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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Stresses Close Ties With Beijing

Russia indicated Thursday that it will continue its strategy of close ties with China as a balance to links with the West despite the death of China's supreme leader Deng Xiaoping.

President Boris Yeltsin, in a telegram of condolences, stressed the "trusting partnership" between Russia and China. Deng, said Yeltsin, had contributed to "removing the vestiges of the past from relations between our countries and to their evolution from full normalization to an equal, trusting partnership aimed at strategic joint action in the 21st century."

In Beijing, the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Asia department, Yevgenny Afanasyev, said Deng's death Wednesday would not have a great effect on relations because there is a "solid reserve of trust," Itar-Tass reported.

Russia, the largest country in the world, and China, the most populated, share more than 4,000 kilometers of border and a burgeoning strategic and economic partnership.

The days when the Soviet Union and Mao's China struggled for leadership of the communist world and even clashed over the disputed border along the Amur River are long past.

Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, an orientalist by training and a former journalist in the Asian region, has openly shifted Moscow's policy toward Asia since taking office in January 1996. Last month, Primakov hailed the Moscow-Beijing link as "a partnership of trust that offers the prospect of strategic cooperation in the 21st century and corresponds to our interests."

He said Russia had restored the necessary balance in its diplomatic relations, which had been more focused toward the West in the first years following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The two countries signed major economic and security accords in 1996, and Russia is a major arms supplier to China. In April, Yeltsin is due to host his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin.

They signed a strategic partnership accord in Shanghai last year, as well as a border security pact also involving the three former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The two giants share another strategic worry in common -- the global influence of the United States.

A U.S. defense department study in February pinpointed Russia and China as potential equals to the United States in their regions. All three countries have veto power over decisions at the United Nations.

"Both China and Russia are: nuclear powers with ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles]; space powers with access to overhead imagery and global communications; nations of enormous size with considerable strategic depth; and important leaders of international institutions, well positioned to block UN actions against their interests," the report said.

"China and Russia are more likely to mount a low-intensity strategic competition with the United States designed to reduce or offset U.S. influence in the regions they regard as their special spheres of influence," the report said.

Analysts said there would be no shift in the trend of Russian-Chinese partnership, provided that Deng's death is not followed by instability.

"Current relations will continue. The course was worked out long ago, and today's Chinese leadership will also continue it," said Andrei Zobov, senior analyst at the Carnegie Endowment think tank in Moscow.