China & Crimea: Ideals And Reality, Glory And Dreams

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Yang Hengjun via The Diplomat,

By abstaining on the UN vote on Crimea, China made a good choice. I wonder, is China the most frequent abstainer from UN Security Council votes? Earlier, when China’s international clout was lower, abstaining from voting was always interpreted as a sign of helplessness and a desire to avoid trouble. However, now that China has grown strong, the interpretation is different. Now it seems that China is showing its strength and its strategic independence through abstention votes. The policy of “hiding one’s strength and biding one’s time” is the same way—when China was weak, it was the only choice, but now that China is strong it becomes a conscious, free choice. In the international chess match, the same phrase now has a completely different meaning.

Today we often hear people shout that China should get rid of the policy of “hiding one’s strength and biding one’s time,” because they take Vladimir Putin as their spiritual teacher. They point out that Putin dares to “say no” to the West and to the whole world. In their eyes, “saying no” is the same as abandoning the “hiding and biding” policy. However, the foreign policy of a state should be based on national interests, national security and national stability, and more importantly on economic development and the improvement of people’s lives. Who is not able to “say no”? During a time when many Chinese people were starving to death, our whole nation kept “saying no” to the world. Even those countries who wanted to provide aid to us were rejected with a “no.” Was it really that great?

Why does Putin want to “say no”? It’s because the West has no respect for him. Whether or not Putin “says no” makes little difference on the international stage. His “no” has never brought any benefits to Russia, so why does he keep saying it? The answer is that Putin’s “saying no” to the West is directed at a Russian audience—he wants to use this to build up a tough-guy image for himself and arouse the nationalistic mood among the Russian people. Afterwards, he can ensure that he can remain the “elected president” for his entire life. This is Putin’s dream.

Since Putin took office in 2000, international oil prices have been soaring. Putin took advantage of his good luck and stylized himself as “Putin the Great” who restored Russia’s glory…

Diplomatic relations can be roughly categorized into realism (utilitarianism) and idealism (led by ideology and philosophy). Although realism has been dominant in modern times, idealism has seemingly been everywhere and nowhere. I can distinguish the diplomatic practices of China and U.S. in this way: U.S. is a realist with ideals, while China is a realistic idealist. The “realism” of each country is more or less the same, but the ideals are not. The U.S. adores liberty and democracy while China worships the idea of a socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics. Despite its ideals, the U.S. often makes compromises in its philosophy for practical benefits. And although China is relatively realist, it sometimes makes some concessions in its realism to prioritize principles such as the stability of the state and the leadership of the ruling party.  It’s because of such compromises and concessions by the U.S. and China that “new type great power relations” becomes possible.

Russia, however, is a realist through and through. Of course, you can’t blame Russia for this…

Nevertheless, realism is not easy. As we all know, realist foreign policy relies on the strength of a state. What kind of strength does Russia have? The money from selling oil may be barely enough to improve people’s livelihood and therefore ensure that Putin wins consecutive terms, but this is not enough to impress the international community. But Putin is smarter than anyone else. Without ideals, and without the power to pursue realist goals abroad, Putin wanted to have the people consider him as a hero, to believe that without Putin they would be bullied by foreigners. And the only way to do that was to stoke up nationalism by habitually opposing the West and always having the word “no” on his lips.

That is why Putin has never hesitated in saying “no” to the West, especially the U.S., whenever he could. Although internationally such opposition amounts to nothing, he has enjoyed an increasingly higher reputation among the “Russian people” who grew up under the Soviet Union. In today’s Russia, which rarely mentions freedom and democracy but also doesn’t dare to raise Soviet ideology, “Putin” has become the “ideology” and “ideal” of the state. At this time, Crimea is just like manna from heaven, a God-given opportunity to Putin.

Putin just has to take Crimea. Meanwhile, considering Russia’s national interests and security, annexing Crimea had a hundred benefits and no harms. The West’s choices are extremely limited. Putin will never be afraid of military intervention. The Soviet Union was defeated in a clash of ideology and wills, not in real battles. With this in mind, Putin would rather resort to arms than confront the U.S. in a battle of ideals and convictions.

