Liberalization and the Sino-Russian Border


Karen Simpson

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For the past two decades, the world's two largest socialist states, China and Russia have adopted radically different approaches to liberalization. After Gorbachev's reforms failed with collapse of the Communist government in 1990, Russia has battled to rebuild both its state and its economy. China has been gradually liberalizing its economic policy since the early eighties, although its political system remains mostly unchanged. During this period of reform, the two countries have abandoned their Cold War animosity. The border, uncertain since the time of the Tsars, was mostly demarcated by 1997. Both governments have agreed to collaborate on issues from terrorism to bilateral trade. However, China and Russia cannot limit their relationship to political treaties and trade ties. They also share more than 3,000 miles of border, which has been closed since the Sino-Soviet antagonism of the sixties. Citizens of each country, isolated from each other until the border opened in 1984, may now interact directly. Decades of hostilities had ensured that there was no governmental oversight of local cross-border interaction. The problems arising between the regions themselves- and between each and the central government- while trying to build a viable relationship illustrate some of the basic problems of the reform era. The effectiveness of each country's response foreshadows its effectiveness as an international state actor in the coming future.


Walt Comins-Richmond




Ford Research Endowment

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