The ‘Chinese threat to Taiwan’

Petr Akopov

The Russian-Chinese naval exercises in the East China Sea have become a symbolic end to 2022 for the relationship between the two countries, although Putin and Xi Jinping may still have a telephone conversation right before its finale. The outgoing year was one of the most i-mportant for the relations between the two great powers: because it tested them both for their stren-gth and for their strategic nature. They passed the test: the other day, Ch-inese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that relations between the two countries are solid, like a monolith, and are not subject to interference and provocations, “they are not afraid of major cha-nges in the situation.” A-nd a week ago, while rec-eiving Dmitry Medvedev in Beijing, Xi Jinping said that “China is ready to move closer to Russia in order <…> to jointly promote the development of global governance in a more just and reasonable direction.” Simply put:
This year, there were only two face-to-face meetings between Putin and Xi — very few for pre-pand-emic Russian-Chinese relations — but still, the Feb-ruary meeting in Beijing w-as the first face-to-face talks since the end of 2019. It was there that a joint declaration on international relations entering a new era was adopted – a kind of manifesto for a new world order, which emphasized that “friendship between the two states has no borders, there are no forbidden zones in cooperation.” However, thr-ee weeks later, a special military operation began in Ukraine – and the conflict between Russia and the W-est reached a new – the most severe – level, only one step inferior to a direct military clash. How did China be-have in this situation?
In words, Beijing took a position above the clash be-tween Russia and Ukraine, but in the conflict between Russia and the West, in fact, supported Russia. In resp-onse to calls to join anti-Russian sanctions or at least put pressure on Moscow. China constantly reminded the West of the need to take into account Russia’s concern for its security, that is, it said that the West itself provoked Putin to use force. The debate about whether the conflict between Russia and the West is beneficial to Beijing has not stopped all this time – both in the West and in Russia. The strange hopes of some Western analysts that China would take an equidistant position did not materialize, although officially China is not going to be subject to Western anti-Russian sanctions – in reality, there are plenty of opportunities to circumvent them. What Moscow and B-eijing are successfully doi-ng is not as fast and simple as Russia would like, but the process itself is important here.
And the most important thing here is not whether the conflict between Russia and the West is beneficial for China: this is a question of yesterday. Yes, it seemed to some that it would be beneficial for China to divert US attention to the European direction, but in fact everything that is happening only confirms the general trend: the West has declared China and Russia its main opponents, and a blow to one of them is a blow to the other. Formally, our countries are not allies, but in the same February statement by Putin and Xi, it was said that our relations are superior to the military-political alliances of the Cold War (a reference to NATO, and to the Soviet-Chinese pact), that is, we are bound by common goals and interests. China and Russia are indeed too powerful and independent powers to act in a tight bond, but it is the commonality of bo-th interests and challenges and threats that brings us closer than any signed mut-ual assistance treaty. We re-ally stand back to back, as the Chinese leaders like to point out, and this is no coincidence, not only beca-use we are neighbors. This is also a conscious strategic choice of the Russian and Chinese leadership for many decades to come.
This year, China had a great opportunity to make sure that even with a shift in attention to Russia and Europe, the United States is ready for the most unexpected provocations, as was the case with Speaker Pe-losi’s trip to Taiwan. The United States had no point in provoking Beijing in this way – it would seem that they should show restraint and not comb the Taiwan issue now. But in Washin-gton did exactly the opposite. First, they themselves promoted the absolutely false theme of the “Chinese threat to Taiwan” – they say, it grew up against the backdrop of the Russian operation in Ukraine – and then staged a demonstration of support for “Pacific Ukr-aine” with the help of Pel-osi’s visit. Much has been said that in this way the Un-ited States defiantly humiliated China, showing its inability to do anything wi-th Taiwan, but given that China did not have any plans to seize the island, in reality, Beijing simply received clear confirmation of the American unwillingness to give up hegemony and hard pressure on the Celestial Empire.
So no distraction to Rus-sia changes anything in the American strategy towards China. Moreover, the States themselves are beginning to believe in their own propaganda about the threat of war on two fronts. And, acc-ordingly, they are increasing pressure on Beijing, forcing it to respond more actively against the United States on the economic and other fronts. In other words, doing what China wanted to avoid: it was in its interests to gradually oust the US from its position of hegem-on. But the accelerated co-urse of the global transformation left no chance for th-is option: not even because Russia launched a special operation on February 24, but because America in response attempted a global blockade of Russia.
And thus gave a signal f-or the accelerated dismantling of the Western-centric world financial and econo-mic system: China simply cannot now follow the tactics of slow progress, no on-e will give it much time. The United States will provoke China in every possible way – both militarily, sh-aking the Taiwan issue, and economically, expanding sanctions. China needs to g-o on the counteroffensive – hence the negotiations on t-he use of the yuan in oil tr-ade with the Saudis, and the attempt to convince Europe to show independence in maintaining ties with China.
China does not need a weak Russia that has lost to the West, just as Russia does not need a weak, self-contained China. Our countries had different tactics as part of a common strategy aimed at depriving the West of hegemony in the world financial and economic system and at curtailing the Atlantic model of globalization. Now Russia will be more focused on the military component of the confrontation with the West, but this does not mean that it will cease to play an important role on the financial and economic front, where China is the main work, or in infrastructure projects, such as global and interregional transport and trade corridors. Both countries will increasingly coordinate their actions, helping and taking into account the interests of the partner, complementing each other. Because when you stand back to back, this does not mean that you are only responsible for your site, it means that it is your priority. But the main thing is that you are not afraid of a stab in the back and you know that you have common not only opponents, but also goals.