Thursday, December 3, 2020

Explained: Why is China now eyeing the Russian city of Vladivostok?

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Why 'Vladivostok' is the bone of contention between Russia and China?

— Consider reading the article Explained: Why is China now eyeing the Russian city of Vladivostok? on OpIndia website —

Amidst the Coronavirus outbreak and the current border standoff with India, China has now staked its claim on the Russian city of Vladivostok, reported Wion. On Friday, the Russian embassy in India had tweeted a video about the foundation of the Russian military post, Vladivostok, in the Golden Horn Bay of the Sea of Japan. The tweet added that the military post was granted the status of a city in May 1880.

🌞Good morning, #India!

🚢#OTD, 160 years ago, the Russian military post named #Vladivostok was set up in the Golden Horn Bay of the Sea of Japan. In May 1880, Vladivostok received the status of a city.

Full video ➡ https://t.co/QM7cYyscCO pic.twitter.com/6yD4NJVFds

— Russia in India (@RusEmbIndia) July 2, 2020

The same video was posted on Weibo, a microblogging site in China, by the Russian embassy in Beijing. However, it did not go down well with the Chinese populace. As such, China’s social media warriors launched a targeted online campaign against Russia. ‘Journalist’ Shen Shiwei from the State-owned CGTN network wrote that the tweet by the Russian embassy was ‘not welcome’ as Vladivostok was earlier a Chinese territory, Hai Shen Wai, before Russia annexed it through the ‘unequal’ Treaty of Beijing. The same sentiment was echoed by several other Chinese diplomats including China’s ambassador to Pakistan.

This “tweet” of #Russian embassy to #China isn’t so welcome on Weibo
“The history of Vladivostok (literally ‘Ruler of the East’) is from 1860 when Russia built a military harbor.” But the city was Haishenwai as Chinese land, before Russia annexed it via unequal Treaty of Beijing. pic.twitter.com/ZmEWwOoDaA

— Shen Shiwei沈诗伟 (@shen_shiwei) July 2, 2020

The Second Opium War and Treaty of Peking

During the Second Opium War (1856-1860), China faced defeat at the hands of Britain, Russia and France. After the end of the war, the Russian Tsarist Empire annexed the territories of Primorsky Krai and Vladivostok. The territory of Vladivostok was a part of the Qing Dynasty of China and was handed over to the Russians via the Treaty of Peking in 1860. Although it was lawfully owned, yet, the expansionist Communist Party of China (CCP) now dismisses the treaty as ‘unequal’. Besides Vladivostok, China also lost the Kowloon peninsula to Britain. The recent outrage on social media by China highlighted a deep-seated feeling of loss, even after 160 years.

Implications on Russia-China relationship

At a time when the world powers are irked with China over its mishandling of the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic, it has turned against its close ally Russia. This is despite the fact that Russia has neither blamed China for the outbreak of the Wuhan Coronavirus nor the human rights violations in Hong Kong. However, the tweet by the Russian Embassy in India, celebrating the foundation of Vladivostok, on Twitter is perceived as a ‘big strategic signal.’ The tweet assumes significance, amidst border tensions between India and China, and is considered as a manifestation of the strategic partnership between India and Russia.

Russia and China share a 4,209 km-long border. As per reports, the Defence Ministry of Russia is wary of the possible challenges that can be posed by China at the border, in the long run. Experts are of the view that the Chinese objection to Russia’s celebration will not extend beyond social media. Both the countries were at the brink of war in 1969 but a settlement was reached in 2008. During the agreement, Russia handed over a few islands in the Amur and Ussuri rivers to China. However, the status quo on Vladivostok remained unchanged. Reportedly, China has claimed about 160,000 sq km of land in Russia, in violation of various mutual agreements.

Expansionism of China

As per Wion News, China has been relentless in illegally occupying land in at least 21 countries. Even though the International Court of Justice has rejected its dubious claims, China continues to assert ownership of islands in the Philippines. The same is the case with Vietnam. Communist-run country has claimed fishing rights in the water near islands in Indonesian territory. Besides, China has disputes with Laos, Cambodia on ‘historical precedents and with Thailand over the Mekong river since 2001.

China has disputes with Japan over Senkaku and Ryu Kya islands. Moreover, the expansionist country has staked claim to the whole of South Korea on some occasions. Besides, the Communist-controlled country also has disputes with North Korea over Mount Pek-tu and the Tuman river. Earlier, it was reported that China had occupied the Rui village in Gorkha district of Nepal.

Decoding Chinese Aggression

“The Chinese autocratic Government is scared of its 140 crore people who work as bonded labourers, with no human rights, for the government. They fear that the rising dissatisfaction amongst people can lead to a revolt against the Communist regime. Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, China has been forced to shut down its factories. The unemployment rate has soared as high as 20%. Therefore, the hostile attitude of China towards neighbouring countries is a part of a ploy to keep the country united,” Sonam Wangchuk was earlier quoted as saying.

He informed that the 1962 Indo-Sino War was also one of the tactics adopted by the then Chinese government to deviate public discourse from the failure of the administration to respond effectively to the famine that lasted between 1957 to 1962. Wangchuk added that the autocratic government knows that if there is a shrinkage in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth or that of the country’s prosperity, a mass uprising is inevitable.

India-China Standoff

About 5000 Chinese army personnel, under the garb of a military exercise, diverted their movement towards the Indian side of the LAC (Line of Actual Control). The current standoff began on May 5-6 and has been continuing all along the LAC up to Sikkim. The Indian Army had matched the level of their counterparts and had stopped them from conducting movements in several areas. As per the ANI report, Indian forces had also been airlifted from other high altitude areas to the Eastern Ladakh sector.

On June 15, around 20 Indian soldiers, including a Colonel were killed when Chinese troops had attacked with stones, batons, and barbed wires. In fierce combat that took place on extremely hostile terrain, 20 Indian soldiers had lost their lives to injuries and exposure. China is believed to have suffered 43 casualties but the communist state has been reluctant to confirm the number of casualties it suffered.

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