On Wednesday the 22 March Xi Jinping ended a 3 day state visit to the Kremlin, whose ostensible purpose was to discuss how to achieve peace in Ukraine with President Vladimir Putin. However, this summit has a second, much more important purpose – to reaffirm the Sino-Russian alliance against the West. This video looks at why, and how, the West should contain this sinister alliance, and the wider ‘Axis of Authoritarianism’.
The West faces a massive geopolitical challenge to its support for the ideals of global peace, democracy and development from a loose coalition of authoritarian states led by China and Russia. This coalition is growing increasingly cohesive and assertive which means the West must at all costs stand together, affirm the moral rightness of its cause and contain the rising threat. To clarify, the ‘West’ in the opinion of this channel, is made up principally of the USA, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand with Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Israel, Japan and Taiwan (and South Korea!) being part of the ‘Wider West.’
Let us first deal with the membership of this so-called ‘Axis of Authoritarianism.’ First its de facto leader, China with 1.5 billion people, 19% of global GDP and a 2 million strong military. Secondly, Russia with 146 million people, 12% of global oil production and a 1.15 million strong military, albeit poorly led and equipped. Thirdly, Iran with 82 million people, 14% of global gas reserves and an 870,000 man military. This is the core alliance. The wider alliance is more fragmentary but is steadily strengthening its ties as the world moves more and more into 2 blocs that mirror the Cold War – Free and Authoritarian. It consists of Kim Jong Un’s North Korea, Maduro’s Venezuela, Assad’s Syria, Lukashenko’s Belarus, El Sisi’s Egypt and Min Aung Hlaing’s Myanmar. These dictators do not possess a shared ideology like communism, fascism or Islamism but are solely interested in holding power and fear being brought to account for their crimes.
The deepening China-Russia alliance signaled by Xi’s visit, and his inviting Putin to come to China should cause extreme concern to everyone. Here are a few cursory facts to show the nature of these regimes. China has imprisoned 1 million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps since 2017 for no crime other than being different. Chinese opioids wreak havoc on the USA & Europe, so much so that the leading cause of death in Americans aged 18-45 is opioid (mainly fentanyl) overdoses. China’s Belt and Road initiative massively indebts Asian countries like Sri Lanka, which had to agree to a 99 year port lease in 2017. Russia of course illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 and in 2022 launched an imperialist war to conquer Ukraine which has killed over 8000 civilians. Russia saw 6.6 trillion rubles lost to corruption in 2021, as it is a kleptocracy that steals from its own people. And Russia poisons exiled dissidents with nerve agents. The internal oppression and external aggression of these regimes is clear to see, and so it is our moral duty to stand up against them, as well as essential to the survival of the rules-based international order.
Currently the USA is the only Western military prepared for a potential confrontation. Every other Western military lacks the manpower, equipment, ammo and funds for more than a few weeks fighting. In order to create a sizeable deterrent and prevent confrontation, rearmament is needed. British historian Mark Felton lays out the shocking decline of the UK armed forces in particular since the Cold War in his video ‘Britain’s Shrinking Military.’ The Defence budget has shrunk from 4.1% in 1991 to 2.5% today. The army in 1991 had 153,000 soldiers and 1200 tanks to only 86,000 and 223 respectively today. The Royal Navy, traditionally our strongest arm, declined from 63,000 personnel in 1991 to 30,000 today, and from 51 destroyer and frigates and 29 subs to 18 and 10 respectively. Finally the RAF went from 90,000 personnel and 850 fighter jets to 33,000 and 115 respectively. This decline must be speedily reversed, and the £11 billion extra for defence promised over 5 years in the Conservative government’s Spring Budget is a start, but much more needs to be invested, and much faster.
Why the focus on expensive arms one might ask? Why not merely international outreach and ‘soft power’? Because the truth is the Axis of Authoritarianism understands only one language: force. Behind the protestations of respect for peace and democracy, lies a ruthless, realpolitik might-makes-right view of power. On the 4th February last year Putin staged a state visit to Beijing, where a joint statement was made calling for States to “respect the rights of peoples to independently determine the development paths of their countries” among other things. A mere 3 weeks later on the 24th February he ignored this and launched a brutal invasion of Ukraine. China tacitly condoned it. On the 24th February this year China’s ‘Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis’ was published declaring “The sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld.” Except of course China routinely trespasses in Vietnamese and Philippine waters and threatens to invade the independent country Taiwan. Just on Wednesday (22 March) Xi and Putin calling Russia and China the ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination’ (meaning alliance) published a joint statement stating ‘the United Nations Charter must be observed and international law must be respected.’ This statement is likely as sincere as the previous two. The point is China and Russia tell lie after lie because they have no real respect for truthful diplomacy and compromise, only for raw balance of power. And it is time to rebalance the scales.
In conclusion, the ‘Axis of Authoritarianism’ whose senior partners are China then Russia, must urgently be be contained by Western rearmament because its increasing cohesiveness and assertiveness pose a threat to peace and democracy, and existing soft power methods are ineffective in the face of a duplicitous realpolitik whose only aim is power.