Editor’s note for March 17, 2023

A note for Access newsletter readers from Jeremy Goldkorn.

Dear reader,

Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 is going to meet Vladimir Putin next week. Most media reports on the planned visit — which both Moscow and Beijing have confirmed — note that what China calls “the Ukraine crisis” will be a major topic of discussion.

Some of the breathier commentary in the media today talks about how Xi will build on his government’s success in brokering a rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and play a major role in a political settlement in Ukraine.

That is not going to happen.

China is not going to be able to — or even want to — persuade Putin to back down. Ukraine is not going back down either. Most Western countries will not let Russia off the hook easily: The International Criminal Court today issued an arrest warrant against Putin for war crimes for illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.

China is going to be stuck with the reputation of being Russia’s wingman.

And global suspicion of the Chinese government is only set to grow in the coming weeks: Today, the World Health Organization called out Beijing for refusing to share data on COVID-19 that everyone knows the Chinese CDC has, because it put the data online briefly and then removed it. Even if you don’t believe in lab leak theories, you will not believe that the Chinese government has been transparent when it comes to the coronavirus.

We live in interesting times, and they are only going to get more interesting for Xi Jinping.

Our Phrase of the Week, from a recent Xi Jinping speech, is tenacious like bamboo (咬定青山不放松 yǎodìng qīngshān bú fàngsōng).