Frequent followers of wishful thinking, the major Western media have stressed over and over again that nothing important – neither an arms deal nor a declaration of support for the war in Ukraine – was signed during the visit that the Chinese president made to his Russian counterpart in Moscow, from 21 to 23 March 2023, and that it was therefore a flop for Vladimir Putin.
But Westerners do not understand that in geopolitics the symbolic always takes precedence over the material. Xi Jinping is not a man who practices diplomatic tourism. When he goes to Moscow and embraces a Putin who has just been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), it is because he wants to send a powerful message to his Western rivals.
It is a message of defiance. It is a message of refusal of any moral primacy that the West might hold over the rest of humanity. « You can keep your democratic principles and your variable geometry international justice, » the Chinese leader seems to want to tell the West. Xi Jinping did not appreciate the thinly veiled threats expressed by America in case he strengthened his alliance with Russia. « I ally with whoever I want, however I want and whenever I want, » is Beijing’s response to Washington.
It is a position that is much more widespread on the planet than one might think. It is followed by most African, Latin American and Asian states. It allows China to present itself as the herald of a multipolar world, as opposed to the unipolar world led by the United States of America.
Urbanized youth leaders in what used to be called Third World countries are increasingly calling the democratic catechism from the West hypocritical. South Africa’s Julius Sello Malema, born in 1981 in a Bantustan, is a good example. After serving as president of the ANC youth league, he broke with the ruling party to form his own movement, Economic Freedom Fighters, which continues to grow. In a video that has been widely circulated in Africa, he denounces what he considers to be the double standards of the International Court in The Hague. The ICC has indicted the Russian president but has never looked into the Western leaders who destroyed two states, Iraq and Libya, through military interventions not authorized by the UN.
The American president welcomed the indictment of Vladimir Putin by the ICC, and said, « We need to gather the information and have a war crimes trial. The youth of the rest of the world find this attitude hypocritical, since America has never ratified the Rome Statute and is therefore not a party to the ICC (as are Russia and China). The war crimes committed in Boutcha, Ukraine, by the Russian army, are proven. But those committed in Abu Ghraib, in Iraq, are no less so. However, none of the leaders of the Western coalition that invaded Iraq in 2003 has yet been questioned by international justice.
The Westerners explain that their military interventions are disinterested, and that they are carried out within the framework of a fight against evil (dictatorship) and for the promotion of good (democracy). This Manichean mantra, which has been conveyed by the mass media, is already not very popular with Western youth. But it no longer resonates at all with the politicized youth of Africa, Latin America and Asia.
America is becoming aware of this phenomenon. This is why the American vice-president, Kamala Harris, began a tour of Africa (Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia) on March 26, 2023. Washington considers that this continent, where the average age is twenty, represents the future of humanity. The Americans want to counter the breakthrough of China and Russia, the two great autocracies that have been growing closer for twenty years.
However, the politicized youth of the rest of the world are less interested in the proclaimed purity of the West’s intentions than in the final result of its military interventions. They see that it has destroyed, and then abandoned, two functioning Third World oil states, Iraq and Libya.
The day an armistice between Moscow and Kiev is in sight, the West will demand that the Russians apologize for their military aggression of February 24, 2022. But if it wants to be supported by the rest of the world in this process, the West would be well advised to first put its own house in order. And to first apologize for the serious destabilization of the Middle East and the Sahel, which it has caused by its wars in Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011).