China to remain an anchor of stability in a turbulent world
Published: Dec 27, 2022 06:03 PM
Photos: VCG

A scene of Lujiazui, Shanghai's financial center. Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:

From many perspectives, the world is in danger of being drawn into long-term troubles right before our eyes. A growing risk of new conflicts is bubbling amid a lingering pandemic, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, the plague of soaring inflation and an energy crisis. Against this complex backdrop, what will 2023 look like? Who should we look toward as the anchor of stability in the world? This is the second piece of the Global Times series - "Looking for an anchor of stability in 2023."

The main event of 2022 could be said to be the Winter Olympic Games in China. The Chinese, as always, showed miracles of organization and generosity in preparation for the world manifestation of goodwill, built unique sports facilities and villages for the Olympians. However, the Games were overshadowed not even by strict COVID control measures, but by a boycott of Western countries and an anti-Chinese information campaign in the Western media. This was a demonstration of ill will and determination to pursue a "Cold War" against China.

Unfortunately, the flash point of 2022 was the armed conflict in Ukraine. It also fits into the logic of a Cold War, in this case, against Russia. The West began preparing for confrontation between Ukraine and Russia immediately after the coup in Kiev in 2014. The new authorities launched a propaganda campaign in the spirit of "Ukrainian identity," which they proclaimed to be incompatible with Russian language, culture, and the Orthodox faith. The uprisings in the Russian-speaking regions of the Eastern Ukraine were suppressed and were successful only in Crimea and Donbass. With the military and financial support of the US and NATO, the Zelensky administration prepared a general offensive on these areas for the spring of 2022. Kiev openly rejected the Minsk agreements and announced preparations for the production of its own nuclear weapons. Moscow launched a preemptive strike on February 24. At the same time, the Kremlin continued to place hope in the Minsk agreements and Russian President Vladimir Putin's special relations with former German chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. There were several rounds of negotiations. Political illusions in Moscow affected the course of military operations and allowed Ukrainian forces to achieve some success. As a result, there is now a lull on the fronts.

It seems the conflict in Ukraine will continue to be a flashpoint in 2023. It will retain the global scale that it has already acquired due to the limited involvement of such players as the US and NATO. It influences countries around the world and separates those who condemn Russia and participate in sanctions from those who evade sanctions and express understanding of Moscow's position. 

In an effort to weaken Russia, the US in 2023 will obstruct possible negotiations between Moscow and Kiev and will supply Ukraine with more and more powerful weapons systems. Russia's strikes on the shipments of new NATO weapons with casualties among foreign advisers from these countries are likely, which will lead to a further escalation of the confrontation. The same result will be caused by new strikes on the territory of Russia, including large-scale terrorist attacks in major cities. We can anticipate limited Russian offensives in the Donbass region and the Russian-speaking territories along the Black Sea coast, including toward Odessa. The way out of the conflict may not be victories on the battlefield, but negotiations after serious changes in the leadership of Russia and Ukraine. This is unlikely in Moscow, but highly likely in Kiev.

The most important global event in 2023 may be the end of the COVID epidemic in China and the resulting revival of the national and global economy. 

Another event with positive consequences for the global economy may be the end of the conflict in Ukraine and the cessation or easing of economic restrictions. Stabilization of prices for energy, grain and other commodities will restore trade and logistics chains and stabilize financial markets. 

I also anticipate major turbulence in the US due to aggravation of President Joe Biden's health condition. Other crises may develop between the Republicans and the Democrats in the Congress and between their followers all over the US. There are so many powder kegs waiting.

The biggest challenge for Russia will be the conflict in Ukraine and its consequences for the economic life and political sentiments of the population. So far, the consequences of the conflict have not affected the fundamental interests of the 150 million population, have not led to a noticeable deterioration in the material situation and quality of life. However, expectations of the end of hostilities are growing. 

China and the US have been in a state of "cold war" since 2018, when a "trade war" began, sanctions against high-tech companies, a global anti-Chinese campaign over COVID, attempts at "color revolutions" in China's Xinjiang and Hong Kong regions, pumping weapons to secessionist in Taiwan island. The offensives launched by former president Donald Trump were enhanced by Biden, and new strikes were added under him. The most serious of them has been the "chip war," designed to slow down technological progress and economic development.

The transfer of control over the House of Representatives of the US Congress to the Republicans is unlikely to change the anti-Chinese consensus in Washington. The reasons for China being  rejected are not limited to economics and technology. The ideology of liberal capitalism is incompatible with "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and the strengthening of socialist trends after the 19th and 20th national congresses of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Besides, the triumph of the yellow race is intolerable to the bearers of the idea of "white supremacy." The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1892 is preserved in the collective unconscious of the ruling US establishment.

The "eye of the storm" for humanity will continue to be the US, for which instability and chaos are a vital condition for maintaining hegemony. By prolonging the Ukraine conflict, the US hopes to bleed Russia as the only power capable to annihilate the US in nuclear strike. This conflict is also weakening Europe as a major economic competitor and helps to control disintegration moods in the EU. Anti-Russian sanctions also help to sell more liquefied natural gas and other commodities. A strategy similar to the Ukraine policy was also prepared for Beijing. To maximize the "Taiwan identity" to the level of open  "independence" from China, to help secessionist push military provocations and to create a "black hole" for Chinese resources and international prestige. The possible participation of Japan, South Korea and Australia in future economic sanctions and costly military preparations could also be good for enhancing American control of the Pacific.

However, the "anchor of stability" for the world will certainly be China. Despite the heavy burden of fighting the epidemic and overcoming the consequences of US economic and technologic sanctions, it is stable internally. Moreover, China projects stability on a global scale through maintaining high levels of exports and imports, the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, the gradual realization of the idea of creating a community with a shared future for mankind. Beijing strategists skillfully avoid the pitfalls prepared by their Washington counterparts concerning Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang. The "strategy of patience" proved to be efficient in dangerous situations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. It can work fine in Taiwan question as well. World stability is greatly assisted by new international structures like BRICS -five leading emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.Further rapprochement between Russia and China is inevitable in the face of increasing pressure from the West, which will try to maintain and expand the war in Ukraine, as well as provoke a military conflict around Taiwan island. Standing back to back, Moscow and Beijing will resist the onslaught of the West and at the same time try to build a new world order.

For China, the key challenge will be to establish control over COVID within the framework of the new strategy and to minimize the consequences for the economy. Overcoming the epidemic will certainly allow China to step up its foreign trade and international policy, as well as its "soft power." Natural disasters and the actions of hostile forces can slow down the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. This is what we saw in 2022. But it is impossible to prevent the steady process.

A new great China is being built like a beautiful pagoda. Step by step, story by story it goes up to the skies according to the Chinese Dream project of the great architect.  The 20th National Congress of the CPC in 2022 has approved the results of the first decade-old construction. It also approved plans for the next stories to be built in the next decade. The year 2023 will be a new step toward the great goal.

The author is head of the Expert Council of the Russian-Chinese Committee for Friendship, Peace and Development. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn