FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How Crimea Plays in Beijing

by PEPE ESCOBAR

“We are paying very close attention to the situation in Ukraine. We hope all parties can calmly maintain restraint to prevent the situation from further escalating and worsening. Political resolution and dialogue is the only way out.”

This, via Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong, is Beijing’s quite measured, official interpretation of what’s happening in Ukraine, tailored for global consumption.

But here, in a People’s Daily editorial, is what the leadership is really thinking. And the focus is clearly on the dangers of regime  change, the “West’s inability to understand the lessons of history”, and “the final battlefield of the Cold War.”

Yet again the West misinterpreted China’s abstention from the UN Security Council vote on a US-backed resolution condemning the Crimea referendum. The spin was that Russia – which vetoed the resolution – was “isolated”. It’s not. And the way Beijing plays geopolitics shows it’s not.

Oh, Samantha …

The herd of elephants in the (Ukraine) room, in terms of global opinion, is how the authentic “international community” – from the G-20 to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) – who has had enough of the Exceptionalist Hypocrisy Show, has fully understood, and even applauded, that at least one country on the planet has the balls to clearly say “F**k the US”. Russia under President Vladimir Putin may harbor quite a few distortions, just like any other nation. But this is not a dinner party; this is realpolitik. To face down the US Leviathan, nothing short of a bad ass such as Putin will suffice.

NATO – or shorthand for the Pentagon dominating European wimps – keeps issuing threats and spewing out “consequences”. What are they going to do – launch a barrage of ICBMs equipped with nuclear warheads against Moscow?

Furthermore, the UN Security Council itself is a joke, with US ambassador Samantha “Nothing Compares to You” Power – one of the mothers of R2P (“responsibility to protect”) – carping on “Russian aggression”, “Russian provocations” and comparing the Crimean referendum to a theft. Oh yes; bombing Iraq, bombing Libya and getting to the brink of bombing Syria were just innocent humanitarian gestures. Samantha The Humanitarian arguably gives a better performance invoking Sinead O’Connor in her shower.

Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin was polite enough to say, “these insults addressed to our country” are “unacceptable”. It’s what he added that carried the real juice; “If the delegation of the United States of America expects our cooperation in the Security Council on other issues, then Power must understand this quite clearly.”

Samantha The Humanitarian, as well as the whole bunch of juvenile bystanders in the Obama administration, won’t understand it. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov gave them a little help; Russia didn’t want to use the Iranian nuclear talks to “raise the stakes”, but if the US and the EU continue with their sanctions and threats, that’s what’s going to happen.

So the plot thickens – as in a closer and closer strategic partnership between Tehran and Moscow.

Secessionists of the world, unite?

Now imagine all this as seen from Beijing. No one knows what exactly goes on in the corridors of the Zhongnanhai, but it’s fair to argue there’s only an apparent contradiction between China’s key principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, and Russia’s intervention in Crimea.

Beijing has identified very clearly the sequence of affairs; long-running Western interference in Ukraine via NGOs and the State Department; regime change perpetrated with the help of fascists and neo-nazis; a pre-emptive Russian counterattack which can be read as a by-the-book Samantha The Humanitarian R2P operation (protecting Russians and Russian speakers from a second coup planned in Crimea, and thwarted by Russian intelligence.)

On top of it Beijing well knows how Crimea has been essentially Russian since 1783; how Crimea – as well as a great deal of Ukraine – fall smack into Russian civilization’s sphere of influence; and how Western interference directly threatened Russia’s national security interests (as Putin made it clear.) Now imagine a similar scenario in Tibet or Xinjiang. Long-running Western interference via NGOs and the CIA; a take over by Tibetans in Lhasa or Uighurs in Kashgar of the local administration. Beijing could easily use Samantha’s R2P in the name of protecting Han Chinese.

Yet Beijing (silently) agreeing to the Russian response to the coup in Kiev by getting Crimea back via a referendum and without a shot fired does not mean that “splittists” Tibet or Taiwan would be allowed to engage in the same route. Even as Tibet, more than Taiwan, would be able to build a strong historical case for seceding. Each case bears its own myriad complexities.

The Obama administration – like a blind Minotaur – is now lost in a labyrinth of pivots of its own making. A new Borges – that Buddha in a gray suit – is needed to tell the tale. First there was the pivoting to Asia-Pac – which is encircling of China under another name – as it’s well understood in Beijing.

Then came the pivoting to Persia – “if we are not going to war”, as that Cypher in Search of an Idea, John Kerry, put it. There was, of course, the martial pivoting to Syria, aborted at the last minute thanks to the good offices of Moscow diplomacy. And back to the pivoting to Russia, trampling the much-lauded “reset” and conceived as a payback for Syria.

Those who believe Beijing strategists have not carefully analyzed – and calculated a response – to all the implications of these overlapping pivots do deserve to join Samantha in the shower. Additionally, it’s easy to picture Chinese Think Tankland hardly repressing its glee in analyzing a hyperpower endlessly, helplessly pivoting over itself.

While the Western dogs bark …

Russia and China are strategic partners – at the G-20, at the BRICS club of emerging powers and at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Their number one objective, in these and other forums, is the emergence of a multipolar world; no bullying by the American Empire of Bases, a more balanced international financial system, no more petrodollar eminence, a basket of currencies, essentially a “win-win” approach to global economic development.

A multipolar world also implies, by definition, NATO out of Eurasia – which is from Washington’s point of view the number one reason to interfere in Ukraine. In Eurasian terms, it’s as if – being booted out of Afghanistan by a bunch of peasants with Kalashnikovs – NATO was pivoting back via Ukraine.

While Russia and China are key strategic partners in the energy sphere – Pipelineistan and beyond – they do overlap in their race to do deals across Central Asia. Beijing is building not only one but two New Silk Roads – across Southeast Asia and across Central Asia, involving pipelines, railways and fiber optic networks, and reaching as far as Istanbul, the getaway to Europe. Yet as far as Russia-China competition for markets go, all across Eurasia, it’s more under a “win-win” umbrella than a zero-sum game.

On Ukraine (“the last battlefield in the Cold War”) and specifically Crimea, the (unspoken) official position by Beijing is absolute neutrality (re: the UN vote). Yet the real deal is support to Moscow. But this could never be out in the open, because Beijing is not interested in antagonizing the West, unless heavily provoked (the pivoting becoming hardcore encirclement, for instance). Never forget; since Deng Xiaoping (“keep a low profile”) this is, and will continue to be, about China’s “peaceful rise”. Meanwhile, the Western dogs bark, and the Sino-Russian caravan passes.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).  His latest book is Empire of ChaosHe may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail