Under Guise Of ‘Joint Development,’ Is Putin Setting Stage For Transferring Russian Land To China? – OpEd


At his recent summit meeting with Chinese leaders, Vladimir Putin signed an agreement calling for “the joint development” of disputed islands in the Ussuri River near Khabarovsk. Russian nationalist commentator Viktor Alksnis says this action will in fact lead to the transfer of sovereignty over these islands to China.

Yevgeny Ivanov, a Nakanune journalist, points out that controversy about the Russian-Chinese border extends back to 1860. In that year, the two countries signed a treaty specifying that the Russian-Chinese border “ran along the southern shore of the Amur and Ussuri rivers” (nakanune.ru/articles/122137/).

But China views that accord as one of the unequal treaties it was compelled to sign; and since 1991, it has pressed for their revision. In that year, Moscow and Beijing agreed that the border ran in the center of the flow of the rivers, thus transferring some islands, including Damansky where a military clash occurred in 1969, to China.

Beijing still objected, and in 2004 and 2008, Moscow signed two further agreements which handed over to China one whole island and part of another. Finally, in 2023, the two governments agreed to come up with a joint formula for  deciding precisely where the state border between them passed.

Beijing continued to insist that the islands belonged to China and even published a map showing them as Chinese. Moscow objected to the map but said that the two countries did not have any differences on the border (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/09/moscow-finally-reacts-to-new-chinese.html).

But that clearly was not the case; and during Putin’s most recent visit to China, the Russian side signed an agreement with Beijing on “the principles of the joint development” of border areas. Russian officials suggested that this agreement ends any dispute, but Viktor Alksnis, a nationalist commentator, sees things differently.

He argues that Russia, being isolated internationally, has little choice but to make concessions to China to keep Beijing in its corner and that talk about “joint development” is simply a ruse that covers what will be the eventual transfer of full sovereignty over the islands in the Ussuri and Amur to China.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *