Guess Who’s Not Letting the Crisis in Ukraine Go To Waste

Beijing was right about the geopolitical fundamentals. And, with few countries having joined the West in resisting Russian aggression, and the West preoccupied in Ukraine, it has been able to advance its global aims. 

The Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, right, with the acting foreign minister of the Afghan Taliban's caretaker government, Amir Khan Muttaqi, at Kabul March 24, 2022. Saifurahman Safi/Xinhua via AP

Conventional wisdom has it that Communist China has miscalculated by supporting President Putin’s war in Ukraine. The Russian strongman faces unexpectedly fierce resistance from the Ukrainian military and is being squeezed by the West.

Mr. Putin, moreover, has been left little short of a pariah on the global stage. Some at Brussels and in Washington expect that, with its close ties to Moscow, Beijing could endure a similar fate. Yet this is unlikely to happen. 

It would, in the first instance, be folly to mistake the West’s banishment of the Kremlin as a global consensus. Many across Europe and America have been galvanized into displays of unity not seen in years.

Much of the world, though, remains on the sidelines or has tacitly aligned with Moscow. Saudi Arabia, say, is sticking by the Kremlin. It has repeatedly rebuffed calls to expel Russia from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. 

Saudi Arabia is also mulling pricing its oil sales to China in yuan, rather than the dollar. Moscow and India are similarly exploring use of the yuan as a reference currency to value the rupee-ruble trade mechanism for oil purchases. Beijing and Moscow have for decades sought to dethrone the petrodollar.

Now could be their chance. Beijing, meantime, does not need allies to support its global ambitions. It surely does not need the West. It merely needs nations to remain neutral and, like India or Saudi Arabia, pursue their own interests. Whether this includes America or the West is, for most, ultimately of little interest. 

The European position is also curious. The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, will todaytomorrow host a virtual summit with Communist China’s party boss, Xi Jinping, and with China’s premier, Li Keqiang. The agenda includes the war, climate change, trade, and resumption of the EU-China human rights dialogue. 

One must be fearless or foolhardy to engage in a good faith rights dialogue with a country that is ostensibly arming and openly embracing Russia. Two days before Friday’s summit, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, traveled to Beijing to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, who told Mr. Lavrov, “China-Russia relations have withstood the new test of changing international dynamics.”

“China is willing to work with Russia,” Mr. Wang said. Still, Europe’s largest powers, Germany and France, continue to advocate a conciliatory tone toward Beijing. One wonders if the Russian war has taught them anything at all. Certainly it’s hard to see where Beijing has miscalculated.

Beijing was right about the geopolitical fundamentals. And, with few countries having joined the West in resisting Russian aggression, and the West preoccupied in Ukraine, it has been able to advance its global aims. 

Just yesterdaytoday, in the Solomon Islands, Beijing finalized a five-year security deal – subject to automatic renewals, of course – that would ostensibly allow it to use the islands to base its military. Also yesterdaytoday, Beijing inked with Cambodia a security agreement that will deepen ties between their militaries. What else, is yet to be seen.

In Tibet, China’s army this month completed the 624 villages it set out to build in the disputed Himalayan border area. It has been maneuvering along the India-China border for the last 23 months. Beijing has also fully militarized at least three of its occupied islands in the contested South China Sea.

Never let a crisis go to waste, eh.

As fighting in Ukraine dragged on this week, China’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, Zhai Jun, traveled to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, and Morocco. Last week, Mr. Wang met with leaders from Algeria, Gambia, Niger, Somalia, Tanzania, and Zambia. The attachés discussed Beijing’s stance on the war and its growing political ties with both regions.

For the last two days Beijing has also been hosting the meeting of foreign ministers of the neighboring countries of Afghanistan in Tunxi, China. The guest list includes the likes of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Russia, and, of course, the Taliban, for which Beijing has signaled its support. The parties have gathered to discuss the future and stability of Kabul – and, most likely, not only.

This column has previously argued that America is not capable of fighting a two-front offensive against Russia and China. The reference then was to America’s military abilities. Yet a cursory glance around the globe suggests that a two-front offensive is already upon us, yet it is hybrid in its nature. So far, it seems, we are not well-suited to fight this, either. 

At the conclusion of their meeting this week, Messrs. Lavrov and Wang again championed the dawn of a new world order – a vision toward which Beijing and Moscow have jointly been advancing since 2012. “We, together with you, and with our sympathizers, will move towards a new multipolar order,” Mr. Lavrov said.

If America and the West are not careful, this could well be where we end up. 

The New York Sun

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