Comparing Chinese and Russian dictatorships: whether Beijing will follow Moscow’s path

Shanghai, Vida Press

The world has been watching for some time now how one of its major powers – the Chinese and Russian dictatorships – is transforming into even more aggressive authoritarian regimes and expanding their influence worldwide. Looking for parallels between the two countries, ELTA editor-in-chief Vytautas Bruveris assured that Moscow and Beijing are “existential and principled allies”, Ignas Grinevičius says in

These are regimes, he argues, that shape their existence through confrontation with the West and with democracy.

“Well, I see the two dictatorships as inseparable. They are existential and principled allies, so to speak, simply because they are regimes that perceive themselves and define their existence through a confrontation with the West, with Western democracy. Their whole strategy and vision are to weaken and destroy the West, their existential adversaries, as much as possible, from within and without.

 First, by various hybrid means, economic influence, black or semi-black money, and then, inevitably, by open conventional military confrontation. We can see that the Russian dictatorship is moving along this path of degradation and into this phase earlier and faster than the Chinese dictatorship, but I think the Chinese Communist empire will also move along this path sooner or later. The first stop and the first target of this path is also apparent – Taiwan“, Bruveris said.

The regimes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have vividly illustrated the dangers of autocratic rule.

What is less appreciated is that the regimes of these dictators, each in their own way, also pose a severe threat to the global human rights system. Each of them believes that to maintain their legitimacy, it is necessary to undermine the ability of this system to condemn their repression within their countries.

Referring to the inevitable development of dictatorships, Mr. Bruveris explained that such regimes cannot guarantee everyday life for people.

“Freedom is the primary driver and denominator of life’s progress and future. They cannot guarantee it, so naturally, sooner or later, economic and social problems always accumulate and grow. Moreover, there is a constant need for mobilisation, a constant display of power, and a continuous legitimisation of power by force, which is also a process taking place with increasing momentum.

It has now become clearer to many of us what kind of regime Russia is, how it got to this point, and its inevitable internal logic and circumstances. It is often said of China that it is, after all, a dictatorship, a personalistic authoritarian regime. With Xi Jinping becoming the sole authoritarian for life, although there used to be a change at the top of the party nomenclature, that is no longer the case.

 It is as if it is being acknowledged that this is the case, but at the same time, it is being said that China’s level is much higher and more serious. It cannot stoop to some completely irrational actions. <…> I say no; it is the same dictatorship. Despite its size, thinking, and potential, including its economic potential, I would say that, on the contrary, its size, scale, and potential only increase the danger and threat to the rest of the world”, said the ELTA editor-in-chief.

The difference between China and Russia

When asked about the differences between the Russian and Chinese dictatorships, Bruveris identified one key factor.

“The tracks that the Chinese dictatorship is on, are they the same and inevitable as Russia’s tracks through Ukraine, which are leading to further aggression and which will end in, it seems to me, an open military clash with the West, with the NATO alliance. Is the same true for China, or is the same inevitable development for China?

China is deliberately preparing for this and is again moving through the same Taiwan. The only reason for the military aggression against Taiwan so far is that it is, after all, a backward military power compared to the US. It is trying desperately and by all means to reduce this gap. When it senses and decides that this gap has been minimised or closed or has the upper hand, it will launch this aggression, which could also lead to an outright war with the United States,” Bruveris explained.

The ELTA editor-in-chief also compared the two regimes, noting that Russia is a smaller country that is more degraded in all respects. He said that after the fall of the Soviet Union, a criminal regime based on an alliance between the criminal world and the unique services had taken root there.

“Everything there was more brutal, more primitive and more open. Moreover, the scale of the country may sound ironic in the case of Russia, but if we compare it with China, it is smaller, and all the processes have been faster. There have been other rapid processes around us, including in the former imperial colonies in Ukraine, which started 10 years ago. So, it needs to react as quickly as possible because things are happening much faster from a historical perspective. It was forced to respond quicker and has reached the point where it is now”, Bruveris said.

 Asked to what extent various internal problems become a catalyst for dictatorships to “seek their fortunes abroad”, Bruveris noted this is a historical law that can be observed throughout history. The Tsarist Russian Empire, he said, demonstrated this regularly.

“When internal problems accumulate, the first step is always to find a way to compensate for them, mobilise society, and assert one’s right and power as a commander <…>. There is always the temptation to wage that small, victorious war, which usually turns out to be neither small nor victorious. <…> The war in Ukraine is a classic example we see right now,” Bruveris explained.

 The Taiwan question

On the Chinese situation, the ELTA editor-in-chief stressed that an imperial mindset guides the Chinese regime. In his view, Russia’s start of the war in Ukraine did not necessarily mean that problems were accumulating inside the country. Russia was economically stable enough during the invasion and was not being led into battle by economic degradation or decline.

 According to Mr. Bruveris, the Kremlin’s motives differed from those of China in relation to Taiwan. This is the imperial perception that a certain territory, which it considers part of its own, must be returned to the empire; otherwise, it must be destroyed because its existence undermines the authority and legitimacy of the regime’s leadership.

 “What kind of dictator are you, what kind of master are you, if you cannot control some second-rate people who still dare to oppose you and refuse to return to work. These psychological and symbolic things often dictate dictatorships’ actions and logic. It is their internal logic, which is very strictly rational. This is the logic of the wolf gang and the mafia clan, irrespective of the dynamics of the socio-economic problems or the growth of those problems <…>. It is important to understand this psychological, fundamental attitude of the Chinese dictatorship regime towards others”, said ELTA’s editor-in-chief, V. Bruveris.

According to Bruveris, the fundamental difference between the regimes’ attitudes towards Taiwan and Ukraine can be seen now.

 “While Ukraine is being attacked and devastated and will continue to be devastated by a war of destruction and secession, Taiwan is not. Taiwan is a prosperous country and, for the time being, safe. But safe for what? <…> The main factor holding China back is that the US defence and reaction to Taiwan would be even faster than NATO Article 5. Taiwan has real security guarantees, and the Chinese dictatorship sees this.

Russia, seeing that Ukraine is not only beyond the NATO border but beyond the border of fundamental security guarantees in general and that the West will not stand up to defend it with its arms and its bodies, so it felt it was able to attack it. And now it feels they are able to destroy it because the West continues to demonstrate that it is not ready and willing to defend Ukraine”, Bruveris stressed.
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