Putin, Xi, and the Mandate of Heaven

The past lives on in each of us, in what is known as culture. One such element, autocracy, had only occasional challenge  until revolutions of 1848. Vladimir Putin, in collaboration with the Russian Orthodox Church, has latched onto the divine right of kings.

With the demise of Communism  in China except in name, elements of Confucianism fill the ideological gap: good government, social harmony, work ethic, and respect for authority. Confucianism is not a religion; it is a system of thought with some vague religious elements, such as Tian, – Heaven.  This is Xi Jinping’s own cultural heritage from China’s past: a system of thought incomparably advanced compared to most Western manifestations, predating modern, that followed the Golden Age of Greece.

We  oppose authoritarian systems. Yet it is important for us to realize that they come in many  grades of quality. Some provide good government. Some start well, though they appear time limited. Some start well and end badly.  Some slip into monstrosity. Confucianism, which co-evolved with autocratic dynasties,  holds that a ruler is deposed when he has lost the Mandate of Heaven.

Xi was met at the airport in Moscow by the Minister of Tourism. He met with an obviously ill Putin, who used ambiguous language to reject his peace plan. Xi left early, skipping a last day of meetings. It is likely that in Xi’s cultural reference, Putin has lost the Mandate of Heaven. Accordingly, provision of military aid  would go against the will of Tian. Putin’s end is so ordained.

Many in the West are surprised by the outcome of this meeting. Some may anticipate Xi will prop up Putin to prevent Russia from entering the Western orbit. We should prepare  ourselves for further surprise. Xi may realize that to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs.

The immediate post Putin period will not resemble the post-Soviet breakup, which featured profound ennui. It will be hyper-charged with violence among the elites. This may spread into the masses through those in the elite with followings, or the lower echelons of the security apparatus. A Terror will follow, a prolonged process that will result in fracturing, by the efforts of local authorities to keep the Terror out. It will end in exhaustion, but without the political evolution of rapprochement with the West. That may come later.

What Xi wants is described in Reply to China’s new Foreign Minister Qin Gang; (CNN) China’s new foreign minister warns of conflict with US, defends Russia ties It will be crucial for Xi to identify the moment to act.

At that moment, the Russian Federation’s sense of common identity will be superseded by multiple identities of small states without common purpose. The Russian nuclear deterrent will be void, except for Russia itself.

Economic unions  with the Asian remains of Russian Empire will be the first steps, followed by actual abrogation of the Unequal Treaties.