Under Biden’s Watch, China Supplants US as Global Peacemaker - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Under Biden’s Watch, China Supplants US as Global Peacemaker
President Xi Jinping (Gil Corzo/Shutterstock)

Will the war in Ukraine end with a treaty signed in Beijing? Russia says that China’s proposed peace plan for Ukraine could be a framework for settling the conflict. President Joe Biden is reportedly willing to encourage China to help bring an end to the war. Some commentators have proposed joint AmericanChinese mediation for a grand “great power peace plan.”

But President Xi Jinping might ask Biden, “Who needs you?”

Communist China is increasingly taking a leading role in global diplomacy. We saw this last month with the surprise normalization deal between Mideast archrivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. The surprise was multifaceted first, that Riyadh and Tehran made a deal at all; second, that the United States was uninvolved and seemingly uninformed; and third, that Beijing brokered the deal.

This was not a customary role for the People’s Republic of China, but it signaled a new phase in Chinese diplomacy. Beijing is entering the peace business in ways that used to be the province of the “indispensable nation,” the term coined during the Clinton administration when we seemed to crossing the bridge to another “American century.” Now it seems that the United States is optional, if not exactly dispensable.

China took the lead in recent global debt relief talks appropriate since Beijing is one the world’s largest creditor nations and has practiced debt-trap diplomacy in the developing world. The readout from the Global Sovereign Debt Roundtable was that China was committed to implementing a common framework for debt relief on Beijing’s terms, of course. Yet the debtor countries seem to be OK with that. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers noted that an attendee from the developing world told him, “What we get from China is an airport. What we get from the United States is a lecture.”

China also sent Foreign Minister Qin Gang to the Fourth Ministerial Meeting of the Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan in Uzbekistan, which included Taliban representatives. Beijing played the good global citizen by encouraging the Taliban to adopt “moderate, prudent, and inclusive policies” and being ready to “help Afghanistan embark on a path of stability and development.” For his part, the less-inclusive Taliban chief Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada promised Allah “that so long as [he is] alive, not a single law of infidelity will find a place in Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, China and Brazil have concluded an agreement to have bilateral trade in their own currencies, abandoning the U.S. dollar as the medium of exchange. At a state visit in Beijing, Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva called for a “new geopolitics to change world governance” to be achieved with China’s help. This echoes President Xi Jinping’s statement that a “new world order is now under construction that will surpass and supplant the [1648] Westphalian System.” (RELATED: The Great Illusion of 2023)

The Biden administration seems unaware of the significant decline of American influence. For example, the White House claimed that America’s “standing around the world is significantly greater” since and because of the disastrous pullout from Afghanistan in August 2021. Even the Washington Post was skeptical about that claim. And while it is true that U.S. leadership in the Ukraine crisis has been better than expected, handing China the central role in the peace process would be a diplomatic disaster.

However, that may not be our call. China has cannily positioned itself as neutral in the conflict. Yes, Beijing and Moscow have reiterated the “unlimited possibilities” of their partnership, and China has enabled Russia by buying up oil, giving nonlethal aid, and providing diplomatic cover. But unlike the United States, China can claim to be removed from the war itself by not providing arms. Hence, it can act as a trusted peace broker unlike the United States, which clearly backs one side.

Even Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is interested in China’s peace plan, which he is discussing with French President Emmanuel Macron as an intermediary. And to further drive a wedge into the Atlantic alliance, China has said that relations with the EU can be as unlimited as with Russia.

So while some on the American side may envision Washington playing a necessary role in whatever peace plan is to come, Beijing has set itself up as the ultimate arbiter a country with influence in Moscow and Kyiv, with warming relations in Europe, and with no dog in the fight. It can portray the United States as a spoiler a role that Moscow is already promoting by saying that Washington started the war and wants it to continue. And any roadblocks to a peace deal will be laid at the Biden administration’s feet.

Should China successfully broker peace in Ukraine, it will mark Beijing’s emergence on the world diplomatic stage in a way similar to when President Theodore Roosevelt negotiated the Portsmouth Peace Treaty that ended the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. Two years later, Roosevelt dispatched the famous “Great White Fleet” on a global voyage to demonstrate emerging U.S. naval power projection capabilities, thus sending the world a message that the Americans had arrived. If Beijing is allowed to play the central role in making peace in Ukraine, perhaps Xi will follow it up by sending a carrier task force to a port call in Havana. That will make China’s point better than a spy balloon.

James S. Robbins is Dean of Academics at the Institute of World Politics and author of Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past.

READ MORE by James S. Robbins: 

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