30 November 2023

Huangpu Jiangfeng: Behind the mediation call, a special relationship between China and Russia is taking shape

File photo: Chinese and Russian leaders standing behind the Chinese and Russian flags
File photo: Chinese and Russian leaders standing behind the Chinese and Russian flags

Editor’s note: This is an opinion piece written by Jiang Feng for Voice of America. This guest commentary does not reflect the views of Voice of America. Reprinters please indicate that they are from Voice of America or VOA.

When the Russo-Ukrainian war broke out for more than 400 days, and both sides in the Ukrainian battlefield fell into a stalemate like a meat grinder, the speech made by the Chinese ambassador to France Lu Shaye caused an uproar in the international community. While people were speculating about Lu Shaye’s intentions in such a speech that blatantly disregarded international law, the Chinese leader took the initiative to connect the phone call of Ukrainian President and wartime leader Volodymyr Zelensky.

It has to be admitted that the call was quite dramatic. Although the content of the call was nothing new and did not exceed the previous Chinese version of the “Twelve Points” proposal, China’s long-awaited call as “on the side of peace” did not help peace, but it was at the end of the Russo-Ukraine War. Perhaps what was played in the final stage was not so much a mediation gesture made by China, but more like a gesture of going down the mountain to pick peaches. Like history repeating itself, the last time it happened was in the final stage of the Pacific War. After the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet Red Army sent troops to Manchuria, the CCP issued a mobilization order from Yan’an to prepare to take over the territory.

Because this war may end sooner than expected, and the geopolitical pattern of Eurasia may undergo more drastic changes after the war than expected. With the assistance of all parties, Ukraine’s major counteroffensive may start at a certain moment in late April or early May, which may not only break the deadlock on the battlefield, but also cause the Russian army to collapse across the board, triggering a repeat of the “February Revolution” in 1917 . Even if Putin is able to maintain his regime for the time being, the focus of international security will quickly shift to the Taiwan Strait—the Western Pacific region as the war in Europe ends.

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Of course, the key to this history repeating itself is not the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, but the Hiroshima G7 summit to be held in mid-May. For China, the security pressure of the G7 summit may be no less than an atomic bomb. On the eve of this summit, with the visit of South Korean President Yoon Seok-yue to Washington, the U.S.-South Korea alliance has been significantly upgraded. Within the framework of the five major alliances, the United States has promised a nuclear umbrella, which means that the extended deterrence model, which is very rich in the Cold War, will be held at the Hiroshima G7 summit. To become the standard in the Western Pacific region, that is, a Pacific NATO that is about to emerge.

Ambassador Lu Shaye’s “slip of the tongue” in the French media can only be understood under such a dramatic geopolitical change. When Lu Shaye claimed that he did not recognize the sovereign status of the former Soviet republics, the historical scene was repeating itself: just as the Soviet Union called Hungary, Czechoslovakia and other Eastern European socialist countries “limited sovereignty”, both China and Russia were dissatisfied with the past. The former Soviet Union republics such as the three Baltic countries and Ukraine, which gained independence during the revolution and are increasingly active in Europe today, responded with great suspicion and historical grievances, including nostalgia for the era of the Soviet empire, and fear of color revolutions and democratic transitions. This nihilistic view of history is precisely why China has always been unwilling to contain Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. On the surface, it mediates in the name of peace, but in fact it is the key to “coordinating” and supporting Russia, and it is also the link between China and Russia.

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Yet this bond, which is at the heart of the Sino-Russian alliance, has long been glossed over. Only when the Russo-Ukraine war was drawing to a close and the international community was paying attention to the post-war order arrangement, and after the Chinese leader had successfully entered his third term, did China, under enormous geopolitical pressure, take advantage of Lu Shaye’s mouth, Finally, the previous veil of ambiguity and warmth was torn off, and the Sino-Russian alliance and its nature were made public.

This change comes from the understanding of the three historical stages of Beijing’s top management. The first, and most recent, is that the Beijing regime’s transition to “learn from Russia” and strengthen authoritarianism, which began after the two shocks of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004 and the Jasmine Revolution in 2011, has come to an end. The so-called new nation-wide system of individual authoritarianism may not only avoid the occurrence of two color revolutions, but also try to prevent the tragedy of the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 from repeating itself in China.

The second is that the Ukrainian war is coming to an end, which is creating a historical picture similar to the end of the Korean War: After that, China chose a “one-sided” pro-Soviet strategy to counter the US, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and other forces in the Western Pacific. The “Crescent” encirclement, also known as the Cold War in Asia. Russia’s failure in Ukraine, and China’s “unlimited” all-out “support”, focused on maintaining the stability of the post-war Russian regime, meant a historic reversal of the relationship between China and Russia, that is, China will serve as the Stalinist The true heir and defender of the Soviet-style empire, providing Russia with refuge.

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This is the so-called tianxia diplomatic line that China has been keen on since the revival of nationalism. In this patriarchal system of a community with a shared future for mankind, the United Nations order and national sovereignty are nothing more than outdated, obsolete, and outdated “history.” What China expects is the Chinese imperial relationship between the suzerain state and the patronage state like the tributary system. This is the key to Lu Shaye’s blatant statement of Beijing’s deep-seated disregard for the independent sovereignty of the former Soviet republics, and also the fact that China may regard itself as the orthodox successor of Stalin and serve as Russia’s protector, thereby achieving supremacy in the Eurasian continent, which has traditional oriental authoritarianism. Historic revival over Russia.

Third, this special relationship that transcends Russia and is closely allied with Russia, in Beijing’s view, is nothing more than a special relationship modeled on the Anglo-American alliance. They have learned from the historical experience of the Anglo-American special relationship in the past two hundred years: If the historical essence of the Anglo-American special relationship lies in the decline of Britain and the rise of the United States, then the doomed decline of Russia and the rise of China after the Ukraine War created the Sino-Russian special relationship. relations and a historical window of the future Sino-Russian alliance. As the world’s second largest economy and second military power, China will play the role of “big brother” in front of Russia, and provide comprehensive assistance to Russia on this premise.

Moreover, this is not the most important historical significance. From Beijing’s point of view, if the formation of the Anglo-American special relationship also means that Pax Britannica is replaced by Pax Americana and recognized as the basis of the new universal order, then when China advocates The competition between Pax Sinica under Chinese rule in the Taiwan Strait and the US-dominated international order after World War II is inevitable on the road to China’s national rejuvenation, and this competition naturally requires Russia and its Stalinist legacy in Eurasia as a buffer.

In other words, Beijing is responding to the geopolitical changes in the world after the Ukraine war by building a Sino-Russian alliance. In this sense, Lu Shaye’s speech is not so much a challenge to the international order, but a preparatory declaration for the arrival of a new cold war after the Ukraine war. It is also an important part of Beijing’s strategy and puts Chinese leaders at the center of the world political stage Made a nice warm up.

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