Comment Writer Maxim Nägele reflects on the current collective worries about the relations of China and Russia
Just a few days after the International Crime Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin, China’s president Xi Jinping visited the Russian president at a three-day state summit in Moscow in a display of continuing solidarity and economic partnership. A few weeks before this visit, China published a “12-point peace proposal” to solve the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. While this plan takes a de-escalating approach that supposedly respects the sovereignty of all countries involved, it does not mention any demands of a Russian retreat out of Ukrainian territory.
Although the US government is still hoping that China will increase its political pressure on Russia to end the military invasion, it is highly unlikely that Xi Jinping will cut his strong ties with Putin. After all, the two statesmen have a lot in common: they lead non-western economies that oppose the influence and supremacy of the US, they unlawfully increased their legislature to an essentially lifelong rule and their political views are strongly based on nationalist and imperialist narratives. It seems clear to me that their shared political views and ideologies make their collaboration inherently necessary and simultaneously dangerous.
In a remarkably symmetrical way, Russia explains and justifies its political claim and invasion of Ukraine’s sovereignty as China does with its impending plans to annex Taiwan – the democratic island state that gained independence from China after 1949. Because the invasion of Ukraine has caused such international condemnation and resistance, it appears that the Chinese government knows that it needs Russia’s military and economic support if it wants to follow through with its expansionary plans that will, in my opinion, undoubtedly inflict the same amount of disapproval, especially from the US.
Although this position is widely discussed and important, I find it similarly relevant to discuss the ignorant biases of the Western reactions to this summit. From the news, to political commentators and even to the Redbrick editors’ pitched prompt for this article, one dominant discourse appears to be making headlines when addressing Russo-Chinese relations: Should the West be worried?
Aside from the generalising term “the West” – I assume that countries like Luxemburg or Portugal are not the ones being implied here – I believe this sentence has a deeper problematic narrative that showcases current imbalances in international discourses and relations.
It appears to me that this firstly reproduces a faulty image of a united Western force that excludes any country that doesn’t align with the economic and cultural values of neoliberalist capitalism, mainly constituted by the USA. This imaginary actor is then portrayed as the main recipient and sufferer of the consequences of the alliance between Russia and China. This displays a very familiar Western-centrism that assumes Western countries as the centre of all political, economic, and cultural developments.
In my view, this also reveals the wilful ignorance with which this perspective overlooks any other countries in the international system suffering from the Ukrainian crisis and its political consequences. Aren’t developing countries from the “non-West”, whose well-being is heavily dependent on imports and political networks with more powerful industries, particularly endangered by instabilities and conflicts in the international system? Evidently, the economic consequences of the Ukraine crisis including inflation, delivery shortages and trade sanctions, affect countries with less economic independence and stability disproportionately more than powerful industries of “the West”.
In the context of this summit, I find that worrying about our own Western security firstly ignores the troubles of these unstable countries and more importantly shifts the focus away from protecting the actual targets of these nationalist plans: Ukraine in the present, and Taiwan in the menacing future.
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