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Ukraine’s War Viewed from China

Westerners regard Russia’s war as an attack on the rules-based order, but Chinese scholars see it as another harbinger of the denouement of US hegemony. While Americans and Europeans can argue with this position, it would be a mistake not to take it seriously.

BEIJING – Is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine merely the first in a series of conflicts that will make Europe seem more like the Middle East in the coming years? A Chinese academic who requested anonymity put that question to me last week, and his reasoning showed just how differently non-Westerners view a war that is reshaping the European geopolitical order.

In speaking with Chinese academics to understand how they view the world, I have found that they start from a fundamentally different position than many in the West do. It’s not just that they are more likely to blame the Ukraine war on NATO enlargement than on the Kremlin; it is that many of their core strategic assumptions are also the opposite of our own.

While Europeans and Americans see the conflict as a turning point in global history, the Chinese see it as just another war of intervention – one that is even less significant than those launched in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan over the past 75 years. To them, the only material difference this time is that it is not the West that is intervening.