Ukraine is in crisis amid Russian meddling, and Putin is looking East as the West threatens more more sanctions.
Geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group explained how Beijing is making the most of the climate.
“[China is] the big winner from the Ukraine crisis — everybody wants to work with them,” Bremmer told Business Insider in an email. “I’d say not only are they ignoring U.S./E.U. sanctions, they’re actually taking advantage of them.”
And strategically, China is in a position to make aggressive moves against the interests of nearby countries that are not strong U.S. allies — much like Russia is doing in Ukraine.
“The U.S. has a treaty that directly commits the Americans to defend Japan in the case of an attack; that’s not the case with Vietnam. The U.S. isn’t as directly committed (the recent U.S.-Philippines announcement of tighter military cooperation notwithstanding), and China sees that they can push more militarily against non-U.S. allies (as the Russians have in Ukraine, for example) without much pushback. “
Bremmer noted that while tensions in the South China Sea are deepening, the U.S. has had some success: President Obama’s recent trip to Japan reaffirmed America’s strong presence in the region at a time when relations between Beijing and Tokyo are becoming more functional.
Obama accomplished this by emphasising American support for Tokyo and “diminishing the opportunity for China to drive a wedge between Japan and the U.S,” Bremmer said. “That’s what Obama needed to accomplish in Japan. I’d say the effort has been successful.”
Nevertheless, fundamental problems will remain. America’s indictment of five Chinese military hackers is the latest signal that relations will remain contentious as events evolve in Ukraine and the South China Sea.
“The biggest structural problem between the U.S. and China is that the two countries are at war with each other over cyber,” Bremmer told BI. “That’s ebbed greatly of late given the change in the Obama second term administration (away from the pivot) and the Snowden scandal making it harder for the U.S. to play offence on China publicly on cyber. But the confrontation is surely growing. And this is an indication.”
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