Questions and concerns

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Questions and concerns

The author is a Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

“I understand your questions and concerns,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sept. 15 in response to Xi’s comments in their first meeting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. The Kremlin made the comments public. Putin said, “I highly appreciate China’s balanced position regarding the crisis in Ukraine.”

The United States thought that China expressed concerns about the Ukraine war. On Sept. 16, U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said Xi’s comment reflected the world’s concern about an aggression against the entire world.

On Sept. 9, Li Zhanshu — third in power in China and the chairman of the National People’s Congress — said in Moscow, “Russia has taken proper measures, and China understands.” There were no concerns about the invasion. As China follows “democratic centralism,” the first and third in power can hardly have different thoughts. If so, wasn’t Xi’s “questions and concerns” referring to Putin’s recent struggle? The smile Putin wore while vowing for “unlimited cooperation” in Beijing in February turned to desperation.

Professor Wu Guoguang of Victoria University in Canada, who is knowledgeable of China’s internal politics, saw through the discrepancy between the interests of a country and the interests of a leader early on. In the summer issue of the renowned journal China Leadership Monitor (CLM), the professor pointed out the close relationship between China and Russia based on personal ambitions.

U.S.-China Perception Monitor, a website which posted the claim that China should keep a distance from Russia’s war, is being operated by Liu Yawei, a senior advisor at the Carter Center. His older brother — Ret. Gen. Liu Yazho — is the son-in-law of former President Li Xiannian.

Recently, Cai Xia, a former professor at China’s Central Party School, mentioned general Liu Yazho in a contributed article to the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. Cai made it public that Liu had sent a letter calling for a revision of government policy to the top leadership in 2017. He said he was just following the party’s self-purification mechanism. Prof. Wu said that the general was questioned in detention late last year, suggesting the blocking of communication by the Chinese leadership.

On Sept. 17, the Financial Times dealt with the “questions and concerns” in its editorial. It warned that if Putin was faced with wider defeats in Ukraine, his follow-up decisions also would not be wise either, considering a series of miscalculations he has made so far. It will not be just Russia.
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