With the invasion of Ukraine officially underway, leaders of the western world have unified to denounce Russia’s actions. Eyes have now turned toward how Putin’s acts of aggression will be punished. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy put out a call for international assistance through an anti-war coalition. President Zelenskyy tweeted
“We defend our freedom, our land. We need effective international assistance. Discussed this with Polish President Andrzej Duda. Appealed to the Bucharest Nine for defense aid, sanctions, and pressure on the aggressor. Together we have to put Russia at the negotiating table. We need anti-war coalition.”
Despite the nearly global level of opposition to Russia, Putin does hold one powerful ally, China.
With high levels of trade and a coordination of their diplomatic and economic moves, the two countries have formed a dominant Eurasian union. Toting Russian support domestically whilst avoiding any actions that would flagrantly arouse NATO, the EU, or the US. One of China’s main tools of support has been a high level of domestic censorship surrounding the current Russo-Ukrainian crisis.
Chinese news sources seem to have mistakenly posted CCP instructions on how to handle their coverage of the current Ukrainian crisis to their social media platforms. While some of these posts have since been deleted, they did not go unnoticed.
Senior editor at Xinhua News Agency, Ming Jinwei, recently posted to his WeChat blog with instructions on how media coverage should express their position. In his post, Jinwei claims that China
“Has to back Russia up with emotional and moral support while refraining from treading on the toes of the United States and European Union…In the future, China will also need Russia’s understanding and support when wrestling with America to solve the Taiwan issue once and for all.”
China’s goal is clear: To cozy up to Russia in hopes of strengthening mutual support going forward while avoiding heavy lash back from the US and EU for doing so. To walk that tight rope, Chinese media outlets are using a combination of pro-Russian language and heavy censorship of what can and cannot be posted to state run media outlets to strengthen Russian support domestically.
CCP-owned social media accounts Horizon News and Shimian mistakenly leaked instructions which outlined where information should be posted first, as well as explicit instructions that nothing anti-Russian or pro-west was to be posted.
The Ramifications of Economic Sanctions
With the current emphasis on economic sanctions as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many doubt their efficacy. They may also prove as a double-edged sword once implemented. In response to the economic sanctions, Russia may choose to limit its supply of oil and natural gas to the rest of the world; a decision that Putin knows would cripple the world economy.
As it currently stands, Russia supplies about 40% of the natural gas to Europe. While that figure of 40% applies to Europe as a whole, the level of reliance on that supply varies from one country to another. For example, France only receives 20% of their natural gas from Russia, whereas Germany receives about 32%. These variations will make it difficult for the EU countries to come to a consensus on how heavy economic sanctions should be on Russia. In more reliant countries like Germany, Russia plays an irreplaceable role in energy supply for at least the short-term future.
Considering that threat, the US and EU are working jointly to ensure that Europe stays supplied when Putin makes a move. However, few believe that they will be able to adequately restore the supply of natural gas if Russia were to completely cut off their exports. Qatar, one of the main alternative suppliers that has been considered, has already expressed that while they do have large reserves of natural gas, much of it is tied to long term contracts and could not be rerouted to Europe. This revelation only reinforces concerns that Russia’s supply cannot be replaced in the immediate future.
Limitations on Russian exports of energy will also certainly affect energy prices and supply in American. While gas prices have been going up steadily the last year, Rep. Congressman Don Bacon believes that the Ukrainian crisis will only exacerbate the problem. Americans are likely to see gas prices at the pump rise well above $4 per gallon, whereas some cities in California are moving toward $6 per gallon. As such, the economic ramifications of this conflict are certain to be global, rather than just Eurocentric.
The other main concern surrounding these sanctions is their efficacy. Sanctions imposed after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 proved to be ineffective. While the sanctions in 2014 were primarily meant to disincentivize aggression, these recent sanctions will have the open intent of severely punishing the Russian economy. However, President Xi Jinping’s support may lend Putin the shoulder to lean on that he needs.
The day before Russia’s recognition of the breakaway Ukrainian regions, China agreed to import 100 million tons of coal from their northern neighbor. This massive trade will help Russia to mitigate the temporary financial hardship inflicted by the western sanctions moving forward. It also hints that China will likely continue to support Russia financially in the future if necessary. But what does China hope to gain for their support?
Taiwan is Waiting for Another Brutal Aggressor
While China’s support is certainly making it more difficult for the west to punish Putin’s actions, their actions are not selfless in nature. In Ming Jinwei’s blog post, he stated that China would also “need Russia’s understanding and support when wrestling with America to solve the Taiwan issue once and for all.” This implies that we may soon encounter a situation similar to the Russo-Ukrainian crisis between China and Taiwan.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly said that reunification of Taiwan “must be fulfilled”. If Putin’s invasion of Ukraine proves a success and meets little global resistance, it’s very likely that President Xi Jinping will ensure Taiwan meets a similar fate.