Beijing and Moscow formally split in 1962 over doctrinal differences and China's efforts to acquire an atomic bomb, but the post-Cold War era has seen renewed efforts at cooperation. NATO's intervention in Kosovo galvanized both countries to seek a closer alliance to resist what they see as the West's meddling in the internal affairs of other countries. And although neither China nor Russia can match the strategic capability of the U.S. alone, together they create a magnet of influence that could challenge Washington's interests everywhere from the Balkans to Southeast Asia. It was reported Thursday, for example, that Beijing has sent $300 million in aid to help Slobodan Milosevic rebuild Serbia. But while Moscow is desperate to line up muscular friends as Western nations try to increase the pressure to restrain Russian forces in Chechnya, Beijing may be flirting with its erstwhile rival in order to remind Washington that it remains a potential competitor. After all, while they may share an irritation at Washington's interventions abroad, their history of border disputes and their potential economic rivalries in the future make China and Russia unlikely bosom buddies. Still, nobody in Washington will find much to cheer about in Yeltsin's Beijing jaunt.
It's ironic that relations between Moscow and Beijing may be closer now than during the Cold War, when they ostensibly shared an ideology and an enemy in Washington. And yet the basis for their newfound bonhomie is the selfsame rivalry with the U.S. Following a hastily organized summit between presidents Boris Yeltsin and Jiang Zemin, the two nations on Friday issued a joint communiqué denouncing the West's use of human rights as a pretext to intervene in other countries. China specifically endorsed Russia's campaign in Chechnya, which is under mounting criticism from the West.