Big doin’s in Uzbekistan at the end of last week. There was a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an eight-country security bloc that includes Russia, India, Pakistan, four former Soviet Central Asian republics, and, oh yeah, China . . . which may have a bit of oversized influence on the group. Officially, the bloc’s primary focus is supposed to be regional security with a good deal of anti-separatism thrown in the mix. In reality, whatever China wants, China probably gets.
What really made this meeting a big deal is that Chinese leader Xi Jinping left his country for the first time in three years or so. Apparently, there’s been some issue with a little bug that may have escaped from the Wuhan Province and has kept him in his own Beijing bubble since late 2019. You may have seen something about it in the news.
According to reports, Xi was there mainly to prop up support for recognizing Taiwan as part of mainland China’s territory. Kazakhstan’s President Tokayev devotedly said, “Heck yeah it’s theirs,” or words to that effect, and dutifully opposed independence for Taiwan in all forms when issuing a joint statement with the Chairman.
Of particular note is the fact that Xi also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin while at the Summit. There apparently was a “no limits” partnership agreed upon with Vlad the Mad right before the invasion of Ukraine in February. As a result, China has not criticized the war. But it seems to me that with the recent news that Ukrainians are re-taking territory that Russia had encroached upon, the conversation between the Chinese and Russian leaders might have been rather interesting. Perhaps it went something like this:
Xi: So, Vlad, it’s been five or six months now. You said two days max when this Ukraine stuff started.
VLAD: That’s what the military guys told me.
Xi: If my generals did that to me, they would no longer be issuing orders, if you get my drift.
VLAD: Yes, I believe we have the same retirement plan for those who displease us.
Xi: So, what are your plans now?
VLAD: Well, I do have all these nukes sitting around gathering dust.
Xi: That is one option. But I’m thinking it may not be the best one.
VLAD: Our mutual friend in North Korea has offered to sell me whatever I want.
Xi: Ah, yes, Rocket Man. Friendly advice? I’d steer clear of him. Bit of a loose cannon. Tell me more about Ukraine. Why has the war become such a problem?
VLAD: Who knew those guys were so tough?
Xi: I heard some of your troops aren’t exactly sticking to the game plan. How can I count on you to help us in Taiwan when you can’t even handle a situation in your own back yard?
VLAD: I blame the Americans for what’s happening in Ukraine.
Xi: Well, of course. They’re always at fault. We intend to use the Americans ourselves as the villain when we reclaim our island. But I’m concerned you’re losing your authority. The U.S. financial sanctions against you seem to be working, and that gives me pause. Some of our friends here at the summit are looking to us for leadership instead of to you.
VLAD: (Indignantly) Russia is still a power to be reckoned with. Did I mention our nukes?
Xi: Yes, yes, you did. But you have to face reality, Vlad. The Soviet Union is no longer a union.
VLAD: What about my, I mean, our oil? You still need our oil.
Xi: True. We still buy oil from you. But we have many other oily friends. Venezuela and Saudi Arabia come to mind. Your problem right now is Ukraine.
VLAD: So, what do you suggest I do?
Xi: Have you ever heard of George Aiken?
Xi: He was a U.S. Senator from Vermont. At the height of the Vietnam War, he suggested that America should simply declare victory and pull out. Pretty good advice if you ask me.
VLAD: Hmmm. Not a bad idea.
Xi: You didn’t hear it from me. But I might be persuaded to back you up if you were to make such an announcement.
VLAD: I’ll think about it.
Xi: Don’t take too long.
Alas, there is no official transcript of what Vlad and Xi really talked about. But China does seem to be stepping into places where Russia has trod before but now seems on loose footing. And nation domination does seem to be a big part of the Chinese playbook. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.
©MMXXII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer