Breaking with four decades of cooperation with the United States in support of a shared conception of a rules-based world order, China’s dictator Xi Jinping has met its match in his party’s tacit support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
China had been walking a tightrope between supporting its age-old maxim of support for the primacy of national sovereignty paired with non-interference and inviolable borders, and supporting Putin’s violation of all of those norms in order to suppress a hostile democracy at its borders embarrassing the United Russia party by highlighting Russia’s decline.
At times labelling Ukraine the victim of violence, and at others suggesting that Russia was instead the victim of American encroachment, their coverage has stabilized to suggest that above all else, the war is minor, and that the US is ultimately to blame.
This is essentially a parroting of the Russian discourse, that Russia’s obliteration of the UN charter was because they were a victim who felt threatened by the encirclement of NATO, despite then turning around and launching a war of aggression aimed to wipe a fellow-nation state off the map, inevitably sparking further NATO rearmament and expansion.
In recent days though, Russian media has indirectly elaborated on Putin’s line of logic by suggesting that the invasion stands as a challenge to fundamentally reshape the global order.
Disseminated through the indirect mouthpieces of the Putin regime, Medvedev, Lavrov and Peskov, they have suggested that their national place have consequences far greater than Russian expansion. Russia is reshaping the international system by challenging American hegemony.
Medvedev has stated that “the unipolar world has come to an end,” suggesting that the United States is facing fundamental challenges from China and Russia that it can no longer single-handedly balance against.
Lavrov has echoed this, suggesting that American sanctions were aims to cripple Russia as a threat to the United States and maintain unipolarity, saying it was “all is about removing the obstacle in the form of Russia on the way to building a unipolar world,” going on to imply that American actions are, “not about Ukraine, this is about a world order in which the United States wants to be the sole sovereign and dominate.”
China, for its part, has kept its official stance on their support cryptic, never directly condemning Russia and attempting to impugn American involvement at every venture, seized upon by Russia as de facto support.
Both Russian and Chinese discourse also aim to undermine the same so called “unipolarity” in the West by suggesting that European actions simply follow the will of the US, despite the acute sense of threat in many European countries that they will be next and fears regarding US commitment to NATO in countering further Russian advances.
The implication is that with a fractured and weakened US, and West, that the autocratic nuclear armed states of the world can impose their will on weaker states to subjugate and dominate in their own interests, and that in time, no one will resist.