The conflict in Ukraine is putting Russia and China's relationship to the test and drawing attention to the divergent priorities of the two nations.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a test for Russia-China ties
[China-Russia relatons]

It is there in front of all of us, the sight of the two despotic leaders attending the Winter Olympics in Beijing by themselves. Because he was the only foreign leader to attend, Russia's Vladimir Putin was given special treatment. In exchange, he was granted permission to carry new trade deals and the assurance of "boundless friendship" back with him. Despite this, China most likely did not welcome the conflict that started a few days later because of the inherent risk that it posed to the world order and the global economy.

The Middle Kingdom portrays itself as a productive member of the international community by participating in UN peacekeeping operations, remaining neutral, being devoted to peace, and always being ready to protect the territorial integrity and the right of peoples to self-determination. Not only has Beijing placed its signature on the climate accord in Paris, but the People's Republic of China has also vowed in its constitution to work toward the establishment of an ecological civilisation. In a recently published policy statement on the development plan up to the 100th birthday in 2049, which was begun by President Xi Jinping, it is stipulated that the reform and opening-up policy shall be sustained. China has said that it would continue to strive toward the establishment of a worldwide order.

During the same time span, Russia has made a totally different kind of comeback to the stage of world affairs. Russia has not been able to compete successfully in international economic or social competitions for the last 30 years, during which China has made an incredible ascent to become the greatest commercial power in the world. It is essentially mired in the stage of a rentier economy that is based on commodity production. On the basis of this, Vladimir Putin has brought Russia back into international affairs. He did this despite the fact that he was traumatised by what he views as the dishonourable end of the Soviet Union and infuriated by the arrogance and stupidity of an expanded West. This action was taken on the grounds that the military needed to be modernised in order to support the nation's claim that it is a global power. 

Since Putin's address at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, at the very latest, this has not missed a chance to express anti-Western sentiment, to encourage anti-American and anti-democratic forces, and it has not been shy about doing so. Russia has evolved as a powerful military player, one that is willing and able to engage in a variety of forms of intervention, including state terrorism, hybrid warfare, cyber strikes, fake news campaigns, and the employment of mercenary soldiers, to mention a few. The conflict in Ukraine is the most significant new challenge that the president has presented his nation with to this point. 

To thus point, however, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has included at least some element of the military's need to provide information to Vladimir Putin. There have been significant casualties in both personnel and material, as well as evident errors in military strategy, as well as issues with unit morale, logistics, and the reconnaissance capabilities of the forces. It would seem that widespread corruption has been a factor in the process of modernisation in the most recent years.

 The results are symbolic humiliations like the loss of the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet or the unsuccessful effort to conquer Kyiv at the beginning of the war. Both of these events occurred as a direct result of the conflict. The fight may continue on for a long time. The nations of Sweden and Finland, both of which are in an advantageous position militarily, are going to become members of NATO as the Western world as a whole is coming together to form a unified front. It's possible that military men from NATO may rub their eyes and be persuaded.

The escalation of the crisis is becoming more troublesome for Putin on both the home and the international fronts. It is conceivable that the progression of the conflict will damage his reputation as a leader back home. And in terms of foreign policy, Putin cannot remain indifferent when the major medium of liberal capitalism, the Economist, headlines: "How corrupt is Russia's army?" strong army. powerful army.

Regardless of how the conflict turns out, it has already set in motion a number of dynamics that, in their aftermath, will have a significant impact on events on a worldwide scale. It bolsters the trends toward deglobalization that have been evident since since the global financial crisis 10 years ago and were intensified by Corona. Both geopolitically and geoeconomically, a rearrangement of the energy, production, distribution, and financial systems is coming into being. New force fields are appearing on the geopolitical stage. Given these circumstances, the prestige of China on the world stage is being put under increasing pressure by Russia's conflict and Russia's tight alliance with Putin.

Officially, China supports peace and maintains a neutral stance. It took neither a pro-war nor an anti-war stance on the conflict. The fact that the state media and China's controlled internet have adopted the Kremlin's narrative of the reasons and conduct of the conflict demonstrates that this neutrality is obviously pro-Russian and anti-American. A debate is going on inside China over the best way to approach Russia, and this debate has sparked some controversy. However, Beijing is not the mediator for a solution that can be discussed. Nevertheless, China is most likely the only nation that has any chance of influencing Putin's decisions.

The People's Republic of China's economy has been in a development phase for some time now. During this phase, the country is transitioning from a period of quantitative growth to one of qualitative growth and is placing a greater emphasis on the expansion of the domestic market. Supply networks that are in good working condition and an international order that is governed by norms are still required for this. China, in contrast to Russia, does not see it as being in its best interest to undermine the current order in the international community.

