Vienna, Austria (Weltexpress). China is making headlines in world politics: The first state visit of the strong man in the Middle Kingdom, Xi Jinping, to Putin since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and shortly before that the mediation between the traditionally hostile Middle Eastern powers Saudi Arabia and Iran – a surprise diplomatic coup for Beijing. The fact that Xi is embarking on his friendly visit just as the International Criminal Court has issued a historically unprecedented arrest warrant against the Russian ruler puts the Chinese Ukraine peace initiative in a precarious twilight. But systematic human rights violations and war crimes committed by the Moscow despot do not bother the Chinese any more than the Iranians’ brutal crackdown on their own people or the grisly murder of journalist Khashoggi by agents of the Saudi royal family. The Chinese know what they want, and they strive for it ruthlessly: Second world power status next to – or even ahead of – the US. In the Middle East, the Chinese are currently ahead.
If Xi were to bring not only peace proposals but also offensive weapons such as drones and artillery ammunition with him on his visit, this would amount to a direct confrontation of Chinese with NATO weapons, a threatening sharpened escalation of the international situation. And Russia will, as a result of Western sanctions, become more dependent on China than it ever was on the West. China benefits from discounted energy supplies from Russia; 30% of Russian exports already go to and 40% of Russian imports come from China – Chinese consumer goods and technology are displacing Western ones, the yuan the dollar.
Two things are conspicuously missing from Xi’s twelve-point plan: a condemnation of the Russian attack on Ukraine and a call to withdraw from Russian-occupied territories. This makes it pleasing for Putin – and unacceptable for Selensky. Only eight years ago, the same Xi Jinping had declared that China would support Ukraine in the event of a nuclear attack. Such promises now ring richly hollow. For Putin, this visit, celebrated with imperial pomp, is a triumph – one of the most powerful statesmen in the world is breaking through his international isolation. Moreover, by embracing China, the USA’s great adversary, he can take revenge on Biden for his support of Ukraine. And China itself, which is all too eager to distract attention from acute economic problems, could push ahead with its invasion plans against Taiwan in the shadow of the Ukraine war.