Guess who the other big loser is from Russia's Ukraine invasion...

One year after Vladimir Putin started his Ukraine invasion, Russia is falling deeper and deeper into the hole that its president has been digging hard.

But the number one loser is not Russia.  It's China. 

China's decision to support Russia instead of the West in this war is as great a failure as Russia's invasion itself.

To start with the logic of it, China has been betting on great gains from the war.

China's ambition here is way greater and more complex than Putin's simple and straightforward territorial demand.

The most sought-after reward for China as it sides with Russia is the notion that a Russian victory would pave the road for China to annex Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China has viewed as a breakaway territory.

So far, the uncertainty of the international response to a military invasion of a sovereign state has deterred China's military aggression against Taiwan.  Russia's invasion provided China with a much-needed opportunity to observe and study the international reactions and the rationale behind them, and to assess its own ability to survive the international condemnation should it decided to follow Russia's example and attack Taiwan.

At a minimum, China had hoped that the war in Ukraine would distract international attention from the Taiwan Strait.

But things have not turned out the way China had hoped.

Not only are Russia's Ukraine objectives all but dashed, but Ukraine's suffering has awakened the world to the issue of Taiwan, and the potential for it being China's Ukraine if Putin is allowed to get away with his invasion, and if the international community continues to tolerate China's bullying tactics against Taiwan.

More countries have stood with Taiwan since the Ukraine invasion, and now the U.S. is shifting its strategic ambiguity to strategic clarity in terms of defending Taiwan against China's military attack, a stance affirmed by President Biden on at least three occasions.

China's next Taiwan advance, premised on Russia's success in Ukraine, has fallen flat.

China also failed in its attempt to advance in currency dominance in the global financial system.

In 2015, China launched its Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) to promote yuan-denominated international transactions.  In the sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, China saw a great opportunity to replace the dollar-denominated SWIFT system for international payments with its CIPS system in areas affected by these sanctions.

One year later, China's CIPS still stands where it was before the invasion.  China's friendliest trading partners (Saudi Arabia, for instance) still choose SWIFT over CIPS in the lion's share of their trade with China.

In this regard, China scored a big disappointment.

China did not fare well in global trade, either.  China had viewed the Russian sanctions as a golden opportunity to unload its mounting inventory, a result of over-production amid declining overseas demand.

Although China's exports to Russia indeed increased since the Ukraine war, the war has disrupted the China-Europe supply chain so badly that China has lost a big chunk of its Europe orders to Eastern European countries such as Poland and Romania.

This loss alone is several orders of magnitudes greater than China's gains from exports to Russia. Moreover, China's heavily invested Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI) has started to face strong resistance due to China's predatory investment schemes and deteriorating relations with host countries.  China's busiest port, Shanghai, is now choked with countless empty containers.

While many nations (e.g., India) are taking advantage of the price cap imposed by the West on Russia's crude oil export to replenish their energy inventory, China, the largest energy consumer and importer in the world, has been stuck with much higher purchase prices it signed with Russia before and around the time of Ukraine invasion.

China registered big setbacks in global trade.

China has also suffered severe damage to its international reputation since the war started.  Although China has repeatedly called for peace between Ukraine and Russia, and even proposed a 12-point peace plan on the eve of one-year anniversary of the war, China's sincerity and credibility as a peace broker have been questioned.  "China doesn't have much credibility because they have not been able to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine," NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said in responding to China's proposal.

China's failure to condemn Russia's aggression toward Ukraine has raised suspicions in the international community that China is a supporter, or even an accomplice, of Putin in his war on Ukraine.  This suspicion was backed up by the latest news reports that China has been secretly sending military support to Russia before and during the Ukraine invasion.

Now, not only has China completely lost its already shaky credibility in the international community, but it could face harsh sanctions for violating the Russia embargo triggered by its invasion of Ukraine.

Last but not least, China is not faring well domestically with the ongoing zealous nationalist sentiment it has attempted to whip up among its people.

From the first second of the war, China's media had been on Russia's side and predicted an instant Russian victory.  China has viewed its armed forces as the third-strongest in the world after the U.S. and Russia.

Thus, from the envisioned Russia victory, China's officially disseminated nationalist commentaries naturally extrapolated a soon-to-be complete crushing of Taiwan by China's People's Liberation Army.

Now China will have to explain to its once-enthusiastic public why the projected quick Russian victory did not materialize, and why the public should buy in to an even bolder projection that China's PLA would conquer Taiwan within 24 hours of invasion.

China once banked on great gains from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.  Instead, the war in Ukraine has highlighted the limits of China's power and influence and exposed China's Achilles heel: its lack of credibility in global affairs as well as in domestic governance.

China is now just one step shy of joining a new axis of evil.

Image:, CC0 public domain.

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