Beijing Loses More By Backing Putin's Invasion Of Ukraine
From within a war, it is hard to think about what comes next. Rarely has this been truer than for the current Russo-Ukrainian war. Our thinking is clouded by the suffering that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression has inflicted on Ukrainians.
Photo Insert: Xi preferred the offensive to succeed smoothly but even after Ukraine made a mockery of that idea, Xi seems to believe that Putin’s problems will in the long run work to China’s advantage.
It is also hindered by lack of experience with this kind of warfare, Odd Arne Westad wrote in an essay for the March-April 2022 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.
“Irrespective of how this war ends, the relationship between Russia and China will determine whether the world can avoid great-power war. If China continues to support the Putin regime in its attempts to subdue its neighbors by force, it is highly likely that the world at some point will stumble into a confrontation between Russia and a Europe backed by the US. If China reins Putin in or abandons its coalition with him altogether, a return to a more stable competition among great powers may be possible. As many observers—including some in China—have pointed out, this could be China’s moment on the international stage to do good for itself and others,” Westad argued.
Yet so far, China has failed to seize that opportunity. Instead of preventing the aggression against Ukraine, it gave Putin the green light to invade, asking only that the assault be postponed until after the Beijing Olympics.
China parroted Russia’s lies about the aggressive war being a figment of the West’s febrile imagination. China even accused the US of “heightening tensions, creating panic, and even hyping up the possibility of warfare.”
It said “the Russian side has said on many occasions that it does not intend to start a war.” China stood aside as Russia invaded and did nothing except to accuse the US and its European allies of being responsible for Russia’s actions. Ukrainians listened with incredulity as Chinese leaders went on about “Russia’s legitimate concerns on security issues” and the “historical complexities” of their countries’ situation.
Ukraine has been a remarkable eye-opener.
“China’s silence on the Russian atrocities speaks volumes,” says Die Zeit, one of Germany’s leading newspapers. The image of China is that of an accomplice to Russia’s mass murder in Ukraine. It is the callousness of the language China’s diplomats have used that has been so profoundly shocking.
If “Russia’s legitimate concerns” can lead China to condone the invasion of a neighbor with whom it has had friendly relations up until the assault happened, who can trust China’s friendship? In standing by its partner in spite of Putin violating most principles of international relations, Beijing hopes to tie Russia to China for a long time to come.
Xi preferred the offensive to succeed smoothly but even after Ukraine made a mockery of that idea, Xi seems to believe that Putin’s problems will in the long run work to China’s advantage. They will create a Russia ever more dependent on China. By saying very little and blaming the West, Beijing expects a positive outcome for itself.