Russia’s ‘internal affair’: China is downplaying the impact of Wagner’s mutiny

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By Webdesk

Beijing emphasizes “national stability” as state media reports that the collapse of the Wagner uprising has strengthened rather than weakened Putin.

China has shown its support for Russia in the wake of this weekend’s aborted Wagner mutiny, as state media projected a narrative of stability and minimal impact on Beijing’s ally.

China’s foreign ministry described the incident as “Russian internal affairs” in a brief statement on Sunday after Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin led his soldiers as far as 200 kilometers (124 mi) from Moscow before suddenly agreeing to withdraw as part of a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Under the terms of the agreement, Prigozhin and the troops supporting the uprising would not be prosecuted and Prigozhin would go into exile in Belarus.

“As Russia’s friendly neighbor and comprehensive strategic coordination partner for the new era, China supports Russia in maintaining national stability and achieving development and prosperity,” Beijing said in the statement.

Chinese media, meanwhile, covered the story later than Western media and indexed it lower, while articles also highlighted how quickly the Kremlin was able to defuse the situation and return it to normal, said Wen-ti Sung, a political scientist who teaches at ANU’s Taiwan studies program and works on US-Taiwan-China relations.

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“In terms of propaganda, the Chinese state media focuses on presenting a positive image of Putin, restoring the Supreme Leader’s image of sanctity and control, and emphasizing the continued stability of Russian society,” he told Al Jazeera.

In a lengthy article on Sunday, the official Xinhua news agency noted that “Xinhua reporters found that the incident did not cause major disorder in Russian society and that the lives of the people of Moscow and beyond were hardly affected,” despite some movement restrictions.

The Global Times tabloid, citing several Chinese experts, stressed that “despite Western media saying the uprising exposed the weakness of the Putin government…the Kremlin retains a strong deterrent capability, which will further enhance its authority.”

The article featured experts such as Cui Heng, an assistant researcher at East China Normal University’s Center for Russian Studies, who made comments such as “Suppressing the insurgency in such a short period of time actually consolidated the authority of the government- Putin, which has little impact on the battlefield in the frontline between Russia and Ukraine.”

While China has remained officially neutral in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Beijing has provided vital economic support to Russia despite Western sanctions and continues to refer to Moscow as a close “strategic ally”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin also maintain close personal ties, and are likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future, ANU’s Sung said.

“Xi still prefers Putin over the alternatives, but Beijing now has reasons to be more hesitant and become more transactional in dealing with Putin,” he said.

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