A Leader in Building the World Order? China’s Ambitions Shown at Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s Press Conference
The Dangers of Asking for China’s Help in Ceasing the War in Ukraine
Article on March 10th, 2022 by Kaori Fukushima
About Kaori Fukushima: After graduating from Osaka University with a degree in Literature, he joined the Sankei Shimbun. After studying abroad at Fudan University in Shanghai, he worked as a correspondent for Sankei Shimbun in Hong Kong in 2001 and in Beijing from 2002 to 2008. He mainly covers political, economic, and social issues in China. His main publications include “Shinkei Corona, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Sekai wa Xi Jinping wo Kiki wo Murenai” (Wani Books, 2020), “Xi Jinping no Defeat: Red Empire, Chugoku no Kiki” (Wani Books, 2020), “Chugoku Zetsumo Factory no Younger” (PHP Research Institute, 2013), and “Chugoku no Onna: Undercover Reportage, Chugoku no Onna” (Bungei Shunju, 2011).
The National Political Consultative Conference and the National People’s Congress opened in Beijing, China, on March 4 and 5. These spring political events are also the occasions when China officially communicates its policies domestically and internationally.
Among them, Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s special press conference held on March 7 was a good illustration of China’s global and international outlook. At this press conference, when asked about China’s position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Wang Yi said, “We would like to work with the international community to pave the way for necessary arbitration when necessary.” What is the true meaning of this statement? I would like to introduce some interesting statements made by Wang Yi at the press conference.
He accused the U.S. of “adding fuel to the fire.”
First, with regard to Ukraine, there were statements to the following effect.
Three feet of ice is not enough for one day of cold. The causes of the situation in Ukraine up to the present day are complex and complicated. Solving complex problems requires calm and reason, not adding fuel to the fire and escalating the conflict. China believes that in order to alleviate the current crisis, the main purpose and principles of the UN Charter should be upheld, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each country should be respected and guaranteed.”
Conflicts must be resolved in a peaceful manner, adhering to dialogue. A balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism should be established, focusing on the long-term stability of the region.
The day after the clashes between Russia and Ukraine broke out, President Xi Jinping had a telephone conversation with President Putin in which he expressed his desire for dialogue between the two sides as soon as possible. President Putin responded positively. … China would like to exert its constructive influence to promote dialogue and, when necessary, work with the international community to pave the way for necessary arbitration.”
He also mentioned six proposals for China to prevent humanitarian crises. The first of these was that “humanitarian action should adhere to the principles of neutrality and fairness, and prevent the politicization of humanitarian issues. He also announced the provision of emergency relief supplies by the Red Cross.
What should be noted in these remarks is that while he implicitly accused the U.S. (although he did not name it by name) of adding fuel to the fire and escalating the conflict, he exuded confidence that China could exert constructive influence and elicit a positive response from Putin.
Denies making a military alliance with Russia
Let’s continue with references to Sino-Russian relations.
China and Russia share the values of independence and self-reliance. The two countries have independent and self-reliant values, based on no alliances, no rivalry, no targeting of third parties, and no interference or provocation from third parties.
In the February 4 joint statement, China and Russia told the world that we oppose a return to Cold War thinking, oppose provoking ideological confrontations, advocate the promotion of democratization of international relations, and maintain the purpose and principles of the UN Charter.”
The development of Sino-Russian relations has a clear historical logic and a powerful endogenous dynamic. The friendship between the peoples of the two countries is solid, and there are good prospects for cooperation between the two sides. No matter how adverse the international situation may be, China and Russia will continue to advance the all-round strategic cooperative partnership in the new era.
Compared to the February 4 joint statement, which called for “no taboos and no upper limits on Sino-Russian cooperation,” Wang Yi seems to have distanced himself a bit from Russia. Is this a preparation for steering the ship toward Ukraine? China may want to use the Sino-Russian relationship as a framework model for a new international order, but it also seems to be hinting at the possibility of a future confrontation between the two countries.
The “historical logic” pointed out here is something that China has been obsessing over recently. Regarding the Ukraine issue, they mention that there is a complicated history leading up to today’s situation.
Is the Biden Administration Dragging the “Kissinger Strategy”?
On the other hand, regarding U.S. relations, he says
We have noted that U.S. leaders and some officials have repeatedly stated that the United States does not intend to seek a new Cold War. It does not intend to strengthen alliances and oppose China, nor does it intend to support Taiwan independence. Nor do they intend to create a conflict with China to counter it.
… The fact before us is that the United States has no capacity left to engage in a fierce zero-sum game of competition with China, and that joining with groups that attack China’s core interests and gather in the international community to bully China would not only undermine the larger picture of bilateral relations, but would also conflict with international peace and stability. That’s what this means.”
It has been 50 years since the Shanghai Communiqué was released. Looking back on history, China and the United States have kept their differences intact while seeking common ground in the spirit of making the people of both countries happy and promoting world peace and prosperity. Looking to the future, both sides will return to their original intention of melting the ice, correct their deeds and make a fresh start, and promote the return of U.S. policy toward China to the right track in a rational and practical manner, so that China-U.S. relations will return to a stable and correct path.”
