China sees Russian invasion as ‘strategic utility’, says former Australian PM
According to former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, China will welcome a protracted war in Ukraine as a “continuing strategic diversion” of its own assertion, and will exploit a distracted West to focus on its competition with the United States.
Western countries imposed economic sanctions on Russia and supplied arms to Ukraine after President Vladimir Putin invaded in February. China has refused to condemn Russia’s belligerence, drawing accusations that Beijing supported the invasion of Moscow.
Rudd, a Mandarin-speaker who cultivated Australia’s relationship with China during his tenure as prime minister between 2007 and 2010, said the importance of his ties to Moscow meant Beijing “would not stray from the Russia” under President Xi Jinping.
“Too many Chinese strategic interests depend on relations with Moscow, in relation to the stability of their own border with Russia; the fact that China does not want to focus on a Russian issue, but on the United States regionally and globally; and the fact that China sees Russia’s strategic utility as an ongoing strategic diversion for Americans, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe,” Rudd told the Financial Times in an interview.
“China sees Russia as a reliable long-term source of coal, gas, oil, grain and other raw materials.”
Rudd, who is a member of the opposition Labor Party, said Australia faced “a tough challenge with the rise of China” as it was the country’s biggest trading partner, accounting for more than a quarter bilateral trade, according to government figures. .
The deterioration in diplomatic relations has spilled over to trade in recent years, with China imposing informal taxes or bans on Australian coal, wine, beef and barley.
Rudd defended the Aukus security pact announced last year between the UK, US and Australia, saying the trilateral defense agreement, which was signed by the Liberal Party Prime Minister Scott Morrison, was a natural response to China’s growing military assertiveness.
“Let’s be clear: China has worked hard to increase military spending, investment in blue water capabilities, offensive weapons systems, expansion of its nuclear arsenal, a thousand new land-based nuclear silos, as well as testing of the hypersonic weapons,” Rudd said.
Richard McGregor, senior fellow at the Lowy Institute think tank, said he “largely” agreed with Rudd’s assessment of China’s view on Russia.
McGregor said the “limitless partnership” between Russia and China, announced in February, was “two decades in the making” and would not be “unraveled soon”.
“The Chinese system was squirming trying to formulate a response after the initial invasion [of Ukraine], but it’s pretty clear now that they’re right behind Russia,” McGregor said. “And the best indication is that all of the official propaganda is focused on blaming the United States.”
In his new book, The preventable warRudd argues that war between the United States and China is a growing possibility, but can be avoided through “managed strategic competition”.
This would involve setting clear geopolitical “red lines”, competing in “non-lethal” areas such as trade, foreign policy and ideology, and cooperating on issues such as climate change, public health and global financial stability.