China faces a double disaster caught between Covid and Putin - by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard - 29.04.22
President Xi will pay the price of ignoring warnings about his hopes for a new totalitarian world order
China should abandon all illusions that the West is in terminal decline, or that a new world order of authoritarian regimes is dawning.
It should ditch Vladimir Putin immediately. The country should not be tainted by the retrograde adventurism of a loser. Beijing should instead seek a new concordat with Washington, acting as a conciliatory stakeholder power.
So concluded a sizzlingly cogent essay by Chinese foreign policy guru Hu Wei in March after Russia’s blitzkrieg failed to take Kyiv. Prof Hu heads the Shanghai Public Policy Research Institute, linked to reformers at the State Council.
The essay circulated for several days in China before being expunged, a sign of powerful dissent against the pro-Putin policies of President Xi Jinping. The Carter Centre ran an English version.
Prof Hu says the Ukraine war will be a watershed moment, but not in the way that Xi imagined when he issued his Sino-Russia manifesto for the new world order in February, proclaiming “no limits” to China’s bond with Putin’s Russia – the green light for the invasion of Ukraine.
“The power of the West will grow significantly, Nato will continue to expand, and US influence in the non-Western world will increase,” said Prof Hu.
“The West will possess more ‘hegemony’, both of military power and in terms of values and institutions; its hard power and soft power will reach new heights.”
He even expects a resurrection of Francis Fukuyama’s Hegelian dream of democratic liberalism as the end-state for mankind, though Fukuyama himself (spooked by Trump) has since lost faith in the End of History.
Xi ignored the warnings and now faces a grave strategic reverse.
“If the Russia-China statement was supposed to make the world safe for autocracy, it didn’t have a very long shelf-life. The autocrats overplayed their hand,” said George Magnus from Oxford University’s China Centre.
Xi faces a parallel reverse over Covid, having manoeuvred his country into a disastrous cul de sac. Some 43 cities making up two fifths of Chinese GDP are in some form of lockdown at a time when the rest of the world is returning to normal.
Much of Xilin has been a prison for almost seven weeks. The financial capital Shanghai is in week four, and Beijing is again on a knife-edge. Communist Party cyber-censors are struggling to suppress netizen fury akin to the seditious rumblings two years ago over the treatment of Wuhan whistleblower Dr Li Wenliang.
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