In his now-censored article Gao Yusheng, former PRC Ambassador to the Ukraine, explains why Russia is losing the war in Ukraine and the effect that may have on the international order. Gao Yusheng’s article appeared on the website of Phoenix News on the afternoon of May 10th and was taken down within hours.
Ambassador Gao Yusheng, now retired, may not have much influence on PRC policy but may reflect the views of some other well-informed Chinese including some academics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), an important think tank for the Party and government. CASS invited him to speak at an internal event; possibly they knew his views when they invited him.
Gao Yusheng (October 1947-) is a retired diplomat of the People’s Republic of China. In 2001 – 2003, he served as Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Turkmenistan, in 2003 – 2005, he served as Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Uzbekistan, and in 2005 -2007, as Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Ukraine. His last post was Deputy Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization .Summary of Wikipedia article Gao Yusheng 高玉生
In 2019 the popular PRC magazine Renmin Huabao 人民画报 [China Pictorial] interviewed already-retired Gao Yusheng, who had been one of the PRC Foreign Ministry’s top Russia experts about his experience of the decline of the Soviet Union and his experiences as an ambassador in three of the newly independent countries of the former Soviet Union. I translated this for background in an appendix following Gao Yusheng’s recent article. At the top of the 2019 Renmin Huabao interview is a video inteview with Gao Yusheng with English subtitles. Watch it by clicking on the video at this URL .
Sering ambassadors in all countries would need to clear with the governments they represent on public statements on an important matter. Gao Yusheng however, is retired. He is probably a Party member and would be under Party discipline. Some brave people do break the rules however if they get angry enough. Gao sounds like a patriotic Chinese to me and perhaps even a loyal Party member. Party General Secretary Xi wants that to mean everyone should in their views remain closely aligned with the Party Center with Xi at its core. From time to time, some Party members may think differently especially in this year of disasters — Xi’s nightmare come true in the year he is to get another term as Party leader. What if a loyal Party member sees Xi tying China to a sinking ship? There might see serious collateral damage to China’s international relations.
Gao’s comments address China’s interests and the debate going on in China beneath the surface: he gave his talk at a closed conference co-sponsored by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences:
1. I am sure the Chinese government is taking notes on all this as David Finkelstein wrote recently on War on the Rocks website BEIJING’S UKRAINIAN BATTLE LAB Why the Soviet Union collapsed is a important question for the Chinese Party; it certainly doesn’t want to tread in the dust 【步其后尘】bù qí hòu chén of the Soviet Party. Fear of erosion of the Party and state by corruption and fear of being overmatched by US militarty technology have been constants. Why is Russia losing would certainly be a question that a loyal Party member would want to ask too.
2. Certainly Russia wants to stop the war and hold on to its gains; some Chinese might gather from Chinese media reporting that stresses Russian perspectives, that Russia wants peace; those troublesome fascists in Ukraine just need to lay down their arms and listen to reason. I imagine many invaders such as the Japanese in China in World War II might have been willing to get a cease-fire or even a settlement if those pesky resisters of the Imperial forces would just stop fighting. Japan did make a deal with puppet governments in Manchuria and Shanghai to make a sort of peace one might say. The tone of the article doesn’t suggest wily Ukraine and the USA opposing peace — Gao states that Russia wants to hold on to its gains while Ukraine wants to keep fighting and repel the invader. Certainly people who have learned the Chinese national anthem (our country is in danger; may our flesh and blood become a new Great Wall) which like the Marseillaise (may the stinking blood of the invaders flow in our fields) and the US national anthem (pesky red coat invaders; or to look at it from another perspective ‘damn those wily Americans who refuse to surrender Baltimore and make peace with His Majesty’) which have a strong flavor of repelling the invader.
3. Gao Yusheng mentions re-armed Germany and Japan (though they are already armed; they would become more so) but also remarks that they would remain members of the western alliance arrangement — a comment perhaps aimed at tamping down paranoia about a revanchist Japan.
Some have stated their views in opposition to the Russian invasion; most are keeping their heads down under Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping’s increasingly repressive regime. Five Chinese academics spoke out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February — PRC Profs: Our Attitude Towards Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine . Xinhua journalist Lin Zhibo, writing in late February, provides a perspective friendly to the Party’s — Lin Zhibo: The Russia-Ukraine Conflict and China’s Position.
Chinese Central Televisions Joint News Broadcast that goes out on nearly all TV channels in China in the early evening has been reporting the Russian invasion as if through official Russian eyes since the start of the invasion. Google Translate can give you a good idea of the flavor of these broadcasts through a (click here) machine translation of the full transcript of each evening’s broadcast.
