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Putin-Xi embrace proves the fight for Ukraine is the same as the fight against China

Vladimir Putin’s visit to Beijing last week, culminating in his awkward hug with Xi Jinping, should put to rest two false narratives about America’s relationship with China and the war in Ukraine.

The first piece of conventional wisdom, prevalent in Foggy Bottom as well as in many Western European capitals, posits that it is still possible to make China a responsible actor in the international system.

The United States may be doomed to a century of strategic competition with China, they argue, but we also need China as a trading partner and to solve global challenges such as climate change.


Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, in front of a red and blue flag.
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. via REUTERS

The problem is, as last week’s summit illustrated, that China is not a partner in good faith.

Whatever aid the West has given to besieged Ukraine, Beijing has done the same for Russia – providing technology, financial support, intelligence and, perhaps most importantly, propaganda .

From TikTok to lavishly funded influence operations on college campuses to famed Confucius Institutes, China seeks to destabilize American politics and sow discord and chaos.

The answer is to begin systematically treating China as a rogue state, at the heart of the new axis of evil stretching from Moscow, through Tehran and Beijing, to Pyongyang.

To do this, the United States will need effective deterrence as well as strengthening our economic partnerships with Europe and their Asian allies, not strengthening our economic and technological ties with China.


Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin embrace after an informal meeting in Beijing, China, May 16, 2024.
Putin hugged Xi awkwardly as they said goodbye. P.A.

The second narrative, as pernicious as the first but more widespread in Republican circles, is based on the illusion that the United States can succeed in confronting China without simultaneously responding to war as Russia, the “unlimited” partner of the China, unleashed against her. Ukraine.

The idea that focusing on China requires sacrificing Ukraine and possibly our NATO commitments makes no sense in light of the fact that if American credibility collapses, it collapses everywhere – and not just in a single geographic theater. If helping Ukraine “as long as it takes” means providing limited military assistance for three years, but no more, then our allies and enemies alike will plan accordingly.

Policymakers in Taiwan, Korea, and Japan are visibly worried about our ability to stay in Ukraine and will trust us much less if we abandon kyiv. In such circumstances, they will also make arrangements for their own safety which we may not like.

Like nuclear proliferation and even accommodation and appeasement with China, at the expense of those countries’ long-standing ties to the United States.

An effective alliance against China requires the participation of our European allies. The debate over the EU’s future relationship is ongoing, but President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to engage with Xi during his recent state visit to Paris proved a failure, strengthening the position of China hawks across the continent.

More importantly, a Europe weakened by the defeat of Ukraine, faced with tens of millions of potential refugees and an eastern flank exposed to renewed Russian aggression would not be able to help at all in American efforts to contain China.

If the United States renounced its role in the European security architecture, as is advocated by those who advocate ruthless prioritization of the China threat, it is difficult to imagine that Europeans would feel particularly inclined to do so either.

It may sound cliché to say that threats to American security are all linked, but it is no less true. The battle for Ukraine IS part of our battle against China.

As the Putin-Xi meeting illustrates, our enemies share important strategic objectives. America’s lack of resolve and inability to find a solution – from Ukraine to our hesitation on Israel to our refusal to respond to Iranian-sponsored Houthi piracy in the Red Sea – gives the Party Chinese Communist every reason to believe that the future belongs to them, not America. .

It is high time to disabuse them of this idea, and the best place to start is in Ukraine.

Dalibor Rohac is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC. Twitter: @DaliborRohac.

New York Post

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