Flat White

China and Russia’s hypocritical foreign policy

14 February 2022

2:00 PM

14 February 2022

2:00 PM

The Beijing Winter Olympics feature placative themes of international unity. ‘Together for a shared future!’ is President Xi’s chosen slogan for this year’s games. Yet the sentiment rings hollow in light of a statement Xi released during the opening ceremony alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin. A four-part document, it lays out the two leaders’ position on international relations for the ensuing decade. It is also a subtle attack on the Euro-Atlantic alliance.

The ‘Joint Statement’ implies that one of the main sources of instability and conflict in the world is the West’s refusal to mind its own business. As the preamble states: ‘Some actors representing but the minority on the international scale continue to advocate unilateral approaches to addressing international issues and resort to force; they interfere in the internal affairs of other states, infringing their legitimate rights and interests.’

The assertions that follow are even more tendentious. For example, part three stipulates that Russia and China: ‘Stand against attempts by external forces to undermine security and stability in their common adjacent regions, intend to counter interference by outside forces in the internal affairs of sovereign countries under any pretext, oppose colour revolutions, and will increase cooperation in the aforementioned areas.’

Ignoring whether a one-party state and a one-man despotism can seriously be considered representative of anyone, these accusations express a common view held not only by the Chinese and Russian establishments, but by some factions in the West too. It is worth pointing out, therefore, that only since the beginning of this year, the two countries’ may reasonably be held responsible for a slew of interferences and destabilizations spanning almost the entire globe.

Two weeks before the meeting in Beijing, China and Russia blocked UN action against an unprecedented round of North Korean missile launches, unilaterally voiding all relevant Security Council resolutions, undermining the security and stability of East Asia, and emboldening a rogue state to negate the rights and interests of its enslaved people.

China itself is feeling anxious about the recent resumption of hostilities in its client state of Sudan. The Sudanese military oligarchy, enriched through decades of arms-for-oil deals with Beijing, is massacring civilians who are rebelling against last year’s coup. The resulting chaos has destabilized the Red Sea maritime region, forced China to consider evacuating workers and diplomats, and stymied the country’s transition to civil government.

It has yet to condemn last year’s military coup in Myanmar, another foul regime in China’s ‘adjacent region’, which is consistently given diplomatic cover by Beijing even as the ensuing civil war has provoked a mass exodus of migrants across Chinese and Bangladeshi borders.

Finally, one month ago the Chinese Communist Party moved to deepen the ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’ with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a military-industrial agreement that will undercut all attempts by the international community to contain the chief sponsor of terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

But is Xi ever invited to consider whether the Sudanese or Burmese might be annoyed at his support for their dictators? Or whether militarily empowering the Iranian regime is an interference in Iranian internal affairs? It is only Western support for popular sovereignty that is seen as ‘interference’.

The same could be said about Putin, who is blackmailing a neighbouring state with the credible use of military force, inciting Russian separatists to undermine its independence, and illegally occupying its southern peninsula. The result of such interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs is the most militarized stand-off between East and West since the end of the Cold War. Russian troops are also stationed on the territory of such democracies as Georgia and Moldova without their governments’ consent.

In keeping with the laughable hypocrisies riddling this text, these unelected tyrants seek to instruct their opponents on the subject of democracy. They say that ‘there is no one-size-fits-all template to guide countries in establishing democracy’ and suggest, conveniently, that ‘it is only up to the people of the country to decide whether their State is a democratic one’.

Democracies come in many forms, but their essence is the ability to hold leaders to account, not only during elections, but through a free media and the rule of law. In China, all criticism of the ruling party is outlawed, and in Russia any serious opponent of Putin’s regime is either poisoned or jailed. If the two presidents are in search of a democratic template, they are a long way off.

The recent handshake between Putin and Xi proves only one thing. That in the third decade of this century, the main disruptors of the international order are the very powers who claim to be its defenders and guarantors. Such a striking lack of self-awareness is matched only by their Olympian self-righteousness.

Timothy Santon is a Young Voices Contributor and freelance journalist based in London.

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