It has taken 150 years on and off but China and Russia have agreed where their border lies. The deal settles the ownership of two disputed islands in Russian hands since 1929 — Heilongjiang province will get back one and a half of them — and will help put relations between the two countries on a firmer footing.
The deal puts flesh on the bone of a skeleton agreement reached in 2004 but the timing is interesting. It comes hard on the heels of Moscow’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia separation from Georgia which has caused Beijing some concern as it sets a precedent that countries can recognize ethnic enclaves within the recognized territories of other countries. And China has plenty of those large and small.
But equally it shuts off any further Chinese claims to Siberia and the Russian Far East, if not necessarily to Chinese migration. Many Chinese are taught that the country unfairly lost territory to Russia in the region, and assert that China now has a full right to get it back.
The larger of the two islands, Heixiazi (Bolshoi Ussuriysky in Russian) which is close to Khabarovsk, one of the biggest cities in the Russian Far East , is likely to be turned into a special economic zone to facilitate Sino-Russian trade.