China, the ‘arc of autocracy’ and peace in Ukraine

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison calls out Beijing as ‘close ally’ Russia continues to wage its illegal war

China must prove it is a “major power” by reining in close ally Russia and its illegal war against Ukraine.

In a far-reaching speech, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Beijing to demonstrate its commitment to “global peace” at a “hinge point in history.”

He also warned that the world was in danger of being reshaped by an “arc of autocracy” during a keynote foreign policy address to the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

“China has long claimed to have a role as one of the major powers in the world and to be a contributor to global peace and stability,” Morrison said.

“No country will have a bigger impact on concluding this terrible war in Ukraine than China,” he added.

Hours later, Morrison received a response to his Lowy speech.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi praised Beijing’s relationship with Moscow, describing it as “rock solid,” while pledging humanitarian aid to Kyiv.

“No matter how sinister the international situation is, both China and Russia will maintain their strategic determination and continuously push forward the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in the new era,” he told a media briefing on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress in Beijing.

Reading between the battle lines:

  • China’s President Xi Jinping has referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as his “best friend.”
  • The pair agreed on a “no limits” pact on the eve of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing last month.
  • Since then, reports have surfaced that Chinese senior officials knew about Russia’s plans to invade Ukraine.
  • Even after Putin’s attack on the Eastern European democracy, Beijing has refused to condemn Moscow.
  • Instead, they have pointed the finger at the United States, the European Union, and NATO allies.
  • Yet this double-speak fails to address China’s number one foreign policy goal that all nations should respect the ”sovereignty and territorial integrity” of other countries.
  • Russia’s terror campaign in Ukraine has broken Beijing’s golden rule.

There is no alternative … it must be China, I am sure of that.

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s top diplomat

Chilling silence: “I was listening for the voice of the Chinese government when it came to condemning the actions of Russia and there was a chilling silence,” Morrison said in his address.

Echo chamber: His comments are in line with statements from Josep Borrell, the head of foreign policy for the EU.

Time to act: “There is no alternative … it must be China, I am sure of that. Since it [is a major] power and neither the US nor Europe can be [mediators], China could be,” Borrell said at the weekend, referring to Beijing’s close relationship with Moscow.

Blame game: China’s foreign policy credentials are in tatters after first refusing to acknowledge Russia’s aggression against a “sovereign nation” and then blaming the US and its allies for Putin’s war.

Alternative view: “Washington’s attempts to rally nations with its call to uphold ‘freedom, self-determination, and sovereignty’ is just pious claptrap,” state-run China Daily stated in an editorial.

Humanitarian crisis: “As ever, Washington’s intransigent insistence on playing its profit-seeking games has resulted in a humanitarian crisis and broader suffering from the extended shock waves of its actions,” China’s leading English-language newspaper stressed.

China Factor comment: State-run media has been spouting this sort of “claptrap” since the start of Russia’s invasion 12 days ago. It firmly shows that Morrison’s “arc of autocracy” is rapidly becoming a reality.