Time to play the China card

Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2001

The following editorial appeared July 17 in the The Times of London:

When Stalin and Mao Zedong signed a treaty of friendship half a century ago the two communist giants bestrode the world. Stalin had advanced the Russian Empire to the center of Europe; Mao had just won a bloody and resounding victory in the world's most populous country. The two men made no secret of their unremitting hostility to the capitalist world.

By contrast the "Good Neighborly Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation" signed Monday by President Putin and President Jiang Zemin explicitly states that it is not aimed at third parties. It calls the treaty a legal framework for a re-established friendship, seeks to expand trade, commits both countries to strengthening the United Nations, talks of co-operating on human rights and proclaims, extravagantly, that Russian and China are "friends forever, never enemies."

In fact, each is seeking thereby to bolster world influence. The treaty will be surely seen in Washington as a challenge ... ever since the Sino-Soviet border clashes in 1969, America has sought to 'play the China card' against Moscow, often with considerable success. ... Now it appears the Americans might appear once again to be the odd ones out.

For both countries, America is still the more important partner. Neither wants to be taken for granted. Mr. Putin will make that point to Mr. Bush in Genoa. And now it is his turn to play the China card.

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