Xi Jinping’s misjudgment of Putin puts China at risk. Beijing denies reports from Western intelligence officials that “China has asked Russia not to invade Ukraine until the end of the Winter Olympics”. But experts believe that Beijing had some level of knowledge about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and that Xi’s miscalculation of Putin has led to China’s embarrassing position in the international community today and put China’s economic and other interests at risk.
Xi Jinping’s misjudgment of Putin puts China at risk
On Wednesday (March 2), the New York Times reported that, according to two sources from the Biden administration and Europe, “a Western intelligence showed that senior Chinese officials in early February asked senior Russian officials to end the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Don’t invade Ukraine before.”
The Beijing Winter Olympics will end on February 20. Putin ordered a full-scale attack on Ukraine on February 24. “Reports suggest that senior Chinese officials had some level of direct knowledge of Russia’s war plans or intentions before the invasion began last week,” the Times said.
On Thursday (March 3), the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied the news. Spokesman Wang Wenbin called the New York Times report “purely false information” and said, “Such remarks that divert attention and blame blame. Very despicable.”
Ian Johnson, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, told VOA that he is not very convinced that the report is factual, but that he believes Xi has some level of knowledge.
“I just want to say it’s possible, but I’m skeptical about relying entirely on U.S. intelligence on these issues because, you know, U.S. intelligence sometimes leaks but isn’t 100 percent reliable, especially during a war.”
Zhang Yan believes that the actual situation may be more subtle. “Putin will say I’m very angry about the situation in Ukraine, and Xi Jinping will say, yes, but we don’t want anything to interfere with the Olympics, and Putin will say, I totally understand, that sort of thing. But you know, if U.S. intelligence knows such detailed information , that means they have incredible sources in Zhongnanhai or the Kremlin. So, I think, it’s possible, but it has to be seen as a possibility, not a fact.”
Paul Heer, a researcher at the Center for the National Interest, believes that it is easy to overinterpret the report. “For the Chinese, at any level, the Russians would be advised to wait until after the Olympics before launching any attacks. I think this It doesn’t necessarily mean that the Chinese knew an attack was going to happen or expected an attack.” “I don’t think what I’ve read so far leads me to believe that the Chinese knew in advance that an attack on Ukraine itself was going to happen, they just I don’t want any trouble until the Olympics are over.”
“Putin probably respects that and waits until after the Olympics to do what he wants to do,” said Haier, a longtime career CIA intelligence officer. “But that doesn’t mean he’s going to tell the Chinese exactly what he’s going to do.” ”
Xi Jinping’s strategy of uniting with Russia to resist the United States
Andrew Small, a senior transatlantic researcher at the German Marshall Foundation think tank in Washington, assumed before the New York Times story was published that Beijing knew that an invasion was likely, but believed that Russia would soon succeed, based on China’s perceived Previous Russian intervention and intelligence assessments from Moscow.
Ma Anzhou also believes that seeking to unite Russia against the United States and the Western world is Xi Jinping’s strategy. “I think from very early on, Xi Jinping has pushed the partnership with Putin, with Russia, in all the diplomatic activities that we see, it has been a very high priority, understood as a real change in many ways for China in the world One of the relationships that has a strategic position is almost comparable to other relationships,” Ma Anzhou said.
Ma Anzhou believes that U.S.-China relations are moving in a more confrontational direction and will remain so, while improving Sino-Russian relations “like an opportunity” for Xi Jinping, “and on this basis to elevate it to more like Global partnership stuff.”
Ma Anzhou said that the important content of the Sino-Russian “Joint Statement” released by Xi Jinping and Putin on the eve of the Winter Olympics is to “support Russia’s position on European security issues, and various measures look like this partnership is not capped. . This relationship could pose a real challenge to the U.S. in different ways and could create a situation in China’s favor.”
“In China they’ve been debating and seeing a lot of advantages, it feels like a school of thought that might take some risks but is worth pursuing,” Ma said. “This is what Xi Jinping likes,” he added.
However, Zhang Yan, a senior researcher at the Association for Foreign Relations, believes that China and Russia use each other but there are differences. “Both see each other as partners, not yet allies; not close friends, but potential partners, both of whom are angry with the West for different reasons and share similar views on territorial expansion and the international order.”
“But I don’t think China is as radical as Russia. Because China has benefited from a stable international order in the past few decades. Although Xi Jinping is happy to see Putin cause trouble for the West, he does not want to completely overturn the international order and countries all invade each other. Because it will lead to turmoil in China, slower growth, worse problems. So I think they have some similar interests, but I don’t think they have the same interest,” Zhang Yan said.
Xi Jinping misjudges Beijing’s embarrassing situation
Haier believes that Xi Jinping is in a very embarrassing situation. “Xi Jinping’s calculation is that he can try to walk the tightrope, hoping that there will be some solution to this conflict, which can preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Otherwise, the Chinese have completely abandoned Ukraine and let them fight for the maintenance of China-Russia relations. I think Xi Jinping is still trying to calculate, and he’s in a very uncomfortable position because you know Beijing is reaffirming a whole bunch of old principles that are inherently inconsistent.”
Haier was referring to that Beijing doesn’t want to alienate Russia while maintaining the diplomatic principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity; they also don’t want to alienate the U.S. and Europe, “They really can’t do it all because what they allow to happen in Ukraine is not It is in line with their principles of non-interference and respect for the security interests of all parties.”
Ma Anzhou believes that the main reason for Xi Jinping’s embarrassment is his misjudgment that Putin’s military operation will be successful. “They think that whatever Putin plans to do in Ukraine will end up either forcing a concession from Ukraine, or a U.S. concession, or it will end up being a quick and effective move that’s basically over in a few days, and then everyone will adjust to the new reality. “I’m not sure they expected a reaction of this magnitude, and I think they certainly didn’t expect the level of solidarity and the scale of the reaction on the European side. And I don’t think they think they’re going to be blamed for that either.”
Xi Jinping’s misjudgment will hurt China’s interests
Ma Anzhou said that Xi Jinping’s misjudgment will cause China to suffer the consequences. “Anyway, I don’t think the impression of China as an enabler of Russia (invasion) is going to go away. And I think it’s going to be China’s economic, especially in its relationship with the rest of Europe, in different ways, causing a lot of One of the areas of collateral damage.”
Of course it depends on how the crisis develops, Ma Anzhou said, but he said the assumption for that remains, “As at other times, eventually (China) will blame the U.S., NATO, the unfriendly Western countries, and it will become a kind of Call for a solidarity approach.”
China’s interests will be threatened, Haier said. “China has a pretty good economic relationship with Ukraine, and Ukraine is now in serious danger.” Hill said, “China’s economic relationship with Europe is being damaged unless they can Find some way to convince Europeans that there is a distance between Moscow and Beijing.”
“One of the big questions people are asking is whether China will provide any relief to Russia because of the sanctions,” Haier said. “I don’t know if China decides how they’re going to handle that. But I think if they want to be seen by Europe and the U.S. as a Credible, they’re going to have to impose some restrictions on the issue.”
Haier believes that China’s economic and other interests are now at risk. “And the big question is what the Chinese are willing to do to minimize those risks.”