China and Russia are ready to rule Asia and subvert the world together
China and Russia are ready to rule Asia and subvert the world together.
Putin has started a geopolitical escalation that seems to change all future equilibrium in North Asia. But he is not the only one who wants to upset the eastern continent.
For more than a decade now, the China of Xi Jinping has dominated the Asian economy. After having turned the whole world upside down with the pandemic outbreak, he does not want to stand by and watch his "friend" Putin start to take control of a state that could empower it in Europe.
The victory U.S. and its allies achieved in the 1990s was not a final victory over authoritarianism but a mere respite. For years, the American-led liberal-democratic consensus has been eroding: Take Viktor Orbán's illiberal democracy in Hungary, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's undercutting of freedoms in Turkey. In Myanmar, the generals have reclaimed control; Jair Bolsonaro espouses antidemocratic rhetoric in Brazil, and Rodrigo Duterte has proudly prosecuted a violent and lawless drug war in the Philippines. Still, Putin's invasion marks a new stage, heralding a new era—one of authoritarian aggression.
However, no country is as significant a threat to the liberal world order as China. Russia, in many respects, is a declining power, lacking the economic dynamism to sustain its political punch. The assault on Ukraine may be Putin getting what he wants while he still can. The story is different with China—a power with increasing economic, diplomatic, and military might. Today, Russia is in the headlines, but China will spearhead the authoritarian cause. President Xi Jinping's nationalist enthusiasm, commitment to restoring Chinese power, and more aggressive approach can be compared with his predecessors regarding territorial and maritime disputes. Relations with the U.S. and its allies and the sizeable international system have already become a destabilizing force in Asia.
Gaining control over Taiwan, or as the party prefers to call it, "reunification," is a primary goal of Chinese foreign policy. Taiwan is on this tenuous front line. Just as Putin can't tolerate Ukrainian sovereignty, the Chinese Communist Party will never accept the separateness of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a core part of China occupied by an illegitimate (and by the way, democratic) government.
In a world order where authoritarian states are more powerful and, democratic allies are on the back foot, the chances of war over Taiwan increase. Xi has already been intimidating the government in Taipei by sending squadrons of jets to harass the island. At the same time, Beijing's complete suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong undermines any hope that Taiwan would retain a semblance of its current freedom were it to be incorporated into Communist Party-led China.
In the past few hours, the Republic of Taiwan denounced the incursion of as many as 9 Chinese military fighters in its aerial identification area. Amid the international crisis due to the war that started in Ukraine, Taipei confirms the fears that emerged in recent days about possible de-escalation on its territory at the hands of China.
These days would be the most significant initiative in the last two weeks put in place by Beijing against Taiwan's enemies. It may not be a coincidence that it happened in the same days of Ukraine's crisis: the Taipei defense ministry reported a Y-8 model and eight J-16 fighter jets in the airspace. It responded by launching its jets and launching warning notices. President Tsai Ing-wen later asked the army to "strengthen the commitment to regional peace." All this while China has said that it is a "supporter" of the Russian action carried out in Ukraine, even though there is no military support for the moment:
"Invasion? This is a preconceived use of words, a typical Western media style of asking questions. The Ukrainian question is complex in its historical background."
Explained the spokeswoman for the Foreign Minister, Hua Chunying.
"China is ready to attack Taiwan": this is said by former US President Donald Trump, in the hours when Ukraine is being invaded by Russian tanks.
International geopolitical fears must not take our eyes off what could happen in the coming weeks in the key state among the richest in the world and historically "claimed" by the dictatorial grip of Beijing.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen made it clear again Friday evening, while Putin's attack on Ukraine was now a done deal: "We should continue to strengthen the combat readiness of our forces in the Taiwan Strait to ensure our safety. Faced with external forces attempting to manipulate the situation in Ukraine and influence the morale of Taiwanese society, all government units must be more vigilant against cognitive warfare’’.
According to Trump, China is about to begin military maneuvers against Taiwan, taking advantage of the international tensions between Russia and Ukraine: the project to restore the territory lost after the Second World War (when in 1949 part of the Chinese population was defeated by Mao's civil war took refuge on the island of Taiwan) has lasted for decades now and in recent months, with a very heated long-distance clash between Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, the possibility of a Chinese invasion has re-emerged, in the style of what happened "under the radar" with Hong Kong.
NATO and the United States have always defended Taiwan by clarifying that at the first hint of an invasion of China, there would be an immediate and decisive reaction from the international community. Much more determined to understand than what the West has "promised" to Ukraine just overrun by the Russians.
The Asian country is economically strategic and represents one of the fundamental assets for world technological development: leaving it in the hands of China could have devastating effects and consequences. Meanwhile, Beijing reads the current situation in Ukraine as decidedly in favor of "easing" the tension on Taiwan:
"As far as I know, the term traditionally used by the U.S. is not supporting Taiwan's independence. The new thing for me is that the U.S. is 'against' Taiwan's independence."
They explained Wang Jisi's speech (a professor at Peking University) at a conference held at the CSIS in Washington. Commenting on the speech by U.S. Secretary of State Blinken ("the U.S. does not they seek a regime change in China or a new cold war, "as well as being" opposed "to a possible declaration of independence by Taiwan).
Finally, the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying, explained in the last few hours that:
"Taiwan is not Ukraine and has always been an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. and this is an irrefutable historical and legal fact."
In short, Beijing wants to reclaim sovereignty on the democratic island again, and to do so, Hua reaffirms in a press conference,
"I noticed that with the crisis in Ukraine, there are those who wanted to mention Taiwan. Some of their comments have ultimately revealed that their knowledge of history on the Taiwan issue is lacking. "
China and Russia are sure to keep the pressure on. They'll foment new crises to press the U.S. and its partners. Perhaps the alliances can be broken, and American primacy eroded.
With its integrated links of economic and security interests, the modern world is too complex to be defined as a simple contest between democracy and autocracy. But it can be divided between those states that benefit strategically from the perpetuation of the current world order and those that gain from subverting it. The Ukraine invasion could be just one stage in a campaign to destroy it. The next one may well involve China.
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