“Putin has become a powerful problem for Xi.” This is what China can gain from the war
- US strategic documents have for years designated China as Washington’s main rival, regarding Russia as an “acute” but temporary threat
- — In the short term, Putin has become a huge problem for Xi. Let’s remember that China’s diplomatic strategy was to show itself as a constructive force in the world, emphasizes Wess Mitchell
- The war in Ukraine should act as an impulse for the United States to get its own arms production in order, the sooner the better
- Russia’s continued dependence on China may work to the advantage of the latter
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US strategic documents have for years designated China as Washington’s main rival, regarding Russia as an “acute” but short-term threat. According to some commentators and politicians on the right, the US should shift its attention and resources to Asia. According to Wess Mitchell, a former employee of the Donald Trump administration and founder of the Marathon Initiative – an initiative that prepares the US strategy for rivalry with China – firm policies towards Russia and China do not have to be mutually exclusive.
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“In my estimation, the United States and our allies have a chance to gain a great advantage against Russia and China by helping Ukraine win the war. In my opinion, the desirable strategy would be to first defeat Russia definitively, and then turn our full attention to China, says Mitchell.
He adds that supporting Ukraine’s resistance is in the US interest for a number of reasons.
— Firstly, in this way Ukraine is strengthening its deterrence and stopping further Russian attacks. Secondly, the Russians become economically and militarily weakened for a while, and the Europeans – if they keep their commitments – will strengthen their defenses. Over time, this would make it easier to dedicate most of our efforts to Asia without having to worry about the other theater of operations, he estimates.
At the same time, Mitchell agrees with those who say that the US cannot afford to compete on two fronts and should be sensitive to the threat from China also in the short term. Therefore, in his opinion, it should not engage forces in Europe to such an extent as to give China an opportunity to intervene in Taiwan.
“The problem is that we have a finite supply of the most important types of ammunition. The war should act as an impulse for the United States to get its own arms production in order, the sooner the better. And that should be the impetus for Europeans to do the same, he said.
When asked how the war in Ukraine could affect China’s calculations and interests, Mitchell estimates that although the problems of his ally are embarrassing for Beijing in the short term, China may benefit from it in the long run.
Chinese and US presidents: Xi Jinping and Joe Biden
— In the short term, Putin has become a huge problem for Xi. Let us remember that China’s diplomatic strategy was to show itself as a constructive force in the world. They worked on it for a long time, focused on commercial relations. And here’s a guy who sat next to the president recently [Xi] in the box of honor at the Beijing Olympics as his best friend, and who now threatens nuclear war while his troops perform barbaric torture, says Mitchell.
He adds that the Russian invasion is also inconvenient from China’s perspective also because of the timing of its launch. According to the documents of the Chinese authorities, they will be ready for an effective invasion of Taiwan only in five years.
“Well, if Putin goes to Ukraine now instead of five years from now and doesn’t coordinate with the Chinese, it deprives them of a distraction from the West and a two-front war,” says the former diplomat.
What, in his opinion, may work in China’s favor is Russia’s continued dependence on China. He points to the expansion of the Russian gas infrastructure towards China, for example.
“That alone could solve China’s Strait of Malacca dilemma – the problem that much of its oil and gas supplies pass through this strait, which could have been blocked by the US Navy during a war,” says Mitchell.
As he adds, another benefit will be the increase in China’s influence on the Central Asian states, which have been Russia’s allies until now.
— Already at the last meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Samarkand, it was very clear that the leaders of Central Asia already feel much less respect for Russia. Well, that influence will inevitably go more towards China, he estimates.
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