Examining the Parallels Between Leaders Putin and Xi Jinping's Imperial Ambitions

In a recent interview, Tucker Carlson sat down with Russian President Vladimir Putin, sparking a wave of commentary and analysis.

by Faruk Imamovic
Examining the Parallels Between Leaders Putin and Xi Jinping's Imperial Ambitions
© Getty Images/Lintao Zhang

In a recent interview, Tucker Carlson sat down with Russian President Vladimir Putin, sparking a wave of commentary and analysis. Among the observers was former Taiwan Presidential spokesperson Kolas Yotaka, who drew a parallel that resonates with the tensions of our time.

"Putin and Xi Jinping are similar," she observed, highlighting a shared belief in their roles as defenders of their nations against foreign powers, rooted in a vision of old imperial glory. This sentiment, according to Yotaka, is not only alarming but fundamentally flawed.

As Putin's war on Ukraine trudges into its third year, the human and financial toll mounts, drawing global condemnation and concern. This conflict, underpinned by Putin's invocation of historical grievances, mirrors the rhetoric of Chinese leader Xi Jinping concerning Taiwan.

The comparison is not lost on those who champion democracy and human rights, signaling a broader geopolitical struggle that extends beyond the borders of Ukraine and Taiwan.

Delusions of Grandeur and Historical Entitlement

The Softball Interview and its Ramifications

Critics have blasted Putin's interview with Carlson as a missed opportunity to challenge the Russian leader's narrative.

Instead, it provided a platform for Putin to justify his unprovoked aggression towards Ukraine, casting it as a protective measure for Russia's national interests. Remarkably, Putin ventured into contentious territory by claiming Ukrainian soldiers, despite fighting fiercely for their democracy, somehow identify as Russian—a notion widely dismissed by observers and contradicted by firsthand accounts from the ground.

This narrative, where historical ties justify modern aggression, echoes in Xi Jinping's stance towards Taiwan. Drawing on centuries of cultural exchanges and political alliances, Putin sees Ukraine's integration into the Russian sphere as a natural restoration of historical order.

Similarly, Xi frames the "reunification" with Taiwan as part of China's path to national rejuvenation, ignoring the island's distinct identity and democratic values.

A Tale of Two Leaders and Their Imperial Dreams

Both leaders, through their rhetoric and actions, tap into the nostalgia of past empires to legitimize their current ambitions.

For Putin, the war in Ukraine is a step towards rectifying a historical "mistake," despite the international outcry and the immense human suffering it has caused. Xi, on the other hand, views Taiwan's incorporation as crucial to completing China's century-long journey to regain its status as a global power.

However, these ambitions come at a cost. As Putin's forces wreak havoc in Ukraine, Xi Jinping bolsters his military capabilities, signaling a readiness to assert China's claims on Taiwan by force if necessary. This build-up and show of force are not merely for domestic consumption but serve as a stark reminder of the lengths to which these leaders will go to fulfill their visions of national glory.

Putin and Xi Jinping© Getty Images

The International Arena: Warnings and Alliances

A Call to Vigilance

The international community has not remained silent in the face of these unfolding events. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's warning at the Munich Security Conference highlighted the burgeoning partnership between China and Russia as a significant concern.

The "partnership without limits" declared between Putin and Xi just before the invasion of Ukraine serves as a stark reminder of the potential consequences of authoritarian ambitions. Stoltenberg's caution reflects a broader apprehension that victories for autocratic leaders in regional conflicts could embolden similar actions elsewhere, particularly concerning Taiwan.

The Global Democratic Response

The parallels drawn between Ukraine and Taiwan are not mere speculative exercises but are grounded in a shared threat posed by autocratic regimes to democratic states. This comparison has galvanized a segment of the international community, underscoring the importance of a unified response to deter aggression and support democratic values.

The stance taken by global democracies, especially in terms of military and diplomatic support, could significantly impact the strategic calculations of leaders like Xi and Putin.

The Specter of History and Future Tensions

Echoes of Imperial Past

Both Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have skillfully woven narratives of historical entitlement and national rejuvenation into their political agendas.

These narratives serve not only to justify their current geopolitical maneuvers but also to rally domestic support for their ambitious goals. By invoking the glory of past empires, they seek to legitimize their expansive visions, presenting their actions as natural steps toward restoring their nations' rightful places on the world stage.

Military Build-up and Strategic Posturing

Xi's significant expansion of China's military capabilities, particularly in comparison to historical precedents, underscores the seriousness of his intentions toward Taiwan. The rapid development of the People's Liberation Army, especially in naval, nuclear, space, and AI warfare, presents a clear and present danger to the island's security.

This military modernization, coupled with aggressive tactics such as airspace intrusions and large-scale exercises, signals Beijing's readiness to use force to achieve its objectives.

Navigating the Future: Taiwan's Precarious Position

The Limits of Analogies

While the analogies between Ukraine and Taiwan provide useful insights, they also have their limitations.

Taiwan's unique geopolitical position, coupled with significant unofficial international support, including from the United States, adds layers of complexity to its situation. The U.S.' s commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide the island with defensive means further differentiates it from Ukraine's predicament.

The Role of International Support

The global response to Putin's actions in Ukraine and the potential for similar aggression by Xi towards Taiwan highlights the importance of international solidarity in preserving peace and deterring authoritarian overreach.

The support for Taiwan, though largely unofficial, plays a crucial role in maintaining the status quo and ensuring the island's security against potential Chinese aggression. In the face of these challenges, the international community stands at a crossroads.

The decisions made today regarding support for Ukraine and Taiwan will not only determine the fate of these regions but also shape the future of global democracy and international norms.

Xi Jinping Russian Vladimir Putin