islamic and pan-Turkic groups in Xinjiang.[4]

In 1990-91, Russia and China agreed to withdraw their military from their heavily fortified positions along their extensive border, including in the sensitive Tumen River area. Major navy and army facilities in Khasan District, Russia, were dismantled. Sino-Russian border trade resumed as early as 1983-85, but accelerated in 1990-91, when border crossings were re-opened to private traders and travellers, Vladivostok was declared an open city, and foreigners were able to travel freely to the border regions of both countries. In 1991, China also began a new round of economic reforms, and introduced new measures to accelerate foreign investment, which began to have a favourable impact in the Tumen River area. Similarly, in early 1992, China announced border trade incentives and the introduction of special border economic zones along the Sino-Russian border, including its largest, in Hunchun.

On May 29, 1994 During the visit of Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to Beijing, Russian and Chinese officials sign an Agreement on the Sino-Russian Border Management System intended to facilitate border trade and hinder criminal activity.[2] On September 3 that year, a demarcation agreement was signed fixing the boundary along a disputed 55-km stretch of the western Sino-Russian border.

In November 1997 at a summit meeting in Beijing, Yeltsin and Jiang Zemin signed an agreement settling the demarcation of the disputed 4300-km eastern sector of the Russian–Chinese border in accordance with the provisions of a May 1991 demarcation agreement between China and the Soviet Union.

The 2004 Complementary Agreement between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation on the Eastern Section of the China–Russia Boundary[5] stated that Russia agrees to transfer a part of Abagaitu Islet, whole Yinlong (Tarabarov) Island, about a half of Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island and some adjacent islets to China. A border dispute between Russia and China, standing since Japanese invasion of Manchuria of 1931, was resolved. These Amur River islands were until then administered by Russia and claimed by China. The event was meant to foster feelings of reconciliation and cooperation between the two countries by their leaders. The transfer has been ratified by both the Chinese National People's Congress and the Russian State Duma. The official transfer ceremony was held on-site October 14, 2008.

The Republic of China, based on Taiwan, refused to relinquish its claims to parts of disputed islands remained in Russian possession.

Economic relations

In October 2011, in a joint press conference following talks with Chinese officials, Putin said the sides intend to cooperate in high-tech sectors such as aircraft manufacturing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, computer science, and medicine.[6]

Trade in national currencies

On November 23, 2010, at a meeting of the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, it was announced that Russia and China have decided to use their own national currencies for bilateral trade, instead of the U.S. dollar. The move is aimed to further improve the relations between Beijing and Moscow and to protect their domestic economies in the conditions of the world financial crisis. The trading of the Chinese yuan against the Russian ruble has started in the Chinese interbank market, while the yuan's trading against the ruble is expected to start on the Russian foreign exchange market in December 2010.[7][8]

In coordination with other emerging economies the second BRIC summit was held in Brasilia in April 2010.

Military relations

After the EU arms embargo on China imposed after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, China became a reliable client for Russian military exports, making up 25-50% of all foreign military sales.[9] On November 9, 1993, Russian Defence Minister Pavel Grachev and Chinese Defence Minister Chi Haotian sign a five-year defence cooperation agreement paving the way for an increase in the number of military attachés stationed in their respective capitals. On July 12, 1994 the Russian and Chinese defence ministers signed a border security agreement designed to prevent potentially dangerous military incidents, such as unintentional radar jamming and airspace violations.

In 2011, when Vladimir Putin visited China, Russia announced that they had arrested a Chinese spy who was attempting to buy the documentation for the S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile system. There have also been tensions between Moscow and Beijing over China's copying of Russian Su-27 fighter jets and other military hardware, as China's arms purchases from Russia have collapsed in recent years.[10]

International mail

According to a 2011 report, international mail between China and Russia normally travels through Beijing and Moscow. However, the postal authorities of the two countries consider setting up mail exchange operation in Blagoveshchensk (opposite Heihe), in order to speed up mail transport between the Russian Far East and Northeastern China.[11]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c Chronology of principal defence and security-related agreements and initiatives involving the Russian Federation and Asian countries, 1992–99
  3. ^ Akihiro Iwashita, “An Inquiry for New Thinking on the Border Dispute: Backgrounds of ‘Historic Success’ for the Sino-Russian Negotiations,” Slavic Eurasian Studies, 2004
  4. ^ M.Taylor Fravel, Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China’s Territorial Disputes, Princeton University Press, 2008, Chapter Three
  5. ^ Дополнительное соглашение между Российской Федерацией и Китайской Народной Республикой о российско-китайской государственной границе на ее Восточной части. October 14, 2004 (Russian)
  6. ^ Russia offers China gas in exchange for modernization, 13/10/2011, RIA Novosti
  7. ^ China, Russia quit dollar China Daily
  8. ^ Chinese minister says China-Russia economic, trade co-op at new starting point Xinhua News
  9. ^ Why China Snubs Russian Arms
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ Russia and China forge closer mail links in Far East (August 26, 2011)

Further reading

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