China shares its borders with 14 nations. (Not quite) surprisingly, it shares good ties with very few of them

While the ongoing standoff in Ladakh is ample proof of China's bad neighbourly conduct, it isn't the first time it has done this to India. Nor does it look like it will be the last — China has put its relationships with India to test even under other leaders, on several other past occasions.

And it is not just India, the country China considers the one rival it must keep in check in Asia. Historically, China has not been a good neighbour to many. From being called an untrustworthy ally to an intruder, the country has often grabbed the spotlight in Asia for all the wrong reasons.

China shares its borders with 14 countries. (Not quite) surprisingly, it shares good relationships with very few of them. Although some of the past bitterness with several of its neighbours have been put to rest thanks to China's money & investment machine, intermittent hiccups keep emerging from time to time.

There is enough historical evidence that makes it easy to see why things are what they are. Here we take a look at some of China's bilateral relationships.


Bhutan and China share a border of roughly around 470 km and their relations have historically been tense. Bhutan does not share any diplomatic relationship with China, as territorial disputes remain a cause of discontent between both the countries. One such issue was Doklam (2017), when China tried to build a road in Bhutan's territory and the Indian Army stepped in to help its ally.

While the two have conducted discussions and negotiations on border dispute settlement in the past, their competing claims have not been reconciled.


Nepal and China share a natural boundary in the heart of the Himalayas. In 1961, both the countries resolved a border dispute by demarcating a length of nearly 1,415 km.

China has deep economic ties with Nepal. The dragon country has reportedly invested around $500 million between 2016-2018 to assist Nepal in infrastructure development, health, cultural-site renovations, disaster management and livelihood.

Recent developments like teaching Mandarin in Nepalese school and promoting Chinese culture signify deepening bonhomie between the two nations. However, in 2019, a protest was held in Nepal against China & Xi Jinping when a report by the Survey Department stated that China has encroached upon 36 hectare land of Nepal.


China and Pakistan are considered strong allies in Asia. The two established diplomatic ties in 1951 and the bond has only deepened with time.

As per a report in The Global Times, both the countries concluded the border negotiations in a peaceful manner, in which Pakistan never had any difference of opinion with China. Pakistan benefits from China economically as the latter has huge investments in infrastructure, hospitality and defence projects.

The two nations further firmed up their alliance with the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.


India and China share a border length of 3,488 km. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) was defined largely based on the ceasefire line after the war in 1962, though both countries argue over the actual location and length.

To maintain peace at the border, China and India signed 4 agreements 1993, 1996, 2005 and 2013. However, repeated incursions & skirmishes at the border have consistently raised questions on China's intentions.

Apart from the ongoing issues at Ladakh, China had breached boundaries on several earlier occasions, the most notable ones being in 1967 (Nathu La, Cho La conflict) and 1987 (Sino-Indian skirmish).


The Sino-Tajik border issue was settled in 2011, ending the century-old conflict over disputed territory. Under the terms of that agreement, Tajikistan had to surrender around 1,100 square km of land in the Pamir Mountains to China.

China has invested millions of dollars in Tajikistan, the poorest of five former Soviet republics in Central Asia, and given favourable loans for economic, defence and other projects. Both countries hold anti-terrorism drills regularly.


Kazakhstan shares a border of around 1700 km with China. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, central Asian countries including Kazakhstan raised their concerns over border issues with China.

In 1998, the two countries signed a treaty defining sovereignty over an 680 sq-km area near the Baimurz pass and another 380 square-km area near the Sary-Charndy River. Post the signing of that treaty, China offered an investment in Kazakhstan's oil field and worked on a 15-year economic co-operation program.


The China-Kyrgyzstan border dispute delves out of Soviet times when the Soviet Union collapsed. In 1996 and 1999, the two countries reached agreement on the delineation of their shared border.

According to some reports, on the basis of the two agreements, Kyrgyzstan lost about 32 per cent of the disputed land. Both the agreements sparked protests in the country. However, the dispute finally ended in 2009 when both the countries signed a new treaty in which China had to let go of Khan Tegri peak while Kyrgyz had to cede Uzengi khush area.


China and Afghanistan share a border 76 km long. In 1955, Afghanistan established diplomatic ties with China. Until 2001, political and economic cooperation between both countries remained insignificant. Soon after the Hamid Karzai-led govt came to power, China explored commercial investment opportunities in Afghanistan. It has, however, refrained from intervening in political & security issues of the restive country.

North Korea

Close allies China and North Korea share a 1,400-km long border. In 1961, both the nations signed a Treaty of Friendship which included a mutual defence clause.

Sino-Korean relations were strained when political scenarios changed soon after the Soviet Union was dissolved and China abandoned ideological phrases such as “blood alliance” with North Korea.

In 1992, China's decision to enhance or normalise diplomatic ties with South Korea deeply wounded the Sino-North Korea relations. Another point of conflict between China and North Korea is the Sea of Japan which remains unresolved.


China and Vietnam share a border length of 1300 km. During the Vietnam war, China was an ally of North Vietnam against South Vietnam and the US. Vietnam's relations were ruined with China when Vietnamese tried occupying Cambodia in 1976.

Relations further deteriorated when in 1979 Chinese troops crossed borders to punish Hanoi for toppling the Beijing-backed Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and fought a war with Vietnam. The two signed a treaty in 1999 resolving their territorial issues. China's relations with Vietnam have soured again over the two countries’ dispute in the South China Sea.


China shares a border of around 423 km with Laos. The two have a border treaty dating back to 1991. Relations were strained during the Cold War. However, ties were normalised in the early 90s when China became the largest foreign investor in Laos.


China and Russia share a border length of around 4,200 km. The first Sino-Soviet border dispute began in the 1670s-80s during the Qing dynasty era where they waged wars over a Cossack settlement on the Amur river basin and some islands on Argun rivers. China claimed the disputed region saying unfair treaties were signed in the 19th century while USSR never acknowledged the statement and claimed the place.

However, in the 1960s, both sides signed a treaty in which the Zhenbao island was given to China. In 1969, Sino-Soviet relations soured as border clashes took place and border negotiations could not take place until 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved.

To tackle border disputes, a tri-national commission was created in 1996 with a Russian chairman. This was the origin of Shanghai-5 which later became the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) of which India is a member.

The final treaty was signed in 2005 when Russia ceded Bear Island to China and restored Fuyuan Channel to its inland waterway.

China's Maritime Conflicts

China has maritime border conflicts with Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia in the South China Sea (SCS), where it seeks complete control.

SCS is one of the world's most important maritime trade routes and is a nerve centre for all regional and global economic activity, facilitating annual trade worth around $3.5 trillion. Hence, China's claim of full control impacts all the other stakeholders.

In the East China Sea, China is again at the centre of conflicts with Japan, South Korea and North Korea. China and Japan have long been at loggerheads over the Senkaku Islands located in the East China Sea.