Something very telling appears to be happening behind the scenes in Chinese-Russian relations. Clearly, they are not all that they seem and the implications for Russia should give grounds for concern.

“China’s Ministry of Natural Resources has just issued new regulations on map content, which require the addition of old Chinese names to the current Russian-pronounced geographical names of eight places along the Russian-Chinese border,” Radio France International in Chinese reported on Feb. 23.   

The eight Russian place names, comprise six cities, including Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, one island and one mountain.

This led Akio Yaban, head of the Taipei branch of the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun, to quip, “Are you going to recover the lost land?”, RFI added.

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The Asia Times noted on Feb. 25 that it is ironic that while releasing a peace plan this week “which conspicuously fails to say clearly whether Moscow should with draw its troops” from Ukraine’s Donbas region and Crimea,” China “this very month, made a politically sensitive change in its official word view – a change that affects Russia.”

It elaborates that “Under Beijing’s new directive, Vladivostok once again is called Haishenwai (meaning Sea Cucumber Bay) while Sakhalin Island is called Kuyedao. The Stanovoy Range is back to being called the Outer Xing’an Range in Chinese.”

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“China lost large expanses of land in its northern region due to the invasion of Russian,” Asia Times explains, and now Beijing has directed a return to the use of Chinese names for them. It also notes that despite Beijing seemingly wanting to strengthen its ties with Russia, it has permitted Chinese columnists to publish articles from time to time about the vast territories lost to foreign powers, thereby in effect reminding “Chinese people of their wish to recover the lost territory.”

According to RFI, on Feb.22, Japan’s “Sankei Shimbun” Taipei branch chief Akio Yaita wrote bluntly in his Facebook post: “It is a common tactic of China to take advantage when others are in difficulty, gaining some small advantage thereby. If Russia really collapses this time, just possibly Xi Jinping will with a wave of his hand order ‘recover our lost territories immediately’. It is the so-called tactic ‘of taking advantage of someone else’s weakness to kill them.’”

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RFI also noted that Wang Yi, the Chinese Politburo member in charge of foreign affairs, was in Moscow this week saying that ‘the friendship between Russia and China is as solid as a rock’. The Franco-Chinese service commented: “But as anyone who has studied history knows, the history of Russian-Chinese relations is a book of deceitful deceptions.”

We await Moscow’s reaction and to see how things develop.

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