Amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there are increasing calls for China to intervene based on the view that China is the only country that can stop Putin’s aggression. This view is gaining popularity and thus needs to be seriously evaluated. Before I do that, I want to clarify how I use the term “China”: it refers to the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), or the party leader Xi Jinping.
First, let’s review a few facts:
These facts should be enough to conclude that believing China will intervene is a pipe dream. But empirical evidence is not enough to understand the Chinese Communist Party. We must go into the most fundamental reasons why China will not intervene.
The two most important principles of the CCP are political ideology and economic interest.
Ideologically, the CCP worships political power and military force. As the CCP’s founder, Mao Zedong (1893–1976), put it, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” For the CCP, there is no right or wrong but power and force. Thus, ideologically, the CCP stands firmly with dictators such as Putin.
For the CCP, political ideology always trumps economic interest.
Economically, the CCP is practical and pro-business. The party is very good at grabbing resources and using money as a weapon to influence the elites of the world. This is why it prefers stability. In his annual speech to the National People’s Congress a few days ago, Premier Li Keqiang mentioned “stability” 81 times.
Thus, economically, China may have some incentive to end the Russia–Ukraine conflict because wars cause instability and hurt the economic activities of the world, including China. And this seems to be the argument made by the pro-China camp, either naively or deceitfully. But either way, this view is wrong.
For the CCP, political ideology always trumps economic interest. The reason is simple: maintaining its absolute rule by force is the most important — and the only — goal. Why does the CCP care about economic benefit if it no longer rules? This sounds familiar. Putin said, “Why do we need a world if Russia is not in it?” Of course, his “Russia” is his Russia.
The overriding political ideology dictates that China — the CCP and Xi Jinping — stands shoulder to shoulder with Putin and therefore will never oppose the latter’s aggression.
If the above analysis is not enough to convince the well-intentioned people in the democracies, we can look further at what the CCP has done beyond the Russian invasion:
All these show that CCP is a brutal political and military machine that does not hesitate to use force to achieve its goal.
Compared with the political system of Russia, the CCP is categorically more dictatorial and powerful. As Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) put it, we are “50 times more vulnerable to China than we ever have been to Russia.” (READ MORE: Ukraine: China to the Rescue?)
But the CCP is also opportunistic and deceitful. It has many faces; it tells Putin that it is firmly behind his invasion, sends some humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and at the same time tells the U.S. that “sound China-US relations bring benefits to both countries and beyond.” It also mobilizes the world’s elites on its payroll to sing along that “only China can stop Russia and save the world.”
The democratic countries have fallen to these tricks many times, just like the trusting Charlie Brown always believes that he will kick the football held by Lucy this time.
It is time we quit wishful thinking and stop being fooled by China, again.
Shaomin Li is a professor of international business at Old Dominion University. His most recent book on this topic, The Rise of China, Inc.: How the Chinese Communist Party Transformed China into a Giant Corporation, is published by Cambridge University Press.