The Former PRC Ambassador to Ukraine Gao Yusheng: The Dynamics of the Russian-Ukrainian War and the Implications for the International Order
The Impact of the Russian-Ukrainian War on the International Order
Recently, the Forum of Thirty on China’s International Finance and the Department of International Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences hosted an internal video seminar to discuss how the Russia-Ukraine crisis has changed the global financial landscape, its impact on China and how China should respond. Former Chinese Ambassador to Ukraine Mr. Gao Yuanchuan spoke at the seminar. The following is the text of his talk including edits he made after giving his talk.
The Russo-Ukrainian War is the most important international event of the post-Cold War period. It marks the end of the post-Cold War period and creates in a new international order.
I. Russia’s position in the Russia-Ukraine war has became increasingly passive and unfavorable. Its coming defeat is already clear.
The main reasons why Russia is now heading towards defeat are:
- Russia has been declining ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a decline that is first of all a continuation of the pre-dissolution Soviet Union. It is also related to the failures of the internal and external policies of the Russian ruling clique. This process has been exacerbated by Western economic sanctions which have damaged sectors of the Russian economy. The so-called revival or revitalization of Russia under Putin’s leadership is false; it simply does not exist. Russia’s decline is evident in its economic, military, technological, political, and social spheres, and has had a serious negative impact on the Russian military and its war effort.
- The failure of the Russian blitzkrieg and the failure to achieve a quick victory signaled the beginning of the Russian defeat. The Russian military’s economic and financial strength, which are not commensurate with its status as a so-called military superpower, could not support a high-tech war costing hundreds of millions of dollars a day. The Russian army’s poverty-driven defeat was evident everywhere on the battlefield. Every day that the war is delayed is a heavy burden for Russia.
- Russian military and economic advantages over Ukraine have been offset by the resilience of Ukraine and the huge, sustained and effective aid provided to Ukraine. The generational differences between Russia and the U.S. and other NATO countries in the areas of weapons and technology, military concepts, and modes of warfare make the advantages and disadvantages of both sides even more pronounced.
- Modern wars are necessarily hybrid wars, covering military, economic, political, diplomatic, public opinion, propaganda, intelligence, and information. Russia is not only in a passive position on the battlefield, but has lost in other areas. This means that it is only a matter of time before Russia is finally. It is only a matter of time before Russia is finally defeated.
- Russia can no longer decide when and how the war will end. Russia is trying to end the war as soon as possible so it can hold on to what it has gained. This has failed. In this sense, Russia has lost its strategic leadership and initiative.
II. The next phase of the war is likely to be more violent and intense
The possibility of expansion and escalation cannot be ruled out. This is because: the objectives of the two sides are diametrically opposed. Ensuring its sovereignty over Crimea and eastern Ukraine is clearly the bottom line for the Russian side. Ukraine will not concede to Russia on the issue of sovereignty and territorial integrity and will be determined to recover eastern Ukraine and Crimea through war. The U.S., NATO and the EU have repeatedly affirmed their determination to defeat Putin.
U.S. Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs John Sully recently emphasized three goals for the U.S. to achieve in the Russia-Ukraine war.
- An independent and liberal Ukraine.
- A weakened and isolated Russia.
- A strong, united, and resolute West.
In order to achieve these goals, the United States and the NATO EU countries have not only significantly increased their assistance to Ukraine, but the United States also passed the first post-World War II Lend-Lease Act. The U.S. has internationalized and institutionalized its assistance to Ukraine through the 41st Defense Ministerial Conference. More importantly, the direct involvement of the U.S. and Britain in the war is deepening and expanding. All of this suggests that the war will be fought until Russia is defeated and punished.
III. The Russo-Ukrainian War and the New International Order
The Russo-Ukrainian War put an end to the Yalta system and the remnants of the Cold War, and the world began to move toward a new pattern and order of international relations. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia inherited the Soviet Union’s status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a military superpower; Russia continued and retained much of the legacy and influence of the former Soviet Union in domestic politics, economy, society, culture and ideology; and Russian foreign policy was a blend of the foreign policies of the former Soviet Union and of the Tsarist Empire.
(1) The central and overriding direction of the Putin regime’s foreign policy is to regard the former Soviet Union as its exclusive sphere of influence and to restore the empire through the mechanism of integration in all spheres of that area under Russian domination.
Russia has been focused and determined to achieve this goal. Russia has never really recognized the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of other former Soviet states, and has frequently violated their territoriality and sovereignty. The Russian-Ukrainian war has changed this situation dramatically in terms of peace and security in the Eurasian region. After the independence of Ukraine, especially since 2000, the two factions in the country, which had been essentially equally divided between the East and the West leaning factions which were elected to power alternately. Following the annexation of Crimea and the occupation of parts of eastern Ukraine in 2014, anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine rose and pro-Russian forces began to shrink. Most of the people in Ukraine, not only in the east but also in the south, supported the country’s entry into the EU and NATO.
