China is moving towards a ‘Russian’ view of hybrid and proxy warfare – particularly in cyberspace.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the crisis in Ukraine have affected Chinese views of territorial sovereignty and peripheral stability. Chinese analysts are applying lessons learned from Ukraine to their own regional and international environment. An examination of 434 Chinese-language documents on the Ukraine crisis provides insights into how Chinese academics, economists, engineers, officials and military personnel view Russian tactics and strategy, as well as Western intentions, and suggests that China is moving towards a more holistic and ‘Russian’ view of hybrid and proxy warfare – particularly in cyberspace.

Identification with Russia
Chinese coverage of the Ukraine crisis, although it is geographically distant, extends beyond simply recounting its impact on Russia, Ukraine and the United States, and frequently addresses the implications of the crisis for China.1 Using the oft-touted accusation of ‘Cold War thinking’ (lengzhan siwei) on the part of Western powers, Chinese analysts frame the Ukraine crisis as a ‘great-power game’ (daguo boyi) between Washington and Moscow.2 In a number of cases, Chinese writers are conflicted on how to evaluate the costs and benefits of the Ukraine crisis for Beijing.

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Lora Saalman is the Director of, and Senior Researcher at, the China and Global Security Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

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Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

December 2016–January 2017

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