Conflict with the US: China has a Putin problem

Fighter jets over Taiwan, a balloon over the United States: China is fueling fears of war between the superpowers. That also has something to do with Putin.

It was over with a bang. A fighter jet shot at a white balloon, debris then fell into the sea. The US believes it was a Chinese spy balloon that was first sighted over the US state of Montana on February 2 and then destroyed off the coast of South Carolina. The balloon slowly drifted over large parts of the USA, visible to many Americans with the naked eye and accompanied by barrage from parts of US politics.

The result: a new peak in the diplomatic ice age between Beijing and Washington.

White balloon from China: footage shows it being launched in US airspace. (What: t-online)

The destroyed balloon from China is a symbol of the new global bloc formation. With his invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin has rapidly accelerated the power struggle between the USA and China. For our world, this means above all: more distrust, more rearmament – ​​and an increased risk of war.

Olympic alliance is stable

But how did it even come to this? To answer this question, it is worth taking a look back: February 4, 2022, the starting signal for the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Hardly any Western head of state is present, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is also boycotting the opening ceremony. Instead, on the stands of the National Stadium: Vladimir Putin.

At that point, the Kremlin chief had already deployed around 100,000 soldiers to the Ukrainian border. But not only with this knowledge, the scene of Putin and Xi watching the Olympic celebrations in an almost empty stadium seems frightening from today’s perspective.

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Putin will attend the Winter Olympics in China in February 2022. (Quelle: Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin Pool via

On the same day, China and Russia announce a strategic partnership, a friendship “without limits”. Not only do Xi and Putin share an authoritarian style of government, they both want a new world order. In Beijing, both signed a strategy paper that outlined the guidelines for a common security policy in an aggressive tone. In the paper, China and Russia declare war on the democratic West, NATO and the US-dominated world order.

20 days later, on February 24, Putin gives the order to attack and Russia’s attack on Ukraine begins. Looking back over both days, one can assume that Beijing may have suspected something – but Putin is unlikely to have informed Xi of all his plans.

China didn’t want the Ukraine war

Because the Ukraine war was not in China’s interest. The Kremlin completely miscalculated with its invasion – and since then Xi has had a Putin problem too.

After the outbreak of war, nothing happened in Beijing at first. At least there was no official reaction from the Chinese leadership to the Russian invasion for days. Possibly there was hope in China – as perhaps promised by Putin – that the conflict would soon be over. A fallacy.

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin in September last year: how much trust do we really have in each other?Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin in September last year: how much trust do we really have in each other?
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin in September last year: how much trust do we really have in each other? (Quelle: Alexander Demianchuk/imago images)

For Xi, the Ukraine war has changed a lot since then, and the consequences were also serious for China: 30 percent of Chinese grain imports came from Ukraine. Beijing has invested a lot of money in Ukraine, as part of the “New Silk Road” Ukraine is a key trade route to Europe. This route transported $75 trillion worth of cargo in 2021.

The war initially appeared to be a political ordeal for China, but as the conflict progressed, Chinese propaganda increasingly shifted to Russia’s position: NATO was to blame for the escalation in Ukraine, and Russia was allegedly being cornered. That is the Chinese position to this day.

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