Russia’s relations with China in the eighteenth century were often dominated by the latter’s conflict with the Western Mongols, who had been seeking to restore the unity of their people and, as a result, were a potential threat to China’s security. The article traces the evolution of these relations following the arrival in Selenginsk of Varfolomei Iakobi in 1740. Iakobi’s son Ivan served as Governor General of Eastern Siberia from 1783 to 1788, and was recalled after beeing accused of plotting to make war on China. The document analysed in the present paper was probably an attempt to justify his position. Iakobi planned an expansion of Russia’s position in the Far East, redrawing the existing border to include much of the Kazakh steppe, most of Mongolia, and even part of Manchuria. His unrealistic proposal was only one of a number of recommendations by members of Russia’s ruling elite to get tough on a powerful China, which looked upon Russians as another kind of barbarians from the steppe, towards whom it was necessary to keep the high ground of moral superiority. The reorientation of Russia’s military policy under Catherine ii aimed at hegemony in the Black Sea basin and sought to establish a foothold in Transcaucasia, from which to strike at the Ottomans and the Persians. Russia did not have the resources to extend that costly policy to the Eastern theatre.