The U.S. knows this, and won’t resort to the use of force. As for economic sanctions, oil is the mainstay of Russia’s economy and (because shale gas in the U.S. has not started mass production) Russia’s oil is irreplaceable. And in terms of trade restrictions, don’t forget about China. Without the involvement of China, the world’s second largest economy, a country that can manufacture anything except sophisticated weapons (which Russia, incidentally, does make), how can economic sanctions work?

The timing of Russia’s confrontation with the U.S. is good for China not only in terms of economy and military “benefits,” but even more so in the political dimension. The “new type great power relations” between China and the U.S. is just waiting for a final push—this confrontation from Putin could help the U.S. to become more realistic and more sober-minded. America, don’t spend all day thinking about “peaceful evolution” in Beijing—China is just a panda; your “enemy” is a polar bear.

Someone may say that China should take this chance to ally with Russia in confronting the United States. I say to these people, you can’t defeat the U.S, so what’s the use of wasting human resources, materials, and energy? And allying with Russia is even less appealing—there’s no need to, and taking a long-term view there are too many variables to consider. When Putin steps down or dies, Russia will change overnight—at that time, when the Russian people have lost “Putin the Great,” will they have any choice other than embracing liberty and democracy? However, China has options and thus doesn’t need to tie itself to any great power.

The problems in Crimea are complicated and there’s some truth to each side. If you really want to separate right from wrong, you’ll probably find that there’s not even a unified standard to determine “right” and “wrong.” According to the constitution of Ukraine, the referendum of Crimea is certainly unlawful. But just like the pursuit of liberty and democracy, national self-determination can supersede any national constitution. Otherwise, how did so many colonized and newly established nations achieve their independence? And how did the 15 unified republics of the Soviet Union vote to secede regardless of the constitution of Soviet Union?

The complexity of Crimea also comes from this: Putin’s merging with Crimea not only broke the pattern of international relations in the post-Cold War era, but also went against the main trend of history in the past 100 years. What main trend of history? As everyone knows, in the past 100 years, almost all the great empires have disintegrated (including China, as when Russia helped Outer Mongolia split off). These empires have broken up into smaller nations. This trend began with colonized areas one by one gaining independence, and continued up until the collapse of Soviet Union. Looking back over many years, Russia’s annexation of Crimea is the only case in which a great power acquired so a large piece of territory in an instant (of course, this does not include the large piece of land which was stolen from China’s hands by Russia in the past). Only the God who gave this manna to Russia knows what price Russia will pay for this in the future.

The best choice for China in the Crimea problem is to make no choice; the best stance for China is not to take sides. China needs a peaceful international environment. In the future, China should both develop with the U.S. a no-confrontation, no-conflict, win-win “new type great power relationship.” But China should also develop a “new type great power relationship” with Russia that is neutral, not an alliance. In addition, China should focus on developing multilateral relationships with Europe, the Americas, and Australia, while at the same time putting more efforts and investing more energy into improving relations with neighboring countries. If those major relationships are well managed, even if the world experiences more “Crimea incidents,” how could it have a big impact on China’s interests and dreams?

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Newsboy's picture

"Not taking sides" is taking sides, isn't it?

Jackagain's picture

That's what Bush the Dolt said a while back...

AlaricBalth's picture

The writer lost me at "the US adores liberty and democracy..."

Anusocracy's picture

Liberty and democracy are opposites.

lib·er·ty (l?b??r-t?)
n. pl. lib·er·ties
a. The condition of being free from restriction or control.
b. The right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one's own choosing.
c. The condition of being physically and legally free from confinement, servitude, or forced labor. See Synonyms at freedom.

de•moc•ra•cy (d??m?k r? si)

n., pl. -cies.
1. government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.
2. a state having such a form of government.
3. a state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges.
4. political or social equality; democratic spirit.
5. the common people, esp. with respect to their political power.

nmewn's picture

Exactly right.

The best argument against a democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.

nmewn's picture

Or a whole fucking blockchain of them.

prains's picture

the blockchain will be a the metaphysical version of his virtual car up on blocks because he had to pawn his virtual tires

Oh regional Indian's picture

Me thinks the diPOOPlomat is a surreal dumbist.

Like AlBr pointed above. US adores libert.....aaaarrgggghhh......whut? 



