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Video Above: Could the U.S. Stop China from Invading Taiwan?

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

Where is China? It is a question that resonates on so many levels given what is known about ongoing Russian-Chinese relations indicating a level of cooperation of great concern to the US and its NATO allies.

China & Russia

Early indications seemed to suggest that China is, as US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin put it, providing a “tacit” approval of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
However, the question of where China is is perhaps changing to a certain degree, at least according to public statements attributed to Chinese leadership. 

However, spoken gestures favoring a “peaceful solution” are falling on the Pentagon as hollow words, given that China has not joined the international community in support of sanctions.

“What we have not seen them do is being willing to sanction Russia, like so much of the rest of the international community, to condemn what the Russians are doing inside Ukraine,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters, according to a Pentagon transcript.

The exact level of Russian-Chinese cooperation may not be known, and it is something about which Kirby did not want to speculate. He did, however, express intense disappointment that the Chinese were not joining the growing community of international voices condemning Russia’s attack.

“And for all their bluster about wanting to see a peaceful outcome here, they've done nothing to propose or suggest or show an interest in becoming involved in any kind of diplomatic solution here,” Kirby said.

Kirby’s comment clearly seemed to suggest that perhaps China could use its influence upon Russia to support diplomacy, encourage restraint or potentially even help bring an end to the war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and China’s President Xi Jinping shake hands prior to their talks on the sideline of the 11th edition of the BRICS Summit, in Brasilia, Brazil on Nov. 12, 2019.(Ramil Sitdikov / Associated Press)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and China’s President Xi Jinping shake hands prior to their talks on the sideline of the 11th edition of the BRICS Summit, in Brasilia, Brazil on Nov. 12, 2019.(Ramil Sitdikov / Associated Press)

Does China’s inactivity constitute quiet approval and support for Russia’s invasion? When asked if Putin and Xi discussed the timing of an invasion of Ukraine at the Olympics, Kirby refused to speculate or offer any response. Was there Russian-Chinese collaboration in which China offered a kind of “approval” or quiet support for Russia’s attack?

There are certainly many unknowns regarding this dynamic, and some might wonder if the worsening humanitarian crisis and deliberate murdering of civilians could influence China to truly distance itself from Russia’s actions and join the international community condemning the invasion. 

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Could China now be waffling in its support for Russia given the fast-growing seriousness of the crisis? Many are certain to hope so, as perhaps Putin felt emboldened and confident about Russia’s ability to take over Ukraine to some extent because he knew he had backing from China? 

Any kind of military alliance between Russia and China in which either country pledged military support would be of great concern to the US, given the extent of the threats presented by each country. Perhaps in thinking he had support from China, Putin estimated that he would withstand the international condemnation? He may not have anticipated it would be as strong and widespread as it appears to be.

Certainly many are likely to have underestimated the tenacity, resolve, combat prowess and sheer intensity of the Ukrainian military, yet a more surprising observation seems to be that Russia's military prowess may have been greatly overestimated.

Certainly many are likely to have underestimated the tenacity, resolve, combat prowess and sheer intensity of the Ukrainian military, yet a more surprising observation seems to be that Russia's military prowess may have been greatly overestimated.

China, Taiwan, Russia & Ukraine

Apart from that, China’s primary interest, at least at the moment, looks Eastward off its shores toward Taiwan, and Russia’s near-term focus appears to face Westward toward Ukraine and Eastern Europe. 

The two countries share a long border region, yet Russia seems less consumed by China’s tensions with India. At one point, India owned older Russian S-300 air defenses. China shares a border with India and is close to Japan and South Korea, whereas Russia’s border, by contrast extends from the Baltic Sea to the West down the Black Sea in the South.

China Taiwan

A Chinese navy formation including the aircraft carrier Liaoning, center, during military drills in the South China Sea on January 2, 2017. Taiwan reportedly detected small formations of Chinese military vessels off its southeast coast on three consecutive days between February 28 and March 2, 2022.

There may be one possibility not too far-fetched to imagine in terms of potential Russian-Chinese dialogue. They are both authoritarian regimes with a shared hostility toward the US and countries with clear territorial and expansive ambitions. Perhaps China will agree to stay silent, neutral or even supportive of a Russian attack on Ukraine, should Russia in like fashion agree to endorse or offer quiet approval to a Chinese annexation of Taiwan

Given that they each have “great power” status, such an approach or stance on the other’s potential annexations, invasions or military efforts to change the status quo, could prove to be extremely impactful.

Where might their interests collide? There does not seem to be that many points of contention or areas of conflict between the two. Russia is unlikely to challenge the US and China in the Pacific, given its small, inferior Navy. 

Both countries, however, likely share a desire to expand influence and strategic advantages on the African continent and part of the Middle East. Perhaps they will collaborate on areas of economic influence and military presence in part of Africa? There are certainly many unknowns, yet what is apparent is that neither Russia or China voices any public competitiveness, tension or disagreement with the other.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest and President of Warrior Maven - the Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization