What is China Learning from Ukraine?
The ripple effect of the United States’ disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan will continue for years to come. Afghanistan demonstrated a lack of resolve in terms of foreign policy and a willingness to cut and run in the face of mildly difficult prospects. This new “Biden Doctrine” showed that Americans were willing to create a power vacuum, one that will have repercussions long term for us and the rest of the world, simply to say, “It’s over.”
It clearly signaled to Russia that there would be posturing and some economic chaos if it tried to seize Ukraine, but little else. China, so far, has sat back and observed and will even profit from the events in Europe with its new partner, Russia. Putin’s claim on Ukraine has a close parallel to the claims China has leveled in regard to Taiwan for decades. There can be little doubt that Beijing is processing the global response and using it as a template to resolve its long-standing claims on Taiwan. The Chinese are a reflective people, they observe and make calculated decisions. Remember, Sun Tzu was Chinese.
As such, it is important to understand what China has learned from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine thus far.
Lesson 1: Any military buildup needs to be done in secret or done quickly so as to limit pre-war sanctions. If the world sees you preparing for an invasion, it will take action against you. As such, you need to be swift or secretive in your staging for any operation.
Lesson 2: Any military action needs to be fast and decisive. The longer there is resistance, the more sympathetic people are to the victims of war. There can be little doubt that the mainstream media will portray the people of Taiwan as gallant freedom fighters if matters drag on for even a few weeks. Overall, the court of public opinion means little long term. Having people around the globe develop emotional attachments to the people you are conquering is not helpful and may result in greater sanctions in the short term. While sympathy and support for the Ukrainians is at an all-time high, that moral indignation that the mainstream media has packaged for us does not alter the military realities on the ground. Thus, victory must be swift.
Lesson 3: Do not let your enemy have a charismatic figure who can rally the resistance and global support. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has already cemented himself as Time’s Person of the Year with his defiance and refusal to capitulate. He has given the Ukrainians a face and voice on the world stage where six months ago the typical American couldn’t have found the country on a map. For China, such an enemy cannot be allowed.
Lesson 4: When pressed, the world powers will send arms, but not put feet on the ground. President Putin has rattled his saber often in the conflict; putting his nuclear forces on alert and issuing harsh warnings. While despicable, it worked. As with Czechoslovakia in 1968, no nation sent ground forces in to protect Ukraine out of fear of a broader conflict. There can be little doubt that China will take this lesson to heart if/when it moves against Taiwan.
Lesson 5: Sanctions can be weathered if you have a big ally. President Biden has inadvertently pushed two of our rivals into an alliance -- Russia and China. While China will not be able to mitigate all the sanctions thrown at Russia, it will reduce the impact. Likewise, there can be little doubt that China will rely on Russia to assist them when sanctions are thrown at them for moving on Taiwan. I can only assume that this creation of a new power bloc must be the “Build” part of “Build Back Better.”
Lesson 6: The leadership of the United States will take actions that hurt its own people. We have leveled sanctions many times in our history. This was one of rare times that the impact came back at us so quickly in the form of gas prices. Moreover, those impacts will have a ripple effect on our economy adding to our inflationary woes. It is a cautionary warning to China that the American leadership will inflict pain on its own people to make a point on the world stage.
Lesson 8: The United States is no longer the leader of the free world. We are not leading, but simply a member of the pack at this point.
What will China do with these lessons? That remains to be seen. For now, pray for the good people of Taiwan. Their enemy is getting free tutorials on nation-grabbing.
Blaine L. Pardoe is the author of Blue Dawn: The most chilling "what-if" in history...the progressive overthrow of the United States. Pardoe is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author who lives in Virginia. He is the author of numerous science fiction, military history, true crime, horror, and business leadership books.
Image: Wellcome Collection