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In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Serhii Plokhy, author of The Russo-Ukrainian War, shed light on the implications of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and how it might influence China’s approach to Taiwan.
“First of all,” he said, “it is very clear that military operations like the one that Russia started against Ukraine can’t last forever and bring unpredictable results. It’s a very costly undertaking.”
The economic repercussions of warfare, as demonstrated by Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine, have raised alarms for China. Mr Plokhy pointed out that the ongoing war proved that military endeavours can be financially debilitating.
China’s leadership, cognisant of their nation’s current economic state, is wary of embarking on such costly endeavours.
The second crucial factor discussed by Mr Plokhy pertained to China’s diplomatic relationships. He noted that China values its cooperation with Europe and the United States due to their extreme importance to the Chinese economy, be it for development, expansion, or maintaining the status quo. Escalating a war in Taiwan would inevitably strain these vital relationships, making it a high-risk move for China.
He said: “On China’s possibility of invading Taiwan, I think that this war made that possibility much less likely than it was before then starting of the war.
“The war showed that China is really, especially given its current state of economy, trying to support Russia without really burning bridges with Europe and the United States of America because cooperation with those countries are extremely important for the Chinese economy, either developing and extending, or at least staying at the level where it is.
“So I think that with this current war and the way it is going because of the Ukrainian resistance, the chances of China anytime soon invading Taiwan became significantly, significantly less.”
However, Mr Plokhy also highlighted another aspect in the ongoing war that is beneficial for China, albeit indirectly. He said: “China certainly is benefiting from this war in the sense that the alliance between China and Russia is strengthened, especially when Russia is the weaker partner. This also helps China to buy Russian resources, like oil and gas, at discounted prices.”
The geopolitical optics surrounding the conflict in Ukraine also pose a dilemma for China. “Russia was portrayed as the aggressor all over the world,” Mr Plokhy said, “and China was closely linked to that aggression, especially the aggression that didn’t go well.”
This image of being associated with an aggressor is something China would want to avoid, given its interest in maintaining global diplomatic and economic relationships.
The Russo-Ukrainian War by Serhii Plokhy, published by Penguin Books, is on sale now.
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