Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Xi Jinping’s gamble on a “no limits” friendship with Vladimir Putin has looked like it could backfire. This weekend’s brief uprising against Moscow again underscored the risks facing the Chinese leader.
China gave a vote of confidence in Putin on Sunday, noting the Russian president’s strong relationship with Xi while saying it was necessary to “safeguard the common interests of both sides” amid a “complex and severe international situation.” Asked directly about Putin’s deal with Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, China’s Foreign Ministry said it supports Russia’s bid to maintain “national stability” in dealing with an “internal affair.”
But despite the show of support, the stunning challenge to Putin’s authority instantly raised questions about the long-term implications for Xi….
[ Editor’s Note: Absolutely Xi is feeling uneasy about the situation in Russia, but he must also see the many opportunities for China. For instance, during the runup to the invasion of Ukraine, and over the past 16 months of the war, Russia has moved staggering amounts of military hardware and manpower from the Far East (and the border with China), to the Far West (and the border with Ukraine) eleven time zones away. Imagine the Chinese military planners’ surprise: Suddenly, all that power on the other side of the border vanished into thin air.
If Putin is seriously destabilized, or involuntarily assumes room temperature, there is a distinct possibility that China could move on reclaiming Outer Manchuria. They want it back. Aside from a few months of diplomatic blowback, and perhaps the cold-shoulder treatment at the UN when the cameras are on…. this would be an easy win. And a whole lot easier than Taiwan.]