What impact will the Russian-Ukrainian war have on US-China relations and Xi Jinping’s personal political destiny?
Jerome Alan Cohen is a retired law professor at New York University. Professor Cohen is also a China expert and a senior fellow for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Professor Cohen said to the Voice of America, “Xi Jinping looks very bad. How dangerous it is to have a dictatorial leader who doesn’t need to consult anybody and isn’t bound by any other official body. So you have a Putin loves and admires Xi Jinping, who is himself an unfettered, undemocratic dictator, so they can wreak even more havoc on the world, and this is doing great damage to both China and the U.S.-China relationship.”
According to Professor Cohen, the impact of the Russian invasion would be so powerful. Cohen said, “it would increase U.S. support for Taiwan, and there would be a lot of pressure now to bring U.S. forces back to Taiwan to make sure that if China uses violence against Taiwan if there are triggers, it can make sure that the U.S. is involved.”
However, Professor Cohen also warned, “If the U.S. were to commit its defense forces to Taiwan, or cross the official military line that was really drawn in the Shanghai Communiqué, this in turn would increase the likelihood of Beijing attacking Taiwan.”
Hu Ping is the chief editor of Beijing Spring, a New York-based pro-human rights and democracy journal, and a member of the Human Rights board of directors in China. He believes that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has increased Xi’s concerns about attacking Taiwan, making it even more difficult for him to do so.
He said, “Although Taiwan’s status as an independent country is not as good as that of Ukraine, Taiwan has the Taiwan Relations Act [of the U.S]. If there is a fight, the possibility of the United States sending troops to help is quite high. From the very beginning of Russia’s fight against Ukraine, everyone knew that the United States and NATO were unlikely to intervene militarily.”
Hu Ping believes that the real impact of this matter is great, and everyone is concerned that the strategic plan of the United States to make China its main competitor will be greatly affected.
He said, “Because it takes a lot of energy to deal with Russia, and even to achieve the result of containing Russia.”
Hu Ping asserts, “Russia is good for China whether things work out or not. Because the center of gravity of the United States has shifted, it will not be possible to put so much pressure on China. So why is Xi Jinping willing to support (Russia)? Because in this sense it will definitely benefit. It just has to be careful that it does not get into a deadlock and bad relationship with the United States and the West because of this matter.”
However, Ming Xia, a professor of political science at the City University of New York, took the opposite view.
He said, “I think the situation is sounding the death knell for China’s authoritarian system, because the war occured on the Russian side, it activates the whole EU and NATO.”
“If Putin does lose the war, Russia will again face a new regime reorganization within Russia, like the one we saw in Ukraine, and immediately fall back to a pluralistic democracy ….. It would become a pro-Western country. Who will be the loneliest in this case? It is leaving China as the only autocrat in Eurasia.”
Professor Ming Xia believes that Xi and Putin have made a fatal mistake. He said, “They sacrificed the national interests of their respective countries and pushed their respective countries and nations to the verge of extinction for the sake of their own autocratic lifelong power.”
But Professor Ming Xia believes that Russia’s chances of going to hell are less than China’s. He said, “because after all, Russia has gone through decades of democratization, it still has elections and opposition parties, and the Russian nation’s acceptance of the Western constitution is different from that of China.”
Professor Ming Xia said Xi Jinping’s miscalculation would throw him into an even more embarrassing position than Mao Zedong.
Professor Ming Xia said, “Mao Zedong was not the source of instability in the world at that time, the world did not fear Mao Zedong. Western European countries did not think Mao Zedong would affect their Western European interests, but today is different. Today, all Western countries recognize that China is their number one threat. Western countries have never lost their grips on Russia.”
He said that the last crisis would not fall on Putin’s head but instead on Xi Jinping’s.