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China’s expansionist ambitions reach Russia, lay claim over Vladivostok

China’s expansionist ambitions reach Russia, lay claim over Vladivostok

China’s insatiable territorial greed manifested once again when China and Russia got into a bitter diplomatic spat over a video posted by the Russian embassy on a Chinese equivalent of Twitter called Weibo. The video was related to a function to celebrate the 160th anniversary of the founding of its prominent far east port city Vladivostok. It resulted in a wave of online attacks and trolls by Chinese officials who leapt on the video to criticise and heap abuses on Russia, its closest ally and neighbor claiming that the Primorsky Krai territory whose capital is Vladivostak belonged to China. The 2nd July incident comes at a time when China is flexing its muscle in territorial disputes with its neighboring countries like India and Bhutan.

Several Chinese diplomats and journalists including Shen Shiwei, an influential journalist with CGTN, one of Chinese Communist Party mouthpieces, condemned Russia for the insensitive act. Shiwei said that an unequal treaty was signed with China after Russia forcefully annexed the Haishwewai territory and built a harbour there. And warned, "Russian embassy's tweet isn't welcome on Weibo".

Historically, Vladivostok once used to be part of China's Qing dynasty and was known as Haishenwai, was annexed by the Russian empire in 1860 when China was defeated in war by the British and French forces in the Second Opium War. Since then, the area has been administered by Russia under the capital of Primorsky Krai.

But China continues pointing fingers and crying foul, however, this remains far from the truth as territorial disputes have settled between both countries over three different border agreements signed in 1991, 1994 and 2004. And as per these agreements, China received hundreds of islands in the area along with Argun, Amur and Ussuri rivers. Several of these areas have now been renamed and remain an integral part of China. Up to fifty per cent of the territory still under the eastern corner of Khabarovsky's Russian territory has been rechristened and given Chinese names in recognition of its history.

An additional agreement was also signed in 2008 when Chinese and Russian Foreign Ministers signed the treaty known as the Sino-Russian Border Line Agreement, which marked the mutual recognition and acceptance of the border demarcations signed between both countries.

The region which falls in the South-eastern part of Russia bordering North Korea and China has historically been a bone of contention between both Russia and China. China also hinted at its claim on the region when it termed the whole region forming “Outer Manchuria”. The Chinese did not forget its claim on the territory and resorted to calling the Treaty of Aigun an “unequal territory”. Renewed concerns were raised in 1990s, when the increasing trade and opening of border between the two countries had made Russia wary of the possibility of China renewing its claim on the region.

Russia has also come along a long way and made the Primorsky Krai region as one of its most vital ports for trade and security purposes. The part is also known, as the Russian Maritime Province and Vladivostok city houses the Russian Pacific fleet. Sino-Soviet border conflict had brought the two Communist nations at the brink of war when in March 1969 the Chinese PLA troops ambushed Soviet border guards on Zhenbao Island. While Chinese sources claimed that 58 Soviets soldiers died, the Soviet sources said that 248 Chinese troops perished in the fight.

The Chinese and the Russians never waged another open war though they clashed several proxy wars across Africa, South East Asia and beyond, through rebel groups and communist regimes. No wonder, the video of the Russian Embassy in Beijing on 2nd July 2020 comes as no surprise wherein the Russian Ambassador sent a subtle message to his hosts by releasing it on the Weibo. The post stated, “The history of Vladivostok (literal ruler of the East) was from 1860 when Russia built a military harbour”.

China dismisses treaties that don’t suit it. Due to hunger of expansionist ambitions, China has territorial disputes with at least 20 countries including Russia, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, North Korea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Laos, Bhutan, India and many others..