He stressed that Biden himself said he had no intention of antagonizing China. Furthermore, he invites the restoration of U.S.-China relations, saying that the U.S. does not have the strength to play a fierce zero-sum game with China anymore, and bringing up the Shanghai Communique, the joint communique issued 50 years ago during Nixon’s visit to China.
This may be my own interpretation, but I believe that the Biden administration is still stuck in the “Kissinger strategy. In other words, the U.S. is still holding on to the 1972 U.S. international view that judged that the U.S. should “cooperate with China to counter the threat of the Soviet Union (Russia).
China, which feels that the current situation in Ukraine is “the result of U.S. agitation,” may have seen the Biden administration’s “return to the Kissinger strategy” in the background of the clear shift in U.S. hostility toward Russia and Putin, which had been targeted at China or Xi Jinping during the Trump administration.
Nailed the comparison between the Ukraine issue and the Taiwan issue.
He then referred to Taiwan as follows.
First of all, it must be made clear that there is an essential difference between the Taiwan issue and the Ukraine issue, and that the two cannot be compared.” The most fundamental difference is that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China, and the Taiwan issue is entirely an internal affair of China. The Ukraine issue is a dispute between Russia and Ukraine. Some people emphasize the principle of sovereignty with regard to the Ukrainian issue, but such people continue to undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the Taiwan issue. This is a double standard.”
The root cause of the tension in Taiwan is that the DPP authorities in Taiwan do not recognize the “one-China” principle and are plotting to change the cross-strait, one-China status of Taiwan. They are distorting Taiwan’s history, dividing Taiwan’s roots, and burying Taiwan’s future in an attempt to create ‘two Chinas.
Some in the U.S. are manipulating Taiwan’s independent forces to check China’s rise, challenging and shaking the “one-China” principle. This is a serious violation of the basic rules of international relations and will not only destroy the stability of Taiwanese relations and put Taiwan in a dangerous situation, but will also have negative consequences for the United States.
The history of the two sides has the same source, the culture has the same root, and they belong to the same China. Taiwan’s hope for the future lies in the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and the realization of national reunification, and it should not rely on empty promises from outside (such as U.S. support). Any attempt to gain independence with foreign help is a dead end. Any attempt to conquer China with Taiwan will surely fail, and Taiwan will be embraced by the motherland in the end.
While nailing the comparison between the Ukraine and Taiwan issues, he seems to be saying that the US is behind both Ukraine and Taiwan.
But, of course, Ukraine and Taiwan are essentially different. The biggest difference is that Taiwan has never been territorially part of the People’s Republic of China, nor do they share any common cultural roots. If we classify them culturally and linguistically, Taiwan is an Austronesian-speaking region. Many Chinese immigrated from the mainland, but they have localized and developed their own identity. The Kuomintang government temporarily took executive control, but Taiwan regained power through democratic means and is now stable with a DPP government that has no connection to the mainland.
Therefore, the historical logic that Russia asserts against Ukraine cannot be applied to Taiwan as China. No matter how much China wants to shoulder Russia, it cannot approve the annexation of Crimea nor the independence of eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the theory of armed invasion of Taiwan is also being overshadowed in China. Late last year, Liu Yazhou, a military strategist and opponent of armed invasion of Taiwan, suddenly disappeared and is still missing. There is no doubt that there is a fierce conflict within the military and the party over the theory of armed unification of Taiwan, and it appears that China is suppressing public discussion of this topic until the party congress is held in a stable manner. At the party congress, Xi Jinping is expected to lay out an overarching policy that will provide a rationale for Taiwan’s unification, but Russia’s struggle in the war in Ukraine may give momentum to the anti-armed invasion camp.
If the argument for the unification of Taiwan by force is blocked, China will consider ways to force the U.S. to distance itself from Taiwan.
At a time when the war in Ukraine is bogged down and the international community is seriously worried that Russia might use nuclear weapons, if China were to take up the role of mediator, the international community might hang on to this.
In the past, the international community turned to the six-party talks chaired by China to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons. As it turns out, North Korea has nuclear weapons and the six-party talks were a failure, but if we recall that the six-party talks propelled China into a leading position in the international community and established the U.S.-China honeymoon period, the world may have similar expectations of China and give China a chance to take charge of international affairs. At that time, we should consider the possibility that, as a condition, distance on the Taiwan issue will be considered a stepping stone.
The Danger of Taking China’s Help
Let’s also look here at a reference to China’s international outlook. Wang Yi quotes the phrase “胸懐天下(Hold the world in your heart = think for the world),” which was also used in Xi Jinping’s historical resolution adopted at the Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) last year.
In the face of a world in turmoil and change, China represents stability and positive power throughout, and stands on the correct direction toward which history is heading. We will continue to bear the banner of peace, development, cooperation, and win-win, promote the construction of a new type of international relations, push forward the building of a community of human destiny, and gather all the forces of progress in the world for development and face the future together.
The root of the war in Ukraine is the issue of restructuring the security framework in Eastern Europe. If we ask China to mediate this issue, doesn’t that mean that we agree to board the big ship of Chinese-style globalism, the “Xi Jinping’s Community of Destiny for Humanity” model of international society based on the Chinese order?
We can only hope that peace will come to Ukraine as soon as possible. However, to ask for China’s help to do so may cost Taiwan, and above all, the international community as a whole is in danger of being forced to board the great ship of China’s tyrannical regime.