It will be very important for the nation to pay careful attention to the manner in which the West works to mould deglobalization in its advantage. Since long before Donald Trump took office, the United States has held China in high regard as a significant geopolitical rival. China has shifted from being seen by the EU as the greatest market to being seen as a strategic opponent in recent years. Should the United States, Europe, Japan, and other countries like South Korea, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand prioritise security and defence issues over economic and welfare issues in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, China's trade will be negatively impacted. This is because China's trade relies heavily on international trade.

The newest aspect of Western sanctions will likewise have a significant and far-reaching impact on economies all around the world. This puts China in a precarious position. If access to what is still the greatest western market is considerably curtailed, you will need either additional international markets or your own local market to compensate for this loss. Neither of these options is in sight. Aside from contracting export markets, China is having a harder time gaining access to cutting-edge technology in Western countries. Another component of deglobalization that is expected to be relevant for China is the loss of efficiency advantages from dynamic rivalry with competitor Western enterprises in China's domestic market. This is an aspect of deglobalization that is intimately tied to China's own growth model. Should this anticipated pressure from competitors fail to materialise, the outcome is still up in the air.

The domestic market of the nation is contending with significant economic and structural issues, including high levels of debt, a collapsing real estate industry, and the gradual ageing of the population, all of which are putting a damper on growth. This is accompanied with excessive income disparity, an explosion in housing prices, and welfare state structures that are not yet fully evolved, which may compensate for decreased demand and offer social cushioning. The cost of housing has also exploded in recent years.

In addition to this, there is a growing risk that the Chinese plan of zero-COVID may fail. The recent lockdown in Shanghai has not only left economic wounds, but it has also made it evident that the government is not prepared for the omicron variety and that its own vaccines cannot match with those of the West. This was made clear by the fact that the lockdown occurred in Shanghai. The public seems to be responding to what appears to be useless governmental severity with rising incomprehension and contradiction as a result of the rigorous implementation of the quarantine restrictions. And the issue that has to be answered is whether or not the acts of the authorities have anything to do with the overarching trend towards a recentralization of power inside the party and in President Xi. The decline in reputation seen around the globe.

In light of all of this, it is quite evident that even with the present status of the conflict, China's proximity to Putin is becoming an increasingly problematic burden for the country. The way the conflict has unfolded up to this point suggests that if Russia's side continues to lose ground in the conflict, it may respond by increasing the level of brutality and intensity of the combat, or it may even contemplate using chemical or nuclear weapons for tactical purposes. If China does not want to jeopardise the worldwide image that it has painstakingly and deftly built up over the last many decades and so call into question the achievements that it has made in terms of its own growth, then it will not be able to go down this road. Because China has been such an exceptionally self-interested force in international affairs up to this point, Vladimir Putin should not delude himself into believing that Beijing would assist him in evading Western sanctions or even come to his rescue militarily. Despite the fact that collaboration agreements have been made with Russia, no alliance that may include mutual support duties has been created. This is a significant development.

China, in contrast to Russia, has the ability to decide how it will emerge from the battle. It is able to conduct a level-headed analysis of the sanctions imposed on Russia and the impact they have. In addition, Beijing will keep a close eye on the development of the conflict and evaluate the threats that must be taken in order to satisfy its demands for Taiwan. It's possible that China would be better off cooperating with a Russia that's been weakened by conflict than than cooperating with an imperially enhanced partner that would constitute an ever-growing danger to the global order.

The President of Russia has gotten himself and his nation into a precarious position, one that the President himself did not see coming and from which it is becoming progressively more difficult to conceive of a face-saving method to extricate themselves. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the fabricated rationale for war, which rejects Ukraine's right to exist, originates from the imagination of a tyrant who has morphed into an amateur historian and is lonely in Corona times.

 This notion is supported by the growing body of evidence. Putin puts on the appearance that he is fighting the war in Russia's best interests. However, Russia is a multiethnic state, and there should already be a sufficient number of ethnic groups inside Russia who do not consider this conflict to be their fight. Putin is putting not just himself and his dictatorship, but also the whole Russian Federation, in jeopardy at this point. There is few indication that he will be able to complete his self-imposed task of returning Russia to imperial grandeur within the boundaries of the Soviet Union. This is a mission that he has set for himself.

Therefore, the guy in the Kremlin who is proficient in German and has a deep appreciation for traditional German literature may have heard of the well-known tale of the sorcerer's apprentice by Goethe. He employed a magical spell to conjure spirits, but he was unable to exert any control over them once the spell was cast: "I can't get rid of the spirits I summoned." Because of this, the conflict is fraught with a great deal of peril.

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