Will Xi Jinping follow in the footsteps of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine?
The Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping bromance
At the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, Xi and Putin cozied up, posed for pictures, and issued a joint statement. The dictators criticized how certain states attempt to impose their own “democratic standards” on other nations. Russia expressed their support of the One-China principle that declares “Taiwan is an inalienable part of China.” Both men stated their opposition for the enlargement of NATO and urged NATO to “abandon its ideologized Cold War approaches” (Putin & Xi).
The enemy of my enemy is my friend
In his New Yorker article, Evan Osnos described how Putin and Xi are united in “their belief that the West is in an inexorable decline,” something the dictators view “as a vindication of autocracy.” According to Osnos, a foreign ministry spokesman from China identified the United States as “the culprit of current tensions surrounding Ukraine,’ and gave voice to Putin’s grievances, asking, ‘When the U.S. drove five waves of NATO expansion eastward all the way to Russia’s doorstep, and deployed advanced offensive strategic weapons in breach of its assurances to Russia, did it ever think about the consequences of pushing a big country to the wall?” Xi even referred to Putin as “my closest foreign colleague and my best confidant” (Osnos).
Donald Trump believes an invasion of Taiwan is imminent
Former president Donald Trump discussed a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. As a guest on the “conservative talk radio program The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, Trump suggested that Chinese president Xi Jinping would follow the example of his ‘twin sister’ Russian president Vladimir Putin by staging an invasion of the disputed island. The former president insisted that Russia would have ‘never’ moved to invade Ukraine under his presidency, while suggesting that both Putin or Xi sensed weakness in President Joe Biden” (Slisco).
Is an amphibious attack on Taiwan logistically possible?
According to experts, aside from first raining a storm of missiles on Taiwan, there is no way that China would succeed in taking over the island. Based on the 1944 Normandy Invasion and the opinion of academics from war colleges, an amphibious landing in Taiwan would require 1.2 million troops and thousands of ships. The Normandy Invasion utilized 160,000 soldiers and 7,000 ships. Thus, “using the traditional three-to-one ratio of attackers to defenders taught at war colleges, China would need to deploy 1.2 million soldiers” to take on the force of 450,000 Taiwanese soldiers (Ullman). In addition, the Americans, Brits, and Canadians surprised the Germans in Normandy. These days, with satellite technology, there is no such thing as a surprise attack of that magnitude. The Taiwanese and the entire world would see the Chinese coming and prepare accordingly. President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan believes rather than invading Taiwan, the Chinese will implement “cognitive warfare’—a mix of disinformation, political meddling, and incitement, intended to pry open internal divisions in Taiwan and make its people despair at their vulnerability” (Osnos).
How long will the Xi/Putin bromance last?
This is not their nations’ first dance. China and Russia have had a rocky relationship since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. At first, Stalin disrespected Mao, but later Khrushchev sent advisors to help China industrialize and implement communism. It was a short-lived affair; by 1960, the relationship had soured due to philosophical differences concerning communist ideology, Russia’s attitude of superiority, and assorted border skirmishes. The relationship got so bad that Russia considered dropping a nuke on China in 1969.
This time around, China has the upper hand. To help keep their Russian allies afloat, China agreed to purchase $400 billion worth of natural gas from Russia (Osnos). Academics point out that China exports ten times more products to the UK and the EU than it does to Russia; hence, China has a lot to lose in this arrangement. As global public opinion concerning the invasion of Ukraine reaches a fever pitch of outrage due to the gross human rights abuses committed by the Russians, Xi Jinping may need to rethink his alliance with Putin.
President Xi needs to wise up
At the onset of the Xi-Putin affair, Russia needed a powerful friend, which it found in China. However, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine gets uglier and deadlier by the day, China’s support of Putin devolves into complicity. In addition, Russia’s mismanagement of the invasion must be an embarrassment to their Chinese ally. Did China sign up for economic isolation, global condemnation, and potential nuclear holocaust? Probably not. The conquest of Ukraine has not turned out as idyllic as Putin promised, since the Ukrainian people are willing to fight to the death in defense of their homeland.
Over the centuries, the Ukrainian people have established a culture separate from their Russian brethren, and over the decades, the Taiwanese have also culturally separated from their brothers in mainland China. Neither Ukraine nor Taiwan is willing to return to the fold. If Xi is smart and pragmatic, he will ignore Donald Trump’s suggestion and abandon any desire to militarily force Taiwan to reunite with Communist China.
Osnos, Evan. “What Is China Learning From Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine?: Xi Jinping’s unusually close bond with Vladimir Putin puts China in risky company.” The New Yorker. February 24, 2022. https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/what-is-china-learning-from-russias-invasion-of-ukraine
Putin, Vladimir and Xi Jinping. “Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China on the International Relations Entering a New Era and the Global Sustainable Development.” A 5,000-word communique signed on February 4, 2022, at the Opening Ceremonies of the XXIV Winter Olympics. http://en.kremlin.ru/supplement/5770
Singleton, Craig. “Don’t Buy the Xi-Putin Hype: Beijing went out of its way to downplay the summit’s significance, revealing a potential wedge for the West.” Foreign Policy. February 8, 2022. https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/02/08/xi-putin-summit-china-russia-alliance/
Slisco, Avila. “Donald Trump predicts ‘China’s Going to Be Next,’ Will Invade China,” Newsweek. February 22, 2022. https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-predicts-chinas-going-next-will-invade-taiwan-1681616
Smith, Michael. “Xi and Putin’s plan for a new world order.” Financial Review. February 11, 2022. https://www.afr.com/world/asia/xi-and-putin-s-plan-for-a-new-world-order-20220210-p59vfe
Ullman, Harlan. “Reality Check #10: China will not invade Taiwan,” Atlantic Council. February 18, 2022. https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/content-series/reality-check/reality-check-10-china-will-not-invade-taiwan/