After the outbreak of the war, the situation in Ukraine has fundamentally changed. The country is united in its resistance to Russia and its salvation. It can be said that Russia has completely lost Ukraine. At the same time, the former Soviet Union, with the exception of white Russia, including the members of the Collective Security Treaty and the Eurasian Economic Union, have refused to support Russia. Russia’s defeat would leave it with no hope of rebuilding its old empire.
In order to gain the international status and influence of the Tsarist Empire or the former Soviet Union, break the existing international order, change the geopolitical map of the Eurasian continent and the world. Russia is obsessed with regrouping the former Soviet states and restoring its alliance or empire. This is in contrast to the U.S. position. This is a fundamental confrontation and conflict with the US. This is the main conflict and sticking point in Russia’s relations with the US.
To a large extent, the conflict between the two sides on this issue is a continuation and remnant of the Cold War between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., and has a certain ideological color. It also has a certain ideological color. Through this war, the confrontation and struggle between Russia and the U.S. in the context of the American Empire ended in a total defeat for Russia. It has ended ended the post-Cold War or the continuation of the Cold War.
(2) Possible points of the evolution of the international order after the Russo-Ukrainian war.
- Russia’s political, economic, military and diplomatic power will be significantly weakened and isolated. Russia will be significantly weakened, isolated and punished. Russia’s power will weaken even more. Russia may be expelled from some important international organizations and its international status will be significantly reduced. Russia’s international status will be significantly reduced.
- Ukraine would be removed from Russia’s orbit and sphere of influence (if Russia still has a sphere of influence) and become a member of the great European family. A member of the European family, i.e., a member of the European Union.
- Other former Soviet states may experience new and different degrees of de-Russianization. Some countries will move more actively to strengthen their ties with the West.
- Japan and Germany, while completely free from the constraints of the defeated countries of World War II and accelerating their armament development, will more actively strive for the status of political powers. Japan and Germany will be more active in seeking the status of political powers. However, they will not break away from the democratic camp, nor will they completely abandon the policy of peaceful development.
The U.S. and other countries will push hard for substantive reform of the UN and other important international organizations. If they are blocked, they may also start a new one. Both may exclude some countries, such as Russia, by drawing ideological lines of so-called independence.
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Listen to the rain at the end of summer and know the autumn [Beijing user]
What is this former ambassador’s attitude? Is Russia really that unbearable? Is it really a bad look? Is there really no reason for Russia’s resistance?
Is there really no reason for Russian resistance? This comment is probably from someone who is anti-China pro-Western. It is more radical than the Associated Press!
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DeRode_Linghan [Jiangsu user]
Finally, I can see a realistic and truthful article.
Appendix: 2019 China Pictorial Interview with Retired Gao Yusheng, Chinese diplomat who specialized in the Soviet Union and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union
Seventy Years of New China Diplomacy:
September 30, 2019 Renmin Huabao [China Pictorial] in Chinese
Diplomacy should “make more friends and fewer enemies”, do our own homework and be ready to respond to changes.
On December 24, 1984, a green international train from East Germany left Beijing, passed through Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, and finally arrived at Moscow, the capital of the Soviet Union, in five and a half days. 35-year-old Gao Yusheng was excited and full of anticipation as he watched the scenery outside the train windows change from the still-starry green of Beijing to the stern, icy snow of Moscow. He was on his way to report to the Chinese Embassy in the Soviet Union, where his 30-year career as a diplomat had begun.
Normalization of Sino-Soviet relations
Gao Yusheng experienced an important period of adjustment and development of China’s foreign policy in the 1980s, which he sees as a new period in the new Chinese diplomacy. “One very important feature of this ‘new’ is that we took the initiative to make diplomatic adjustments to create an extremely favorable external environment for reform and opening up and modernization.” Gao Yusheng said.
In 1979, China-US relations entered a new phase with the formal establishment of diplomatic relations. At the same time, China gradually improved its relations with the Soviet Union in a planned and systematic manner.
In 1982, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev passed away. China sent Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Huang Hua to attend the funeral, the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit the Soviet Union since relations broke down in the 1960s, breaking the “ice” in relations between the two countries. The next Soviet leader, Andropov, died in 1984, and the next one, Chernenko, died a year later. China sent then-Vice Premier Wan Li and Li Peng to the funeral, and the exchanges between the two sides contributed to the normalization of Sino-Soviet relations.
At the end of 1984, the Chinese side invited Alshipov, then the first vice chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers, to visit China. Alshipov was an old friend of China, having worked in China in the 1950s as the general advisor to Soviet experts in China. His visit reminded many Chinese of the years of friendship between China and the Soviet Union and played a positive role in repairing Sino-Soviet relations.
