While all eyes are on Russia and Ukraine, China has quickly used the situation. Taiwan said nine Chinese aircraft had entered its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) a few hours after Russia’s invasion began. China’s People’s Liberation Army has recently upped both the frequency and quantity of fighter planes it sends near Taiwan’s ADIZ.
Moreover, China’s action in Taiwan serves several aims. One is to avoid any international comparisons between Taiwan and Ukraine. While the rest of the world is watching the carnage in Ukraine, Beijing wants to warn the Taiwanese that they may be next. The PLA’s display of power was also intended to scare Taiwanese citizens and their government.
Before Russia attacked Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged their cooperation ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics. They declared the establishment of a new multipolar world order in which Russia and China stand unified against the United States. Aside from threatening Taiwan, China soon lent economic assistance to Putin’s assault.
China has abolished all restrictions on Russian wheat imports, providing some respite to the Russian economy in Western sanctions. Exports of agricultural products are essential to Russia’s economy and the country is the world’s top wheat exporter. Due to environmental pollution, rising demand from a growing population and supply chain disruptions caused by Beijing’s “zero COVID-19” regulations. Russia’s exports will aid Beijing in addressing food security.
Russia increasingly depends on China’s alternative banking and capital market infrastructures through the Chinese currency-based payment system. According to the South China Morning Post, about 17.5 percent of commerce between China and Russia would be paid in yuan in 2020, a significant rise from 3.1 percent in 2014. China has pushed foreign governments to settle commerce in yuan and international corporations to issue yuan-denominated debt in China’s financial markets.
Furthermore, Xi Jinping sees Russia as a crucial pawn in his quest to accomplish his vision for China, not as an equal partner. He wants China to be the sole superpower in a new international order focused on China and sympathetic to autocracies. Xi uses China’s economic might to back Putin, relying on the Russian military to keep the West at bay. So far, the Biden administration has failed to comprehend China’s geopolitical calculus.