fredag 11. mars 2022

Ian Johnson: What keeps China from stopping Russia's war

The war in Ukraine has prompted renewed appeals for China to get involved in an international crisis, with commentators discussing how the country is well-placed to negotiate an end to the fighting. Politicians have taken up the call too: the Ukrainian foreign minister reportedly asked China to get involved, while on Tuesday European leaders video-called Chinese leader Xi Jinping in an effort to keep him in the loop.

These ideas all make good sense -- but are likely to fail. That's because China, far from being able to act decisively on the world stage, suffers from a chronic leadership void that leaves it paralyzed to act in the face of global crises.

When the war started nearly two weeks ago, China's response was mind-numbingly predictable: the West is to blame, sanctions are counterproductive, and "all sides" should use restraint (as if this were a quarrel among equals and both sides were to blame). At first, it was possible to see China as simply caught in a dilemma -- forced to mouth platitudes because it was shocked at Russia's behavior but unwilling to criticize its closest friend.