For Xi and China, Putin’s War Is a Geopolitical Minefield

For Xi and China, Putin’s War Is a Geopolitical Minefield
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Sept. 15, 2022 (Sputmik photo by Alexandr Demyanchuk via AP).

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 upended international politics and scrambled the strategic calculations of many states, few more seriously than China. While benefitting from its deep economic linkages with the United States and European Union, China retains considerable influence in the Global South and has seen its “comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination” with Moscow blossom. Combined, that has put China in prime position to consolidate its influence as a world power. But amid the jolt to global affairs since Russia launched its war against Ukraine, Beijing is now scrambling to limit the fallout of the conflict on its core strategic and economic interests.

Speculation has been rife for several months that Chinese President Xi Jinping would visit Moscow sometime this year, with the Wall Street Journal reporting last week that the trip is likely to take place in the coming months. That visit will follow one by Wang Yi, Beijing’s top diplomat, who last week made his own high-profile trip to Moscow days before the first anniversary of the invasion. Beijing subsequently released a 12-point peace plan on the one-year anniversary of the invasion that, though light on specifics, suggests that China is growing increasingly concerned about the consequences of a prolonged conflict.

Beijing has reason for concern. Russia’s poor performance on the battlefield has undermined Moscow’s value as a strategic partner, even as evidence of Russian war crimes has made Russian President Vladimir Putin a pariah across the West. With the prospects of a clear Russian victory waning by the day, Beijing now faces a dilemma. It could risk a deeper confrontation with Washington by providing more direct support to Moscow, or else remain on the sidelines as a grinding war weakens Russia and solidifies Western unity. It is not lost on Beijing that this unity and the ensuing commitment to bolstering the West’s military capabilities could subsequently be used against China’s own revisionist ambitions vis-á-vis Taiwan.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.