The leaders of China and Russia met in Beijing on Monday and signed a 13 page declaration on "the role of the two countries in the contemporary world." Since the end of the Cold War, political, economic and social issues have drawn Russia and China together, and in July of 2001 the neighboring nations signed a friendship and cooperation treaty which they hope to continually push forward. In light of China's recent leadership change, the two countries have again declared their mutual interest in strengthening their "strategic partnership."
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with China's President Jiang Zemin and with other retiring and incoming Chinese leaders during his visit. Discussion topics during the visit included North Korea, Iraq, and terrorism.
Since North Korea announced it did indeed have a nuclear weapons program in violation of a 1994 agreement with the United States, the U.S. and allies have cut off fuel supplies. China and Russia on Monday declared that, "The sides consider it important for the destiny of the world and security in Northeast Asia to preserve the non-nuclear status of the Korean peninsula and the regime of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction." They urged the United States and North Korea to normalize relations and return to the dictates of the 1994 agreement.
"They do not want to see North Korea collapse because of fuel shortages or anything else, nor do they want it threatening its neighbors with nuclear weapons because that destabilizes the region," said one Western diplomat.
Both China and Russia have vocalized support for the United States in its war against terror, as well as support for one another in dealing with Muslim difficulties in their own nations. Even as these nations have sought improved relations with the U.S., however, they have also disliked the United States' role as the world's lone superpower. Monday's declaration called for a "multi-polar" world, and their combined strength could easily create another "pole". Also in interest of curbing U.S. clout, they remained adamant that any decision for an attack on Iraq should go through the United Nations Security Council, where both countries hold veto power.
A number of documents regarding economic partnerships were signed during the visit. Trade between Russia and China reached a record $10.67 billion in 2001 and is expected to surpass $11 billion for 2002.
During his visit, Putin was the first world leader to meet with Hu Jintao, the new Communist Party general secretary who will take Jiang's position as president in March. Both China and Russia have faced criticism for human rights violations within their borders. Part of their strategic partnership is based on their mutual interest in defending themselves against those who would "interfere" with their internal affairs. They also support one another's efforts to retain "national unity and territorial integrity", which includes China's desires for Taiwan, and Russia's struggle against Muslims in Chechnya.