Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

China Learns Taiwan Invasion Lessons From Russia's Ukraine Disaster

By Oriana Skylar Mastro and Derek Scissors

18 Apr 2022 · 9 min read

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a double disaster for President Vladimir Putin, as he faces a poorly performing military combined with an inability to shield his country from economic punishment. Both of these possibilities historically have also been sources of apprehension for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). But China’s leadership turned its anxiety into action about 10 years ago, deliberately working to fix many of the problems and minimize the risks currently plaguing Russia in Ukraine.

One result is that the Chinese military is more likely to perform well even though it has not fought a war since 1979, when it lost thousands of troops in a punitive but brief invasion of Vietnam. Adding to that, China’s economy is both far larger and deliberately more diversified than Russia’s. A sanctions effort like the one presently aimed at Russia would be much harder to sustain against China. These two observations do not mean deterrence won’t hold, only that the unfolding events in Ukraine will likely do little to make Beijing more cautious.

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