Espreso. Global

China's ambitions aren't in West's plans

23 October, 2023 Monday

Putin's recent visit to China and his meetings in Beijing with Xi Jinping indicate that the Chinese leader cannot give up his relationship with the Russian dictator, which is potentially only to his detriment


Russia is faltering and it may lose the war in Ukraine. But Beijing cynically continues to emphasize that the first principle of negotiations is "respect the sovereignty of all nations." What this means is: respect what Moscow has already seized.

The People's Republic of China doesn't want to notice Russia's failure to seize new Ukrainian territories. And if in the future China wants to take part in the negotiation process for peace in Ukraine, it is unlikely that any constructive approach will be expected from it.

Xi Jinping believes that China is ripe to become the dominant political force on the world stage, and only America stands in the way of realizing this opportunity. In this sense, the Ukrainian factor is crucial for the Chinese, since achieving peace on the terms of the People's Republic of China and Russia would automatically mean that the collective West has already lost its former strength and dominant influence on global geopolitics.

"Even if we assume that there is a chance to reach a peace agreement with Russia, it is unlikely to be long-lasting. It is clear in advance that Moscow will not give up on waging war against Ukraine using other subversive methods: hybrid warfare, cyberattacks, economic coercion, and relying on a fifth column that may become active after the war ends."

However, it so happens that while China is thinking about what to do with Russia, the United States and its allies are thinking about what to do with China. After all, the realization of Beijing's exaggerated ambitions is not part of the West's plans. Nor is Xi Jinping repeating similar adventures to Putin's in Taiwan or elsewhere.

But as Putin becomes more and more dependent on Beijing, they look down on him more and more. And this is understandable. No one will perceive a vassal as an equal. Especially in China, where they have always positioned themselves as a special civilization.

Although the growth of this dependence means something else, not friendship. It's like saying, "The boa constrictor's hug became stronger as it wrapped its rings tighter and tighter around its tasty friend." And it is obvious that Xi Jinping is patiently waiting for his "dear friend" to become critically weakened.

Two fading dictatorships with plummeting birth rates and a significant economic decline have formed a bloc that has no future, politically or economically.

"The Russians voluntarily chose to play the role of the little brother, but this will not help them.  China is playing a long game to eliminate the Russian presence in the Far East and Siberia, and it is to achieve this goal that Xi Jinping is playing a geopolitical partnership with Putin."

Russia has never respected China. For centuries, Russians have been worried that China would simply populate the empty spaces of Siberia and the Far East with Chinese settlers. They still live in mortal fear of this and are well aware that the Chinese Communist Party wants to regain the territories that the Russian Empire once took from them.

What unites this pair is their weakness before those they want to dethrone from the Olympus of global decision-making that decides the fate of world civilization. They were comfortable in the liberal world order, and both rejected it, mistakenly convincing themselves that they no longer needed it.

And this without being able to replace him, let alone prosper without him. This is what the incompetence of dictators leads to. Delusions of grandeur have pushed them to make huge mistakes.

"However, the seeming deepening of Putin's relationship with Xi Jinping is evidence of the strengthening of global fault lines, with China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran on one side and the United States and its NATO and Pacific Rim allies on the other. Meanwhile, many countries in the so-called Global South are reluctant to take sides."

Although some third world countries have already applied to join the BRICS, thus seeking closer cooperation, primarily with China. There are several organizations in the world, such as NATO, the EU, the UN, etc. But the expansion of yet another organization, which is largely already under Beijing's influence, could further deepen the existing contradictions between the West and the states of the Global South.

With each passing day, Russia is becoming more and more dependent on communist China, and more and more taking on the role of a satellite or client state. This is the result of Putin's almost 25 years of totalitarian rule, which has turned the Russian Federation into an underdeveloped economy that is largely dependent on the export of raw materials, such as oil and natural gas. The time may come when Russia wants to separate from China. However, this will be after the end of the tyrant's rule. Right now, Putin is constantly playing second or third fiddle to Xi Jinping.

"Xi Jinping realizes that it is not a good thing to be friends with a war criminal and to welcome him into his country. However, he wants to be closer to the one he plans to destroy."

In the end, it seems that Xi Jinping has not yet decided what China should do with Russia. Beijing is well aware that, despite the fact that the Russian Federation remains a nuclear power, its geopolitical significance will diminish in the coming years.

The rebellion of the Wagner private military company points to the internal weakness of the Russian state apparatus, showing what may be in store for Russia in the coming years. In addition, the war in Ukraine has not only weakened Russia's economy, it has split Russia's elites and nomenklatura, who are guessing what will happen to them after Moscow's defeat.

It is possible that Xi Jinping, after Russia's loss, plans to send Chinese troops to begin with to those territories of the Far East and Siberia that Beijing has always considered its own.

"The West, in turn, is considering what to do with China. And it largely depends on what they manage to agree on during a possible November meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping."

Xi Jinping, who had previously been able to balance very well, has begun to lose his footing. He is irritated by his domestic mistakes, although he tries to hide it. His policies sharply suppressed growth at a time when China's economy could not afford it. The domestic real estate bubble continues to grow as repayment of China's usurious loans to developing countries slows.

These internal problems in China greatly increase the risk that Xi Jinping, in order to distract his people from the impending crisis, will decide to start a war with Taiwan. So far, he has been deterred by the bitter experience of his political partner.

After all, Putin is in big economic trouble, as the war and sanctions drain his finances, the ruble falls, causing sharp inflation when Russians can least afford it. And the price for which they are forced to sell their oil and gas barely exceeds the cost of production and transportation.

However, Xi Jinping can avoid stagnation of the Chinese economy if he prioritizes the development of his country above the desire to bend the whole world to his will.

It is hard to say whether US President Joe Biden will be able to come to any understanding with the Chinese leader. However, if a convergence of positions is achieved on the conditions under which the Russian-Ukrainian war should end, this could be considered a breakthrough.

Neither the United States nor Europe can afford to see Ukraine lose. It would create additional internal problems for the Western world. One can only imagine the impact on African and Asian leaders if America and Europe gave in to their isolationist tendencies and allowed Putin to retain some of Ukraine's occupied territories.

The transfer of influence to the rivals of the world order would have not only tragic geopolitical results, but also catastrophic economic consequences that would be many times greater than the current amount of Western aid to Ukraine.

If Russia and China are seeking to change the Western-driven world order, what can they offer the world as an alternative? Dictatorships cannot serve as role models for anyone. And they have nothing to offer to humanity, the vast majority of which, in spite of everything, is much closer to Western democracy.


About the author. Viktor Kaspruk, journalist.

The editors don't always share the opinions expressed by the authors of the blogs.

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