Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

Why Xi Is Trapped in Ukraine

By Craig Singleton

26 Apr 2022 · 6 min read

Among the Ukraine war’s surprising geopolitical takeaways—such as Russia’s military ineptness and the transatlantic alliance’s unexpected resilience—is that China is not yet a great power. Beijing has proven incapable of influencing either Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calculus in Ukraine or the West’s response to Russia’s unprovoked invasion. What’s more, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been reduced to a bystander seemingly at the mercy of decisions made not in Beijing but in Washington, Brussels, and, more importantly, Moscow.

None of this was part of Xi’s plan. His vision for a “new democratic world order” was predicated upon Russia playing an important, albeit supporting, role in advancing Beijing’s own revisionist agenda. Putin, it seems, had other plans. Now, it is Russia, not China, sitting in the geopolitical driver’s seat.

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