NoDebt's picture


Steven Segal has sided with Russia.

You can all go home now.

Anusocracy's picture

Well I can't top that, but I will repost this link as a good Sunday read - especially if you can understand that THE moral foundation of libertarianism is liberty:

Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Dispositions of Self-Identified Libertarians

This article compliments the above:

Mentalism and Mechanism
the twin modes of human cognition

jeff montanye's picture

i could be wrong but imo this is where yang really starts to earn his (quite rare really) one star:

"Although realism has been dominant in modern times, idealism has seemingly been everywhere and nowhere - U.S. is a realist with ideals, while China is a realistic idealist."

while this seems to me a distinction without a difference and smacks of all too much academic writing, i don't even think the part about the u.s. as being a realist is true.  i think "steal as much as you can, killing whom you think maybe you have to, or should, or can, and hope the reckoning happens on someone else's shift" comes closer.

israel? i mean really, is this a realistic idea?  petrodollars and triple deficits that look like something trying to achieve escape velocity?  for two.


kaiserhoff's picture

The Diplomat.., again.  Gag me with a spoon.  There are real and important things happening in the world.  This stuff isn't even fit to line bird cages. 

Are all the real tylers still hung over from St. Patties?

strannick's picture

More anti Putin pap, from someone who apparently reads too much Time Magazine

falak pema's picture

Judging by this thread you guys ALL believe in Hegemons; no bottom up logic,  all top down.

In name of God, religion, Caesar, and now Oligarchs.

We are heading towards global fascism and a lot of people seem to feel its the best way to get raped.

Lie by and enjoy it. 

The day they invent  a brand of Anarchy, as a form of government that works, wake me up.

History shows its the entry port to every Hegemon. 

Maximise social entropy and you will have law and order imposed from the top. 

Oracle 911's picture

It is rare when I want give a negative rating to articles, this is one of them.

BTW Strannick, I agree with you.

LMAOLORI's picture





Maybe - Maybe Not (but lol on SS)

Defending Everything = Defending Nothing
shovelhead's picture

I read that as a firm tongue-in-cheek paen to diplo-speak. The author deliberately left out 'the illusion of'.

One has to keep in mind that the job of a news reporter and the job of a Diplomat consist of knowing what's really going on in various players minds, but the output is considerable different.

The reporter is encouraged to leave smoking craters in the landscape because it sells news.

The Diplomat's purpose is to pave the holes smooth.

Keeping this in mind, I think the author brings a useful and reasonable analysis of China's position and fighting well above his weight from the usual twaddle the Diplomat renders, which, by design, should be the antithesis of Fight Club.

The US illustrates the difference in outcomes by having a pack of hyenas in the State Dept. as opposed to a smooth and guiding hand.

Not a recipe for international successful relations.

mrpxsytin's picture

I think a lot of us make the mistake of conflating democracy with universal suffrage. Allowing the morons to vote is not necessarily democracy. It is universal suffrage; one of many variables that can be tweaked in a democracy. 

Universal suffrage is an horrific policy. I think that is the cause of your disdain for democracy. 

nmewn's picture

It is that, allowing complete idiots to vote...and much much more. Looking at your bio maybe you can understand better than perhaps I can explain...but here goes.

Even allowing federal bureaucrats & officials to vote in national elections should be prohibited. To what do they owe their source of income, their very livlihoods?

The federal government.

So of course they're going to vote in the interests of "the state" which is, themselves. There is no thought or consideration of how large or domineering it already is or what it will become after casting their vote.

In this way of acting, they are no different than the CEO & board members strip mining any given corporation without any regard to the long term viability of the corporation that sustains them in the present, until its gone, a husk, along with the employees, sometime in the future.

But the word "democracy" sounds good doesn't it? Its why the concept has been pushed here since Wilson and readily applauded by a gaggle of barking/clapping seals who think simply voting (without knowing what they're voting for or against) is the representation of all their liberty & freedoms. Every voice is heard AND more importantly counted no matter deficient or destructive to the whole it is and naturally it cancels out the ones that do know.

Until the day arrives and there is a knock at the door with a demand for payment for "services rendered" with money or community service or forfeiture etc. they will never know what they voted for.

