Trilateral Great Power Politics in Theory and History 9 rivals over leadership of the world communist movement. Their 1969 bor- der skirmishes raised the risk of escalating into a nuclear war as PRC leaders raised the issue of revising the unequal treaties and Soviet leaders considered a preventive war before China could develop a secure nuclear deterrent. Sino- Soviet relations remained tense during the 1970s, with proxy wars in Angola, Mozambique, and Vietnam. In the 1980s, China aligned with the United States as a less threatening global power than the Soviet Union. The PRC and the United States collaborated to expel the Soviet occupation forces from Afghani- stan, which in turn helped precipitate the collapse of Soviet power worldwide. Seeking to break the Chinese-U.S. alignment against Moscow, Gorbachev made major concessions to overcome the “three obstacles” that PRC leaders had identified to improved relations by curtailing the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and the Sino-Soviet border region. This process culminated in Gorbachev’s 1989 state visit to Beijing, where Soviet and PRC leaders pledged to overcome their decades-long split and launch a new era of cooperation. Since the Cold War, Russian policy makers have been striving to improve relations with the PRC. The disintegration of the Soviet Union essentially negated the threat from Russia in China’s eyes and vastly reduced the element of their great-power rivalry. Though Yeltsin ended Moscow’s Cold War rivalry with the West and the Sino-U.S. alignment atrophied due to the absence of the mutual Soviet threat, Sino-Russian relations stalled for a few years as both governments became preoccupied with domestic challenges. Russian leaders confronted the simultaneous need to transition their new country from single- party rule to a multiparty state, convert a command economy to one respect- ing market principles, and manage the loss of a Soviet multinational empire and the Russian military withdrawal from most of its foreign bases. PRC lead- ers had to sustain their CCP-dominant political system and global influence in the face of mass protests and years of political ostracism by Western gov- ernments following the armed repression of peaceful protesters in 1989. Rus- sian and Chinese leaders convened regular high-level meetings, but it took some time before Sino-Russian cooperation began to resolve tensions such as their boundary dispute and develop mutual economic and diplomatic inter- ests. Though Yeltsin faced major domestic opposition to transferring some disputed territory to Beijing, Putin managed to concentrate sufficient power to override this resistance. In July 2008, the Russian and Chinese governments demarcated the last pieces of their 4,300-km frontier, one of the world’s lon- gest land borders. They then demilitarized this area through arms reduction and confidence-building measures. Some Russian authors have developed a new conceptual framework to characterize the Russia-China relationship, that of the “Greater Eurasian Partnership.” The term embeds growing Sino-Russian ties within a broader group of non-Western countries, and their multilateral
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