[I would like to thank my colleague David Sandel for bringing this forward. David and I were lead authors for “Smart Economy in Smart Cities”, a Springer publication, which included analysis of Ottawa and St. Louis.]
China’s social media hashtag “Putin accuses Wagner’s head of treason” hit 2.37 billion views overnight.
Chinese netizens were tuning in to a shocking event rarely displayed in their social channels — a Russia that was quaking to its political foundations, beset by internal violence.
China now perceives that Russia is unlikely to prevail against Ukraine; Russia will emerge from the conflict a much diminished power.
Combined with this loss of comfort in the former image of Russia as a bulwark against a hostile America, the Chinese have been further shaken by recent American strides in Asia.
As a baseline, China is a vulnerable country: it has a much smaller economy than we once thought; its cities are desperate and are hard-pressed to stay functioning; its demographics are running dry; and its population is currently getting restive.
Now their friendly giant to the North looks like he’s falling over.
At least one Chinese online account said that Chinese viewers were anxious that the Russian instability could spill into China: “As Wagner advanced through Russia , people on Weibo began to fret about how China may be affected by a hypothetical Russian civil war, or if Vladimir Putin’s grip on power is diminished. When the lips are gone, the teeth will feel the cold,” one user wrote , expressing worry that the instability could spill into China. “If Russia were to be disintegrated by Western powers from the outside, or if it suffers from internal chaos, then it would really not be a good thing for China,” they added.
“If they truly move toward Moscow, there’s a chance that war will be right next to our border,” another user wrote. “It would be difficult for China to remain unaffected in such a situation.”