What Beijing’s response to the Wagner rebellion says about Sino-Russian relations

as mercenaries Moscow overpowered On June 24, 2023, perhaps only Russian President Vladimir Putin and his ruling class in Russia are not watching with concern. In China too, there must have been some worried faces.

during the war in Ukraine, Beijing has did a balancing act kind of — standing with Putin as an ally and providing a Economic lifeline for Russia Efforts are being made to protect China from the possibility of any instability in the neighboring country. A coup in Russia would reverse this careful diplomatic dance and provide Beijing with a new headache.

Joseph Torrigian, A China and Russia experts at American UniversityThe conversation details how Beijing has responded to a chaotic 24 hours in which mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin challenged the Kremlin – and why it matters.

Do we have any clue about how Beijing viewed the events?

It will be hard to guess what Beijing really thinks, especially since this too little to be an official comment, Russians understand that the Chinese media – like their media – are strictly controlled, Historically, Russians have been very concerned about how they are portrayed in the Chinese press. Thus, China will be careful about what is printed so that Chinese officials are not tipped off to Russian diplomats.

However, the real signs of concern may be coming out of Beijing. one in Tweet that was later deletedPolitical commentator Hu Xijin wrote: “[Progozhin’s] The armed insurrection has brought the Russian political situation to a turning point. Whatever may be the result, Russia can no longer return to the country it was before the uprising.” Similarly, China Daily – a publication run by the Central Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party – quoted two Chinese scholars concerned in its reporting On the Wagner Group Case.

Such remarks could be a subtle way for Beijing to suggest to Moscow that it needs to put its house in order. The views may also serve as a reminder to the outside world that China and Russia are distinct political systems, and Beijing will not always keep pace with Moscow.

At the same time, the Chinese government would be at pains not to lend any support to the narrative that Beijing is concerned about a strategic partnership. China’s official newspaper Global Times has already done this Western media’s reporting rejected China’s “bet” on Putin was a mistake. Such claims will be projected in China as a conspiracy to harm Sino-Russian relations.

So will the Wagner episode affect China’s support for Putin?

The Chinese government probably believes that Putin is still Russia’s best chance for stability and that supporting him is its cornerstone. Bilateral Relations, Some Chinese commentators have said that Putin emerged victorious early, and that little blood was shed. They may be right – although there is rebellion widely seen as an embarrassmentThis is also believed by many observers in the West. Putin will survive the crisis,

on the Russian side, given Importance of China to them During the war in Ukraine, officials in Moscow would expect the People’s Republic of China to clearly express support for Putin. During the last moments of intimacy in the relationship, such help was expected and valued. In 1957, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev narrowly beat one puttHe was so grateful that the Chinese blessed him with victory promised to give them nuclear weapons,

The question is how Beijing would react if the rebellion escalated. History shows that the Chinese may be tempted to intervene, but also that they understand the challenges facing any such action.

For example, during 1991 Coup attempt by Soviet radicals Against then President Mikhail Gorbachev, some leadership in Beijing considered providing economic aid. Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, a longtime Soviet skeptic, scrapped those initial plans and the coup failed.

What lessons might the Chinese have taken from their system?

It is difficult to say how what happens in Russia has historically shaped the way China thinks about its country.

Birth of the Chinese Communist Party, cultural revolutioneconomic reforms ofreform and opening up program Since the late 1970s, policy towards ethnic minorities – all this and much more shaped Some people in China thought that the Russians were doing right or wrong.

But many in China may wonder how much they have in common with Russia today. Presidents Putin and Xi Jinping certainly have a coterie of conservatives, Western-sceptics and statists.alternate parallels, but Xi’s war on corruption and the Chinese Communist Party”bow on gunAs Chairman Mao said, it means genuine differences.

The Chinese would probably be proud of their system, where such a rebellion is hard to imagine, but they would still be careful to avoid shouting about it.Conversation

Joseph TorrigianAssistant Professor of International Service, American University School of International Service

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