Although China and the Soviet Union were viewed by many as part of a monolithic wall of communism, their differences ran deep. In fact, Soviet Premier N. S. Khrushchev and Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong had such a fierce clash in 1959 that the cold silence between the two states lasted until some time after the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991.
Fast foward to 2009. According to the AP, Russia’sonce-and-future president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin “landed in China Monday in an effort to bolster energy, political and military ties between the former rival nations turned strategic partners.”
High on the agenda are a gas-for-loans deal, which is reported to be similar to a $25 billion oil-for-loan deal that the two states worked out earlier in 2009.
So then, Russia is certainly oil-rich, but not quite as financially boyant as they were when petroleum was around the $80/barrell mark. China, on the other hand, has relatively few mineral resources, but they are doing quite well for themselves under former Chairman Deng Xiaoping’s 1984 plan for “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” And really, who needs democracy when you can have socialism with Chinese characteristics?
Or it could be like Russia. There, Anders Åslund of the Peterson Institute for International Economics argues, market reform has succeeded, but democracy failed to take root.
(Note: The author is at this point extremely grateful that he is in a country where he can say that without fear of persecution from anyone except an occasional blog troller, and not the secret police.)
Anyhow. Russia and China teaming up. Huh! Wonder what could come of that. Putin looks out for his own, and I’m sure the infusion of cash will go a long way to help him when he runs for re-election as Russian president in 2012. Unless Medvedev tries again; he’s been doing all right, so it just may work out that he can run for reelection should Putin allow him to do so.
Another fair question is what it means for China. They already have an oil pipeline a deal for an oil pipeline in the works that would run from Siberia to China.* Their rapidly expanding industry needs energy, especially petroleum, and consumes it ravenously. And there’s the whole shipping aspect — all that cheap plastic crap has to get to Wal-Mart somehow. The mind can swirl in amazement at the scale of it until you narrow down your range of vision and focus on particulars within it.
* That’s such a big space, it’s like saying a pipeline would run from western Canada to somewhere in the lower 48 American states.
Update: No breakthrough for China and Russia on natural gas, apparently, but you’ve gotta start somewhere. Besides, how else do you get great pictures like this?
The above photo is of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reviewing troops with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. (Photo (C) 2009 AFP/Getty Images.)