Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

China’s ideological affinity with Russia is over

By Howard W. French

30 Jun 2023 · 5 min read

informed Summary

  1. The war in Ukraine has led to speculation about its potential impact on the global balance of power, particularly between the U.S. and China. A Ukrainian victory is seen as strengthening the U.S.'s position, while a Russian victory could bolster China.

Throughout most of the ongoing war in Ukraine, a truism has held across most of the American political spectrum, from left to right, about the second-order effects of the conflict’s outcome. A Ukrainian victory would strengthen the position of the United States vis-à-vis China globally, while a Russian victory would achieve the opposite.

It is easy to see how takes like this gain such a strong foothold. Analysts are quick to apply sweeping, abstract constructs to their assessments of major world events. This time, that has meant a supposed worldwide faceoff between authoritarianism and democracy. Beyond such considerations, many have tried to imagine the Ukraine conflict’s effects on Chinese thinking about Taiwan. Here again, it is supposed that a Ukrainian victory against a vastly larger invading adversary would be deflating for China, lowering the risk of any near-term attempt to take control of Taiwan by force. And a Russian victory, which now seems quite unlikely, would produce the opposite effect.

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