Something has changed between Putin and Xi: in seven months the prices in Moscow have been devalued

The Samarkand Summit will not go down in history for a divorce between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin. At least as long as it comes to a united front against the West, the alliance between China and Russia holds. In their reports for the balance changes and the tension signals increase. In the official reports of the summit in Uzbekistan the Chinese leader never mentioned the war in Ukraine, to avoid having his fingerprints on a possible Russian retreat as well. Xi forced Putin to act as his spokesperson in revealing that they exist Chinese concerns about that war.

Beijing extorts cheap energy supplies from Moscow (the Chinese are tough negotiators, admits Putin) but these economic advantages do not compensate for all the damage of a world economic situation that penalizes the People’s Republic. American sources confirm that so far Xi allegedly denied war supplies to the Russian army in Ukraineto prevent large Chinese companies from ending up in the crosshairs of Western sanctions.

How different was the summit of 4 February at the Games. The last time the two met, Putin must have provided a triumphalist version of his military strength and his ability to revenge on the European theater. The last seven months have devalued its prices. For there is an ideological glue that resists between the two leaders and ideologies can be at least as powerful as material interests. Xi maintains the narrative that the war in Ukraine is the fault of NATO; he sees an international order to be overthrown as it is dominated by America; he views the West as a civilization in irreversible decline. By proclaiming this vision, Xi has poisoned his relationship with the United States but also with the European Union: the latest Brussels sanctions on human rights abuses are a further signal. Frost with the West is one of the many headwinds that Xi faces, along with a struggling economy and the high costs of his stubborn Covid rigidity.

The Chinese president is convinced that his hostility towards the West will not have serious repercussions because we are unable to free ourselves from our dependence on Made in China. For now, this certainty receives partial support from the data. There is an outflow of Western capital from China, due to the re-localization of productive activities they are still modest and reward Western countries only to a small extent. Apple moves some productions, very few for now, from China to Vietnam. In semiconductors, a reindustrialisation of America has begun, financed by generous public subsidies. 2022 will close with a return to the United States of 350,000 jobs from abroad, a still tiny fraction of the many millions of jobs that had been relocated to China in thirty years of globalization. Xi confirms that we cannot do without himwhatever affront he inflicts on us.

Can Beijing still come out on top? His geopolitical bet includes several scenarios. Putin’s victory in Ukraine was the most favorable to accelerate the West’s downsizing. However, a partial defeat of Putin will have “diverted” US military resources and strategic attention to Europe; moreover, an impoverished Russia will be condemned to the role of a Chinese colony. Beijing hopes to play it well against the world of non-aligned people. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization – the one that organized the Samarkand summit – is a heterogeneous jumble: India and Pakistan are also part of it, and they are fierce adversaries among themselves; and New Delhi has a heated rivalry with China. Due to a weakening of Russian influence in Central Asia, Chinese penetration accelerates, thanks to those investments in infrastructures (Belt and Road or New Silk Roads) that the West does not even try to counter with its alternative proposal. A lucid analysis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has a lot to teach us. On the one hand, there is a vast world, even a majority one, which has decided not to join our sanctions against Moscow. On the other hand inside the maps of the “non-aligned” there are several countries that have however condemned the aggression against the sovereign state of Ukraine.

There are areas of the world in the balance, where the respective influences of China and Russia can be countered, if we want it and if we put in place the means to do so.

The Ukrainian tragedy should cure us of the naivety about the omnipotence and infallibility of the autocrats. They too are wrong, at least as much as the rulers of democracies. With the aggravating circumstance that illiberal political systems do not have internal mechanisms for balancing, reporting and correcting errors.

A former teacher at the training school of Chinese Communist leaders, Cai Xia, who now lives in exile in the United States, writes in Foreign Affairs magazine.. The professor who trained the Communist cadres describes Xi as a failed leader, who accumulates bad choices, and at the same time not forced to acknowledge his mistakes because he eliminated all internal rivals using the methods of a mafia boss.

Regarding Putin and Xi’s bet on the irreversible decline of the West, an important test is fast approaching. Winter will be crucial to understand if we have the temper to resist the energetic blackmail. In the 1970s the European economies – much less rich than the current ones – emerged from the first energy shocks bruised, but without irreparable damage. Today as then, a mix of saving measures, diversification of sources, technological innovation and transition to new energy models, should yield similar results. After the turning point of winter, 2023 will be able to offer the panorama of a Europe on the way to “detoxification” from its dependence on Russian oil and gas. Nothing is as successful as success, the principle is also true in reverse. A weakened Putin would, among other things, be forced to pay an ever higher price for the conditional support of his friend Xi.

September 17, 2022, 12:26 pm – change September 17, 2022 | 12:26

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Something has changed between Putin and Xi: in seven months the prices in Moscow have been devalued

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