As you know, way too many months later than should have happened the U.S. is again sending vital aid to Ukraine. I’m waiting to see what happens in the next week or so to talk about what, if any change in momentum it will make in that war. Russia got its butt kicked and without a lot of support from other countries it would have lost long ago. China has played a key role helping Russia, even if it hasn’t directly shipped them weapons. However China is an ancient country with an ancient culture. And a well documented patience for waiting on conditions to be right to make a significant move.

As this short article from Daily Express suggests, despite their support for Russia in their attempted takeover of Ukraine China might be playing a longer game. Let’s go back to just before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. China was hosting the Olympics and of course wanted to put on a grand show for the world. Putin of course showed up, not just to be seen but to conduct some business with China that including finalizing and signing a partnership agreement. Then, having not said jack to Xi about his plans three days later Putin green-lighted the attack on Ukraine!

To say China (Xi in particular) was embarrassed would be a huge understatement. Loss of face is a BFD in their culture and for a country with aspirations to be the world’s leader one day, the way the U.S. has been since WWII Putin’s treachery is the kind of thing that would inspire a desire for payback. The thing is, there would be some benefits to China given how the world would likely and did react. A whole lot more oil became available and China had the upper hand on price. If Putin succeeded it would cause a lot of trouble including distracting, if not weakening NATO. You see, NATO has formed alliances with countries in the Pacific which is the last thing China wants.

So one could see how there was and remains benefits to China from what Putin did. However, since it happened without warning China wasn’t able to prepare to take full advantage of the new situation. Frankly, they’ve been playing catch-up all along.  Still, instead of cutting Russia off China has found ways to help Russia for reasons I’ve already articulated:

According to a recent U.S. assessment, China has surged sales to Russia of machine tools, microelectronics, and other technology that Moscow in turn is using to produce missiles, tanks, aircraft and other weaponry for use in the conflict.

China has repeatedly said it isn’t providing Russia with arms or military assistance, although it has maintained robust economic connections with Moscow.

China has of course been watching the Trump/GOP created sabotage of Ukraine’s efforts to drive Russia out of their country and, as a by-product do to them (badly weaken them militarily, and cause further damage to an already struggling economy which would be the end of Putin) with interest.  Due to the Trump/MAGA GOP Russia regained a slight upper hand again, and worse got breathing room to reconstitute both its army and its weapons manufacturing capability. That means a Ukrainian victory that might have reasonably been expected THIS year might be a couple of years (or more) off. Assuming we keep the aid flowing and in the process lead others to do so.

China however as I said thinks long term, planning for years if not decades down the road which allows them to consider not just the present but future possible scenarios. That’s why I’m writing this and you should file it away in the back of your mind. The region known as Manchuria, the far northeastern provinces that China considers there’s could be grabbed back if Russia loses! The region in question has been a sore spot for China for well over a hundred years, ever since Russia gained control of it. Japan had its own turn for a while but post WWII Russia got complete control again.

Some are saying not only that China wants Manchuria back, but is planning on grabbing it back if the chance comes – as in Russia losing to Ukraine. In the linked article Canadian journalist Diane Francis recounts China’s embarrassment when Putin launched his invasion, and goes on to say it put China in a difficult position.  She suggests (and many agree) that if Russia loses it will collapse. Keep in mind Russia has vast borders. By land mass it’s by far the largest country in the world, with contiguous land stretching across eleven time zones!  From the linked article:

Ms Francis believes the Russian Federation will collapse after the war in Ukraine, allowing China to reclaim land previously under its jurisdiction.

She added: “China is very much involved in what happens to Russia after this is over. Many of us speculate that once the centre doesn’t hold and they lose the war, whoever replaces Putin is not going to be able to hold on to 11 time zones of nation.

Remember what I said earlier about this being a burr under China’s saddle? They lost the territory when Russia invaded, taking advantage the first Sino-Japanese War in 1894-1895.  China isn’t a country/culture that takes the loss of so much land lightly. They are however as I said a country/culture that will wait and with more patience than most for the right conditions to take back what they can reasonably claim is a big chunk of their country that was taken from them. Like an already diminished on the world stage Russia trying to take over a country rich in resources and failing. Losing many of its brightest people who fled, and hundreds of thousands of troops killed and many more badly wounded. That friends makes for quite an opportunity, for China. Francis assessment is:

“It is just too big a country. At the far-east edge is Manchuria, which was stolen from China over 100 years ago. They want Manchuria back, and they are going to get it.

“The minute there is weakness, they will move. Not necessarily with troops but they will move politically to seize control of it.”

It may not seem like a big deal, but this is one of those things in some faraway place most of us never think about that could, depending on HOW it plays out be a very big deal indeed. Yes, there are more pressing matters, including actually winning the war in Ukraine. However as with all major wars winning the peace can be just as difficult. China making a move to take back Manchuria is something that could become a very big deal in negotiating what happens when the guns fall silent in Ukraine.

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  1. There were border skirmishes over this are in the late 40’s. And Mao resented Russia treating China with a superiority attitude.

  2. We played these Risk games for years. never with a nuclear option. I suppose the Manchurian population will ‘rise up’ like in Crimea. Biden is adding strength to Taiwan and the Philipines, so maybe a gentle takeover in Manchuria is easier.

  3. The 3 provinces shown in red on the map are already part of China. Russia only has a roughly 11-mile border w/ North Korea right now.
    It’s something else if Russian maps claim those 3 provinces as Russian…

  4. Had to use wiki. China has most Manchuria. Russia has outer Manchuria. But China would not mind taking all of Siberia. Even if Russia breaks apart, the new areas would be so devoid of cash or just greedy and sell/give away the resources to China anyway. Russia supposedly is already doing so with their oil and infrastructure… geared towards China at ruinous cost. (From reading twitter posts before I left).

  5. Yeah, Denis. I was about to chime in with the same info as Dennis K Mann and Lando314 brought up. The red area on the map you’re using is already part of China–the three provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning. The area between that and Mongolia used to be part of historic Manchuria but is now part of the Chinese province (or, as China describes it, autonomous region) of Inner Mongolia (the area used to be part of the previously mentioned provinces but was restored to Inner Mongolia a couple of decades ago). The area EAST of those red areas on the map is considered “Outer Manchuria” by the Chinese and the Chinese have long wanted to regain the territory which was ceded by the Qing Dynasty through two treaties in 1858 and 1860.
    *IF* Russia should have some massive political upheaval following the war with Ukraine, I doubt that China would really do much with Siberia beyond what the Russians are already doing–there might be more direct autonomy for the ethnic nations (the Yakut, the Buryat, the Tuvans, etc) but ethnic Russians (who comprise the majority of the population in the Siberian and Far Eastern Federal districts–roughly 20 million of the districts’ total 25 million people are ethnic Russians) would probably be expelled or they might prefer (or be “encouraged”) to migrate to what’s left of Russia.


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