Media  Global Economy  2022.07.01

Why the majority of Chinese have ceased to support Russia

SNS changes the global order formation and the young generation lead global governance

The article was originally posted on JBpress on May 18, 2022

China Russia

1. The United Nations malfunctions repeatedly

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia revealed again that the United Nations failed to function properly in important aspects of the formation of the world order.

Immediately after the invasion of Ukraine began, the U.N. Security Council attempted to convene an emergency special session to adopt a resolution to condemn Russia, but Russia, a permanent member, exercised its veto, preventing the Security Council from adopting such a resolution.

On March 2, in an emergency special session that followed this rejection, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution that it “deplored in the strongest terms Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.”

A total of 141 members, including Japan and the United States, favored the resolution with 35 members, including China and India, abstaining from the vote. Only five members, including Russia and North Korea, were against it.

Since the General Assembly resolution was not legally binding, however, no specific measures were taken even though such an overwhelming number of members supported it.

Under these circumstances, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine repeatedly criticized the U.N. for its failure to function properly.

The malfunctioning of the U.N. is nothing new.

As far as Russia was concerned, the Security Council failed to adopt a resolution owing to the exercise by Russia of its veto when it invaded Crimea in 2014.

In 2020, people all over the world wished all U.N. members to work together to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. But affected by the confrontation between the U.S. and China, the World Health Organization (WHO), a U.N. agency, could not implement effective measures though it was expected to do so.

The Security Council is the only agency of the U.N. that has the authority to make decisions that require members to take specific actions.

The Security Council allows only its permanent members, the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia, to exercise a veto.

The U.S., the U.K., and France have different ideologies and political systems from those of China and Russia, and therefore, in many cases, the permanent members find it difficult to reach an agreement on important issues. They often exercise their veto, preventing the adoption of important resolutions.

This is the fundamental cause of U.N. malfunctions, and there is no hope of this defect being eliminated in the future.

The second best measure is for the General Assembly to adopt a resolution to convey the intention of U.N. members to the international community.

This is not legally binding but is expected to exert indirect influence if the majority of members favor such a resolution.

2. Impact of economic sanctions by global corporations

Since the invasion of Ukraine, there has been a new move that has had a greater impact on Russia than a resolution of the U.N. General Assembly.

It is voluntary economic sanctions against Russia by major private enterprises that lead the global market.

On March 1, the day before the resolution of the U.N. General Assembly mentioned above, global corporations such as Apple, Nike, Ford, and BMW announced that they would discontinue sales and production of their products in Russia.

Visa and Mastercard Worldwide also discontinued the use of credit cards issued by Russian-affiliated banks in Russia.

On the same day, Exxon Mobil announced its withdrawal from Sakhalin 1, the petroleum and gas development project. BP and Shell announced their withdrawal from Russian business even earlier.

As described above, over 600 first-class corporations in the global market decided to discontinue Russian business or withdraw from the Russian market (according to a study by a team of researchers at Yale School of Management which was published on April 12).

This move by major private enterprises in the global market has greater impacts than resolutions of the U.N. General Assembly in that it immediately exerts tremendous influences on the Russian economy.

These actions are not forced by national governments or international organizations but are taken voluntarily based on the independent decisions of the corporations concerned. As such, decisions are swift.

What prompted them to take these actions?

Major global corporations consider the global market as more important than the market in their own country.

Consumers and client companies in the global market recognize the fact that the Russian armed forces are carrying out inhuman assaults on Ukrainian citizens, and people in the world have instantaneously shared strong antipathy against President Vladimir Putin and the Russian armed forces.

Under these circumstances, under which the majority of customers in the global market share anti-Russian sentiments, global corporations would invite criticism against themselves if they continued business in Russia as usual.

Forced to become keenly aware of such reputational risks, global corporations made a significant decision immediately.

This probably led to the recent harsh economic sanctions against Russia, including the discontinuation of production and withdrawal.

3. New world order created by SNS and the young generation

Rather than the conventional mass media, social media, as typified by SNS, played a leading role in reporting the reality of Russian armed forces’ inhuman assaults in Ukraine vividly.

The principal users of social media are young people aged 30 or younger.

In the U.S., the Millennial Generation (those who were born between the 1980s and the mid-1990s) and Generation Z (those who were born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s) constitute the core of this group of youths, and in China, this core is represented by the Jiu Ling Hou Generation (post-90; those who were born in the 1990s or thereafter) and the Ling Ling Hou Generation (post-00; those who were born in 2000 or thereafter).

These generations share the same characteristics with those in Japan, Europe, and other regions.

They tend to find major sources of information in news from social media through smartphones and PCs rather than the conventional mass media such as newspapers and TV. In general, news from these media is conveyed more quickly and offers more detailed information.

Since they have information screening functions, social media tend to give too much weight to offering information that fits the preference of receivers.

But facts such as the Russian armed forces’ inhuman assaults are instantaneously conveyed to the entire world, and before national governments make decisions, the recognition that the fundamental human moral sense never tolerates them is shared across national borders in a short period of time.

In China, immediately after the invasion of Ukraine began, the public opinion overwhelmingly supported Russia because only news reported by Russia’s state-owned broadcasting stations was provided by mass media such as newspapers and TV.

But the fact of inhuman attacks on Ukraine by the Russian armed forces was instantaneously shared across generations by the young generation as youths came to know about it through SNS.

A Chinese political scientist told the author that in April, public opinion was polarized with one half of Chinese supporting Russia and the other supporting Ukraine but that after the national holidays at the beginning of May, the majority of Chinese became inclined toward supporting Ukraine.

Influential social media prompted global information sharing, which in turn made major corporations in the world become aware of reputational risks, and this affected and moved the world transcending rules based on agreements among states.

The new mechanism of world order formation as described above was clarified by the rapid expansion of economic sanctions against Russia by global corporations after the invasion of Ukraine.

4.Emergence of new global governance

In the future global society, information sharing mainly among the young generation is expected to affect global corporations, complementing the malfunctioning of states and international organizations in forming a world order.

This means that private enterprises and the morality complements the previous mechanism by which the world order was formed by states and rules among them.

Underpinning this new mechanism is the sharing of information mainly among the young generation through social media.

The global society, whose framework was formerly divided into units of states, has shifted to one global community, which is not divided by national boundaries, through information sharing enabled by the networks of social media.

Just because it is a single unit, this global community can be evaluated as one in which morality shared across national boundaries function as a common global standard and in which a new global governance system is being created.

The mechanism by which morality that should be respected by human beings sets norm that transcend rules set by them has been set in motion.

A long-term look at the future of the global society indicates that amidst the decline of America’s leadership as the result of the relative share of its economy shrinking in the global economy, the conflict between the U.S. and China, and the ongoing multipolarization of the world, it is inevitable that the world order formation based on existing international organizations and international cooperation will become increasingly unstable.

The limit of forming rules based on international agreements has become clear, and under such circumstances, a system that complements it is necessary.

The invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated that global corporations have the function of complementing the global order formation, and this function is expected to allow global corporations to work as an important pillar to alleviate the destabilization of the global order formation.

The development of social media and the growing influence exerted by the young generation will continue.

With these trends, new global governance led by non-state actors based on morality that are shared across national boundaries will prevail in a wider range of areas.

The author expects that the new system of the global order formation will further evolve in this direction and keep the global order stable.