Xi Jinping won’t give up Putin yet

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Vladimir Putin should apologize to Xi Jinping for bringing some kind of misfortune to his September 15 meeting in the Uzbek city of Samarkand. This humiliating condemnation is the result of Russia’s resounding failure in the war against Ukraine, which Putin decided to unleash.

Putin’s displeasure is growing by the minute. In February, on the first day of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Putin and Xi declared the “endless” friendship between the two countries. A few days later, the Russian leader invaded Ukraine. The meeting between Xi and Putin came a month before the most important appointment of Xi’s career on the sidelines of the recent summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a grouping of Eurasian powers.

The Communist Party Congress, which begins on October 16, is expected to grant him the same power and ideological authority as Mao Zedong. Xi is heading into the convention as the economy slumps and public opinion erodes due to his strict “Covid Zero” policy. On his first post-pandemic trip to China, Xi found himself sharing the world stage with a leader he called his “best friend” but who is now seen as cruel, irresponsible and incompetent.

Russia and China share their vision of global security

Still, it would be premature to think that Russia’s losses in the Donetsk plains and river basins will be enough for Xi to reconsider his February decision to publicly align himself with Putin’s global security vision. This mindset is based on a shared hostility to US-led alliances in Asia and Europe, a disdain for Western multi-party democracy, and a demand for a security order that takes into account the “legitimate security interests” of sovereign states (Chinese and Russian). Terminology, follow major countries).

Putin has time to redeem himself in China’s eyes. To advance Chinese interests, Russia does not need to achieve all of its military objectives, much less control one or another Ukrainian territory. China’s calculated priority is to divide and weaken the US-led West. China sees this situation as a long-term game. He hopes Europeans will see “America’s war” as the cause of rising energy prices that will hurt citizens and businesses across the continent, especially after a long, harsh winter.

In the last two weeks of Russia’s withdrawal, China maintained effective discipline in its communications. Every night, China Central Television’s main news program, Xinwen Lianbo, repeated the same pattern. Along with images of rocket launches and missiles flying into the sky, he briefly reported claims by the Russian Defense Ministry that they had struck targets in Ukraine, followed by claims of Ukrainian counterattacks. The Biden administration is often accused of creating the problem; For example, providing new weapons that increase the profits of US arms manufacturers. Then the main part of the story begins: a long account of Europeans’ woes with astronomical fuel prices and gas bills, and how they blame US sanctions for it. The message is represented by text such as “International Opinion: The United States only cares about itself and Europe is headed for failure.”

Propaganda bosses will say its restrained reporting on the war is evidence of China’s neutrality in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. However, this claim of neutrality was never accepted. For months, Chinese officials have been repeating Russia’s argument that the US has provoked war by expanding NATO to Russia’s borders. Chinese diplomats and state media have circulated and disseminated Russian disinformation accusing the US military of funding and controlling a bioweapons lab in Ukraine. Instead, China has largely ignored Putin’s barbaric pretexts for aggression; In particular, their distorted historical nonsense about Ukraine as the eternal homeland of the Russian people before it was dismembered and transformed into an artificial state as a result of the “historical and strategic” mistakes of Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders.

China prefers a report on the war given by Li Zhanshu, the Communist Party’s third official and president of the National People’s Congress, during a visit to Russia this month. According to Lee, Russia “was not crushed by the harsh sanctions of the United States and the West, but in a short period of time it achieved stability and showed great flexibility.” While not outright defending Putin’s aggression, Lee told Russian lawmakers that his country was stymied by NATO expansion and threatened its national security; He added: “Russia has taken the necessary steps and China understands that.” In Moscow, Li paid a respectful visit to Lenin’s former residence, perhaps because the Chinese Communists were reluctant to question the wisdom of the “immortal”.

Russia is supportive, America is a madman

Self-interest defines Chinese politics. China has condemned defensive alliances and US sanctions because it fears the same tools could be used in Asia to deter or punish an attack on Taiwan. China’s leaders believe they will benefit if Russia wins or draws in Ukraine, a senior Western official has concluded. “Either Russia will weaken and China will strengthen in their bilateral partnership, or it will be able to claim victory and that means defeat for the West.” China is suitable for one of two options,

It is confirmed here. Taking advantage of its semi-isolation, China is buying cheap oil and gas from Russia and will soon pay more with its non-convertible currency, the yuan. Always wary of its own interests, China has avoided openly violating Western sanctions. “Our Chinese friends are tough negotiators,” Putin remarked days before meeting Xi.

For China, Putin’s current problems are inconvenient, but solvable. Another thing is Russia’s embarrassing defeat in Ukraine. First, it could create chaos in Moscow that is dangerous to the regime. Moreover, if liberal democracies stick together and are willing to take pains to maintain a rules-based order, it will reduce China’s pet accusation that the West is in decline. Zee wants to befriend the fighter without being defeated.

© 2022 The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved.

Translation: Juan Gabriel López Guix

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