Will China and Russia Reap the Rewards of Global Chaos?

To counter Xi and his junior partner in Moscow, the West needs to double down on the fight for freedom.

“With the Middle East embroiled in its worst conflict in decades and Russia’s war on Ukraine continuing, Chinese president Xi Jinping is confidently asserting his role as the leader of a new authoritarian bloc. This was on full display in Beijing earlier this week, when leaders from more than 130 countries convened to celebrate ten years of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the investment and infrastructure program central to Xi’s global influence campaign. Among the guests of honor? Vladimir Putin, in his first trip to China after launching his brutal invasion of Ukraine.

The fact that Xi would accord a place of honor to Putin signals far more than the Chinese dictator’s questionable commitment to world peace: It shows Russia’s full acceptance of its place as a junior partner in a new 21st century authoritarian alignment committed to destabilizing and degrading democracy around the world. With the world facing crises on multiple fronts in conflicts fomented by authoritarian regimes, the U.S. and its partners must take urgent steps to combat the grave threat posed to global security — and to freedom itself.

“Given the steady stream of grim economic news coming out of China, this might seem like a strange argument. Surely the breakdown in the PRC’s debt-driven economic model would put a damper on Xi’s global ambitions? If that’s the case, Xi has yet to receive the memo. We would do well to remember that this is not the first time the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has navigated choppy economic waters. Meanwhile, Beijing has tweaked the BRI to be far less reliant on expensive, big-ticket infrastructure projects, and the CCP has shown no sign of giving up on its hegemonic ambitions. What’s more, the promised decoupling of China from Western economies — even where sensitive dual-use technologies are concerned — has barely kicked into gear.

“Putin’s genuflection to Xi before a host of visiting dignitaries signals China’s remarkable diplomatic success in preserving, and even advancing, its vision of a Beijing-centric global order, despite the headwinds of a slowing economy and European anger at Xi’s ongoing support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. The number of leaders in attendance at the forum proves that, even if Beijing is no longer writing huge checks for infrastructure, the offers of trade, training, and technology at the center of the new, stripped-down BRI still have significant drawing power. …”

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