”Through several diplomatic efforts, Sino-Soviet relations gradually improved, and cooperative relations between the two countries in various fields, as well as cooperation in United Nations affairs, were gradually launched.” Gao Yusheng said, “The warming of Sino-Soviet relations has not only improved our external environment, but also helped boost our relations with the United States and other Western countries.”
”I arrived in Moscow on Dec. 29, 1984. It was New Year’s Eve, and although Moscow had a festive atmosphere, what I felt strongly was the lack of supplies and inefficient waste. In a very large food store on Kalinin Street, there was a long line for meat from upstairs to downstairs, and it took half a day or even a whole day to buy meat. In another supermarket, the attendant behind the counter put the bulk of the oranges in plastic mesh bags, weighed and put on the price tag and then threw a bag of bags from the back to the front, many customers stretched out their hands, throwing a bag to grab a bag. The scene is still fresh in my mind and that of my colleagues.” During his years in the Soviet Union, Gao Yusheng truly felt that Soviet society at that time was not dynamic, the political system was fraught with ills and accumulated, the economy and the level of science and technology developed slowly, and the people’s standard of living was extremely disproportionate to their status as a superpower and the signature of developed socialism. “While I was unable to predict the approximate timing of the collapse of the Soviet Union, I was never optimistic about its future.”
At that time, China was in the early stages of reform and opening up, and there were disagreements and debates about the path and direction of reform. Some thought it was better to learn from the Soviet Union and to study and learn from its experience in economic reform.
Gao Yusheng recalls, “After I arrived at the embassy, I wrote many reports to the country, mostly focusing on the Soviet system, especially the shortcomings of the economic system and the insurmountable difficulties and perils of the Soviet economy, emphasizing that there was no way out of the Soviet model. At that time, I had a clear idea that I wanted to do something useful for the country and the nation so that China would avoid repeating the mistakes of the Soviet model.”
Sino-Soviet relations in the new era were based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, emphasizing non-ideological, equal and mutually beneficial relations between the two countries and non-alignment. At the same time, Deng Xiaoping made the removal of three major obstacles, namely the Soviet withdrawal from the Sino-Soviet border, the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Soviet prompting of the Vietnamese withdrawal from Cambodia, a condition for normalizing relations between the two countries. This was Deng’s way of looking at the strategic overall situation of Chinese diplomacy, grasping the progress of the normalization of Sino-Soviet relations and safeguarding the country’s immediate interests.
”The improvement of Sino-Soviet relations not only improved the external environment of the new China, but also helped further develop our relations with the United States and other Western countries, thus creating a new situation in the diplomatic work of the new China and creating a favorable environment and conditions for reform and opening up and socialist modernization.” Gao Yusheng said.
The normalization of Sino-Soviet relations in the 1980s and China’s policies and practices in this process are a remarkable achievement not only in the history of Sino-Soviet relations but also in the history of Chinese diplomacy.
Promoting Cooperation and Sticking to Principles
From 2000 to 2007, Gao Yusheng served as China’s ambassador to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
”The work in these countries was relatively smooth and enjoyable. While safeguarding national interests and implementing foreign policy and relevant instructions, I paid attention to respecting each other, giving due consideration to each other’s interests and needs, making more friends, and promoting cooperation between China and these three countries in many fields such as politics, humanities, economic and trade, security, energy and infrastructure,” Gao Yusheng said, “As a diplomat, especially an ambassador As a diplomat, especially an ambassador, you cannot work in a foreign country without making many friends in order to protect the interests of your country and accomplish the tasks assigned by your country. I have deep feelings about this.”
China’s diplomacy is based on an all-round diplomatic layout in which “major powers are the key, the periphery is the priority, developing countries are the foundation, and multilateralism is an important stage. China attaches great importance to these countries in Central Asia, and its leaders visit them every year to maintain close ties. As China continues to develop and improve its international status, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine also attach great importance to the development of relations with China.
In 2010, Gao Yusheng retired from his post as deputy secretary-general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat. More than 20 years of diplomatic career have given Gao Yusheng a strong sense of professional pride and a profound sense of reflection. “Although we are living in different times than before, with challenges to the international order and the central role of the United Nations, and changes in the international status and relations of countries, I think diplomacy is still about ‘making more friends and fewer enemies’, doing our own homework and being ready to respond to changes. This is the most important.”
Born in 1947, Gao Yusheng served as Third and Second Secretary at the Embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from 1984 to 1988. From 1992 to 1996, he was First Secretary and Counselor at the Embassy of the Russian Federation, and from 1996 to 2000, he was Counselor at the Department of Eurasia of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and from 2000 to 2007, he was Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of China to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, and from 2007 to 2010, he was Deputy Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat.
Text: Yin Xing
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