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Monday, 16 July, 2001, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Analysis: Russia and China's common ground
Chinese President Jiang Zemin welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russia and China share a common political culture
By the BBC Eurasia analyst Malcolm Haslett

Russia and China have for some years looked like natural allies, and they have now signed a new friendship treaty.

But are they united only by a common opposition to American world domination or is there any genuine warmth in the relationship?

President Jiang Zemin's visit to Russia comes just after Beijing has been awarded the Olympic Games in 2008 and just before Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, goes to Genoa for the G8 summit of industrialised countries.

Exclusion fears

Both are important signs that these two giant states are being more accepted into the world community.

Yet both still fear that they risk being frozen out by a growing Western, and particularly American, domination of world affairs.

Vladimir Putin and Jiang Zemin
Some anxieties remain
Their fears were reinforced on the eve of Mr Jiang's visit by the US announcement that it had carried out a successful test in its missile defence programme.

Strategists in both Russia and China see the revival of old friendships as logical to prevent American domination going too far.

And both countries do have strengths, and so have the ability to aid the other. Both are nuclear powers. China has a burgeoning economy, while Russia has a well-developed arms industry and considerable mineral wealth.

But they have something else in common too which could play a vital role in the developing relationship.

Suspicion

Though Russia is now widely seen as a democracy, with political parties contending for political power, the old political culture of the Communist era has remained very strong.

And since Vladimir Putin, a former member of the Soviet security service, came to power, this tendency has been greatly strengthened.

Old habits of suspicion and control have made a serious comeback.

State control over business and the media has been considerably extended.

An increasing number of official and media pronouncements no longer hesitate to express a deep-seated distrust of foreigners.

Much of this has happened, it's true, with the support of a majority of public opinion.

Boris Yeltsin
Some Russians saw the Yeltsin era as one of humiliation
Many Russians, anxious to reverse the feeling of drift and national humiliation they suffered during the Yeltsin period, are only too willing to entrust their future to a leader they feel will fight more resolutely for national interests.

And if that means a more authoritarian style of government, they are not going to lose much sleep over it.

All this has brought Russia much closer to China in terms of political culture.

There may be no great emotional warmth among Russians as a whole for the Chinese connection. Indeed there is quite a lot of anti-Chinese feeling, particularly in the far eastern region of Russia, over illegal Chinese immigration across the border.

Among the Russian political elite, however, there is some genuine warmth.

"They do things properly in China," the attitude seems to be, "and they don't preach to us about human rights".

See also:

14 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Russia and China's uneasy partnership
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