China has been warned by the Biden administration not to support Russia in that nation’s illegal war, but China has merely parried that jab and is looking hard at the realities of the war in Ukraine.
The Chinese have learned two things already.
President Biden is not strong at home, which is mildly interesting to China, but is significantly weak abroad, which interests China greatly. They saw in Afghanistan that this White House offers no foreign policy expertise.
They are mystified by a nation that at one moment was energy independent — in the thirstiest energy consuming country in the world — and in the next it became intentionally dependent on many of its competitors.
Biden’s decision-making is even worse.
China also understands that Russia is not nearly the fighting machine that many, including an angry President Vladimir Putin, thought they were.
As of this writing, the Russian army, unable to muster combined arms fighting skills, is slogging its way through Ukraine, having lost thousands of soldiers, including four generals killed in action (by contrast, the U.S. lost exactly zero generals in eight years in Iraq).
Putin’s decision-making is even worse.
Nuclear weapons continue to occupy the thoughts of all in the region and worldwide. Part of Russian warfighting doctrine allows use of tactical low-yield weapons, designed to allow quick takeover of affected areas.
The Chinese are not overly concerned about Biden’s comments or with Russia’s conduct of battle.
The Chinese Communist Party is dispassionately going about the business of achieving its own goals of their plan for the Great Rejuvenation of 2049.
The Defense Department views the Great Rejuvenation’s purpose is “to match or surpass U.S. global influence and power, displace U.S. alliances and security partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region, and revise the international order to be more advantageous to Beijing’s authoritarian system and national interests.” It is not ambiguous.
It is worth looking at what China is doing, out of the spotlight.
China has threatened countries supplying Taiwan with military equipment. Their obvious aim is to intimidate countries, including the United States, to pull back on aid.
There have been indications that Russia has asked China for military support. It is not clear whether China has provided any equipment. For its part, China claims Russia has not asked for equipment and this is simply U.S. “disinformation.”
China is also projecting a neutral position in the war (which has a dubious basis given its brotherly relationship with Russia). The western nations must constantly point this out. China cannot have it both ways.
Militarily, China is likely assessing its own military readiness. Russia’s generals fooled Putin into believing their forces were ready to take Ukraine in days.
China’s untested generals, many selected for political connections, not military acumen, are likely feeding Chinese leaders with claims of supremacy. Look for major exercises in China in the next few months. Chinese leaders do not want the Russian experience.
China is also advising its fellow Asian leaders not to get too emboldened with their foreign policy.
For example, China issued a thinly veiled threat to Japan.
At a March 7 news conference, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi urged Japan not to take any actions that could be seen as interfering in things that are not their concern. In other words: Watch yourself, Japan.
The United States is not immune from efforts of intimidation.
On March 18, just before a scheduled phone call between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Chinese navy sailed an aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait. The move was meant to be a reminder that Taiwan is in the Chinese’s collective minds.
During the call, according to a vague White House readout, Biden “described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia.”
The Chinese foreign ministry’s view of the situation was one in which “all-round and indiscriminate sanctions” would cause suffering to the “common people.” China merely changed the subject.
Naturally, the Chinese did not address the suffering caused by incessant bombing and missiles being hurled toward cities day and night.
China is not a friend of the west, especially the United States, or Ukraine, and the clarity of the country’s leaders is abundantly clear.
Now is the time to completely re-evaluate our multi-layered relationship with this giant and squash its dream of becoming the hegemon of the Pacific Rim.