China and the Soviet Union have disputed portions of their common border for centuries, sometimes violently. Some analysts base this dispute on competing territorial ambitions and deep‐seated cultural antipathy. The perspective elaborated here, using an historical‐structural rather than quantitative approach, is that modern China uses the border dispute as a convenient means of communicating with the Soviet Union when a particularly forceful, dramatic, or public forum is needed to accomplish Chinese objectives. Support for this hypothesis, derived from an analysis of China's relations with other neighbors, is also discussed.
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