China provided cover for its ally Russia in an editorial published Tuesday by the state-run Global Times, in which evidence of Russian involvement in the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal is dismissed as thin and the Western response of expelling Russian diplomats denounced as “a crude form of behavior” and “uncivilized.”
The thrust of the Global Times editorial is that the United Kingdom does not have enough evidence to conclusively link the Russian government to the attack on Skripal and his daughter Yulia, so the UK should not have expelled a large number of Russian diplomatic personnel and called upon allies to follow suit.
“Such actions make little impact other than increasing hostility and hatred between Russia and their Western counterparts,” the Chinese paper sniffed:
The fact that major Western powers can gang up and ‘sentence’ a foreign country without following the same procedures other countries abide by and according to the basic tenets of international law is chilling. During the Cold War, not one Western nation would have dared to make such a provocation and yet today it is carried out with unrestrained ease. Such actions are nothing more than a form of Western bullying that threatens global peace and justice.
Many people also find the use of military-grade nerve agents to assassinate Russians on British soil quite “chilling,” but the Global Times is more concerned with the revival of Cold War paranoia, ostensibly in a bid to keep plucky rising powers like Russia and China from achieving their destiny as top-tier global powers.
“As of late, more foreign countries have been victimized by Western rhetoric and nonsensical diplomatic measures. In the end, the leaders of these nations are forced to wear a hat featuring slogans and words that read ‘oppressing their own people,’ ‘authoritarian,’ or ‘ethnic cleansing,’ regardless of their innocence,” sneers the editorial from a state-run newspaper published by a regime that monitors every word and deed of its citizens and harshly punishes dissent from the official party line.
After whining about supposedly unfair criticism of China without actually using the word “China” for a while, the Global Times comes back around to the “outrageous” treatment America and Europe have given to Russia. The editors advise non-Western nations to “strengthen unity and collaborative efforts” to protect themselves against Western “intimidation tactics.”
“The West is only a small fraction of the world and is nowhere near the global representative it once thought it was. The silenced minorities within the international community need to realize this and prove just how deep their understanding is of such a realization by proving it to the world through action,” the Global Times lectures.
This is a clear statement of China’s objective to create an alternative world order that will be far less hung up on notions of inalienable rights, legitimate self-government, constitutional restraint, political freedom, and so forth than the post-World War II order dominated by the United States. China’s world order would, for example, place a very high value on the global civic virtue of “doing what Beijing wants,” but wouldn’t care so much about using sham elections to retain power or trampling on basic human rights.
The postwar world was shaped by the conviction that Western ideals of liberty were universal and recognized by all just governments. China’s ascendancy is a direct and explicit attack on that conviction. At every turn, Beijing argues its authoritarian collectivism is a morally legitimate alternative to classical liberalism, better suited to non-European cultures, and indeed functionally superior as a means of harnessing 21st-century industrial productivity to the wise agenda set by selfless and brilliant political leaders.
Giving Russia a free pass to gas a few inconvenient folks on foreign soil is a way for China to signal the squalid dictatorships of the world that they will find Beijing’s global hegemony much more comfortable than Washington’s. Those dictators can easily imagine having their own Sergei Skripals to dispose of someday. Some of them need no lessons from Moscow about using weapons of mass destruction to erase perceived dangers to the regime. Not only do such inhuman methods terrorize dissidents, but they send a message to other nations that sheltering Skripals is more trouble than it’s worth.