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How the Wagner mutiny exposed risks for China

STORY: Saturday’s short-lived mutiny by Wagner in Russia – may have been an eye-opener for Beijing.

It was the biggest test of Vladimir Putin’s leadership since his February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

And though it quickly faded – analysts in China have been left asking this question:

Has China wedged itself too closely to Russia?

China is Russia’s top trading partner – and closest ally.

At the heart of their relations is a shared opposition to what they see as a world dominated by the United States –

and the expansion of the NATO military alliance that threatens their security.

But the weekend uprising has unsettled Beijing’s leadership – according to a top U.S. official on Monday.

Moritz Rudolf of Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center:

“So this is something that for the Chinese side, this is of great concern because they have huge interests in upholding stable and predictable relations with Russia. They have economic interests, they have political interests and they want to cooperate with Russia for instance in regional forums and at the multilateral level.”

While Chinese state-run media cheered Putin’s swift efforts to stamp out the rebellion…

even some in China – where critical speech is tightly controlled – have started to question Beijing’s bet on Russia.

“So a stable Russia is really important for China and now they saw that Putin might not be as stable as it appeared.”

Wen-Ti Sung is a political scientist at the Australian National University.

“I think Xi likely still prefers Putin to the alternatives in Russian politics, but Beijing now has more reasons to have more reservations and to become more transactional in its dealings with Putin’s Russia.”

China has sought to play down the weekend’s events and voiced support for Moscow,

with which it struck a “no limits” partnership shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.