The Chinese response to the collapse of Imran Khan’s government has been moderate in tone and optimistic as to the future of India-Pakistani relations, which it seems confident will remain strong as both the PRC and Pakistan share an aim to counter India.

The same could not be said of Russia, whose media almost immediately parroted Khan’s claims that the United States was to blame and the the opposition government was “imported.”

Within a few hours, the Russian media apparently decided to moderate their coverage and revised the titles and implications of their headline articles, but their tone remains far more conspiratorial than is the surprisingly more fact-based reporting from China regarding the process of the no confidence vote and new coalition.

Chinese media coverage has instead focused on the economic and political strictures that Khan both face and built for himself in is move away from extremely large dependence on US military support, and towards Chinese infrastructure funding.

They make reference to “foreign powers 外國勢力” as having influence, but labels them as secondary to the fall of Khan, with the former PM referring to a letter suggesting that the US government would be happier without Khan at the head, a glaringly obvious statement.

Russia, for its part, claims that the exact same letter suffices as “proving the allegations” of a “regime change operation” without providing any further elaboration as to the content of the letter to provide context for its readers.

Such different responses point to significantly different levels of comfort in each regime towards borderline disinformation, and perhaps also towards their differing comfort with Khan’s replacement.

Khan, with his hostility towards the West despite his decades of living in the UK and fortune earned there, alienated Pakistan’s security apparatus from the US and created space for Chinese influence to permeate. Khan followed the Chinese script on Xinjiang as well, refusing to even question the PRC and claiming there were no abuses taking place there. Still, his tacit support for the Taliban and their takeover of Afghanistan, and the ensuing instability on China’s border, remain a major Chinese concern to which Afghanistan represent a dangerous long-term liability. For the PRC, a switch to a more stability oriented leader may have actually been preferable.

Putin’s relationship with Pakistan is more complex, as Pakistan also must balance against their enemy India, which receives most of its arms from Russia. Khan seemed to maintain a very close relationship with Putin, meeting with him on the day of the invasion, and refusing to criticize the invasion or label it as such, giving him ample tacit moral support. While Khan did the same for China regarding Xinjiang, the PRC appears less concerned with maintaining ideological relationships than is Russia, and instead is focused on economic projects with Pakistan which are likely to remain unaffected, according to their own analysis. Meanwhile, the lack of Pakistani response to the Russian invasion had clearly been a sore point for many in the military establishment, suggesting that the change in leadership may lead to stance changes, with military chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, criticizing Russia.

“Sadly, the Russian invasion against Ukraine is very unfortunate as thousands of people have been killed, millions made refugees and half of Ukraine destroyed… Despite legitimate security concerns of Russia, its aggression against a smaller country cannot be condoned.”

This clear stance difference and criticism of Russia may have been less palatable for Putin, who may see the reappearance of the military’s influence as more threatening to his interests than does Xi Jinping.