China’s Threat to Russia

Thirty-six years ago, Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong turned world politics upside down, as both America and China realized that it was the Soviet Union, and not each other, that posed the greater threat. Now, Vladimir Putin needs to recognize that antagonizing the West is a foolish strategy, because the greatest threat to Russia comes from the East.

Last week, Russia and China held joint military maneuvers in the presence of both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Hu Jintao. But a new strategic alliance between the two countries is not likely, as it is China that poses the greatest strategic threat to Russia, although many in the Kremlin seem blind to this as they rattle sabers at America and the West.

Indeed, China officially considers several regions in Russia’s Far East to be only “alienated” from it. China’s territorial claims on Russia are often noted in Chinese grade school geography textbooks, which include a number of Russian Far Eastern regions within China’s borders.

This is consistent with the Chinese strategic concept of “vital space,” which includes all spheres of a state’s strategic activities, on land, at sea, under water, in the air, and in space. The dimensions of “vital space” are determined by a country’s economic, scientific, technical, social, and military capabilities – in essence, its “total power.” According to Chinese theorists, the “vital space” of great powers extends far beyond a state’s borders, whereas the “vital space” of weak countries is limited to strategic boundaries that do not always correspond to the borders of their national territory.

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