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Op-Ed: China’s role in Ukraine —Oversimplifying the obvious, and getting it wrong

Let’s just not assume China isn’t looking at the all-too-possible future scenarios.

Ukraine's reconstruction and recovery needs of $411 billion is 2.6 times its estimated GDP for 2022, said a report
Ukraine's reconstruction and recovery needs of $411 billion is 2.6 times its estimated GDP for 2022, said a report - Copyright AFP/File PHILL MAGAKOE
Ukraine's reconstruction and recovery needs of $411 billion is 2.6 times its estimated GDP for 2022, said a report - Copyright AFP/File PHILL MAGAKOE

China’s entry into the Ukrainian conflict as a peacemaker has met Western skepticism – For far too many wrong reasons. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone that China may be acting pragmatically.

The shopping list of issues cited by various sources also falls far short of workable scenarios for either the West or Ukraine. According to the link above, 26% of Americans feel aid to Ukraine has been excessive. What about the other 74%?

The 26% figure comes from Pew, a very credible source. That can easily be described as “overwhelming support for Ukraine” by any metric you care to name.

Russia has welcomed Chinese input as a solution “in keeping with Russia’s goals”. …Or perhaps more accurately, goals that Ukraine will never accept under any circumstances. So why is China taking on the somewhat thankless task of a peacemaker?

China knows the positions of the two sides. Russia has staked its prestige, maybe even its very existence, on this idiotic crusade against Ukraine. It has referred to nuclear options, which China very clearly states are unacceptable.

Russia is visibly breaking down. Nothing works. Nothing is done well. No objectives can even pretend to have been achieved. So far from being the aspiring descendant of a superpower, Russia is stuck in its own mess. It’s basically spouting 70-year-old rhetoric to an unimpressed world and a very unimpressed Ukraine.

Ukrainian servicemenman an anti-air gun near Bakhmut, the fight for which both Russia and Ukraine have invested heavily, despite analysts' assertions that the city carries little strategic value
Ukrainian servicemenman an anti-air gun near Bakhmut, the fight for which both Russia and Ukraine have invested heavily, despite analysts’ assertions that the city carries little strategic value – Copyright AFP/File Aris Messinis

If Russia fails as a nation, China would have an anarchic mess like the 1990s on its doorstep. A massive, criminally-owned nuclear-armed liability, in effect. It’s very much in China’s interest to prevent the wheels of the Russian dung cart falling off.

Less obvious is the fact that China has quite enough very serious issues of its own. The monster drought, building sector problems, and a touchy energy sector aren’t helping China’s bottom line. Solve the Russian problem, and it’s a step to shutting down future problems.

Ukrainian soldiers of the 57th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade in a trench near the town of Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine
Ukrainian soldiers of the 57th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade in a trench near the town of Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine – Copyright POOL/AFP Andrew Harnik

The West also has an outdated idea that helped create the Putin regime. When the Cold War ended, it was assumed Russia would adopt Western values, capitalism, and the rest of the catchy nursery rhymes.

That rather gigantic assumption was about as naïve as possible as a policy. Russia consolidated power in the hands of the people who basically stole Russia from the Russian people. This idea now seems to be the ideal outcome, slightly revised.

In so many projected scenarios, Russia falls apart, creating about six new countries. These countries will of course be based on Western models, and Ken and Barbie will get back together.

It’s a matter of debate exactly how simplistic and idiotic a worldview can be, but this is the current baseline. There’s plenty of capital to be made is separate ex-Russian countries; why would the same pattern of theft repeat itself?  Why wouldn’t billionaire criminals and their associates do what they did before? Back to Square One, in effect.

That’s a very simple version of just some of the reasons why China has to be very wary of the possibilities of Russia failing. The Chinese peace initiative isn’t entirely altruistic.

The Kremlin said Putin visited Ukraine's regions of Kherson and Lugansk
The Kremlin said Putin visited Ukraine’s regions of Kherson and Lugansk – Copyright AFP Hector RETAMAL

It’s the right thing for China to do as a responsible third party; at least try to create a dialog. It should also be noticed that the West hasn’t done much in the way of similar offers. There are diplomatic channels, but not much has resulted from those options.

Let’s just not assume China isn’t looking at the all-too-possible future scenarios.

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Disclaimer

The opinions expressed in this Op-Ed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Digital Journal or its members.

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Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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