The latest clash over fishing territory in Asia saw Russian coast guard ships open fire on a Chinese fishing trawler in far east Primorsky, knocking one sailor overboard as the rest were scooped up and detained. The FT reports:
During Monday’s incident one of the Chinese vessels tried to ram the Russian ship according to a Russian Coast Guard spokesman quoted on Russian news agency Interfax.The Russian ship fired warning shots and then opened fire on the Chinese vessel, though no one was killed or injured from the shelling. The Russian spokesman said the Chinese sailor fell overboard during the collision between the two ships.He also said that the Chinese sailors at first “resisted” Russian boarding attempts but surrendered after being fired upon.
Though China and Russia are often lumped together as an anti-Western axis in the East, Russia’s anxiety over China’s ballooning power and territorial aggressiveness is palpable, and the unstated wariness between the two countries will only become more visible as these sorts of showdowns unfold.World history lesson: one reason that sea powers like the UK and the US do so well over the long run is that neighboring land powers are usually much more fearful of each other than of naval powers based far offshore. Russia and China have global political interests that lead them to cooperate against American initiatives in places like the UN, but when it comes to border security, territorial disputes and the duel for influence in Central Asia, it is harder for them to work together.Putin’s Russia these days wants to shore up its position in the Far East, promoting development and a population influx into Vladivostok; it seems unlikely that over time Russia’s interest in the Far East will smooth the path for deep cooperation with Beijing.