Then its too late as the kind & compassionate bureaucrat informs them what they actually voted for.

shovelhead's picture

Holy Smokes!

A competency test for voting?

Can't you hear the howls already about people having to show ID for eligibility to vote?

Even a free Obamaphone needs an ID.

You must be a serial disenfranchiser and a profligate disempowermentarian.

Dead people and cartoon characters have rights too, ya know.

JuliaS's picture

In a democracy an individual is always a minority by definition.

Oh regional Indian's picture

Very true. Demoncrazy is thinly disguised communism.


beaglebog's picture

Not simply opposites ... but mutually exclusive.




Tsukato's picture

Hey Cheng Liang, did baba buy this job for you? This was one of the most trite, simple, sophomoric, idiotic, numbskull "analysis" I've ever seen puked out on paper. You may gain face back home in zhonguuo for writing in the diplomat, but know this: outside zhonguuo, you are a fucking laughingstock. Your analysis is not unlike what we could expect from a middle school student in the states. So even though you were able to memorize your way through school, and parrot your idiotic mentors, the rest of the world sees you as a joke, a maroon, and a clown. Come back to CCTV where "foreign affairs experts" are respected for their ridiculously unenlightened views and their shiney meguo PhDs. Chinese are incapable of anything but stealing others ideas. People like you should be more selective in whose ideas you pilfer. Dumbass.

disabledvet's picture

"shhh. ancient Chinese secret."

RafterManFMJ's picture can choose from phantom fears, and kindness that can kill...

squib's picture

It's 'choice', you still have made a 'choice'!

Stop wasting our time.

zhanglini's picture

if you are not with us, you are against us

UselessEater's picture

saw this when checking out your article....

Russia, North Korea Agree to Settle Payments in Rubles Trade Pact


williambanzai7's picture

"the Russian people who grew up under the Soviet Union"

It broke up over 20 years ago. Young Russians grew up under the internet.

What if George Bush in a drunken stupor handed Texas over to Mexico. Would it be empire building if we went and got it back?

Where did we find this presumptuous idiot?

Dr. Bonzo's picture

I'm still surprised Hong Kong activists haven't taken the opportunity to propose a similar referendum as the Crimean referendum. The narrative of this piece is surprisingly blind to the process by which Vlad swiped Crimea back. i can think of a few Chinese territories and provinces that wouldn't mind some referendums of their own.

Son of Loki's picture

Russia gets Crimea.

IMF gets the Ukraine.

nmewn's picture

And China keeps Tibet...according to this authors version of "democracy".

kaiserhoff's picture

Nepal, Kashmir, when did they invite the Chinese?

Anusocracy's picture

He came from the Diplomat School of Unreconstructed Cretins.

nmewn's picture


Tibet has no future as a "democracy" in the same way Crimea has none now by "democracy". So one can assume Putin & Russia will stay out of, that is to say, not have a heavy hand in, the day to day functions of the Crimean "democracy" now.

Yes, of

Oh regional Indian's picture

Nm, Place where this becomes apples to oranges is the fact that China massacared half of Tibet to "take" it.

Crimea in comparison was/is the perfect crime.

That said though...democracy....what a masterful slice at the global knee. You have a vote, therefore you are free...


disabledvet's picture

there was a time when Tibet ruled over 2/3rds of present day China as well.

"monk on that one for a while...

Oh regional Indian's picture

Really? When? 8,000 years ago? Those Chinese dynasties go pretty far back as I recall, unbroken chain....

Do elaborate?


Learn more and know less's picture

From Wikipedia:

780 - 790 - Looks like it included modern Tibet, and parts of the modern Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Xinjiang, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan


falak pema's picture

7th to 9th century AD....under buddhist leaders. 

China has existed since 5000 years. 

The Mongols of 12th century had a bigger empire than the Tibetans. They Even conquered all of China. 

But in the History of China, and of its combined/accumulated cultural heritage, it was just a short span of 150 years...

Mongols left no philosophical thread of any value. Whereas the Chinese invented Taoism and Confucianism. 

shovelhead's picture

Part of the Anglo-Saxon /American tradition of it being proper form to ask for your opinion before ignoring it entirely.

Smooths over some of the rough bumps of running an Empire domestically.

No such constraints on foreign adventures.