Satire

Ruritania Sets Off Along China’s Road

A once-steady U.S. ally in Eastern — or possibly Central — Europe moves toward Beijing’s grip.

Getty Images/Foreign Policy illustration
Getty Images/Foreign Policy illustration

STRELSAU, Ruritania — China’s One Belt, One Road will soon include one Ruritania, Ruritanian Prime Minister Ivan Rassendyll announced in the capital, Strelsau, on Sunday.

Nestled in the heart of Russia’s near abroad, the small former Eastern Bloc country is thrusting itself further into the international spotlight by joining China’s initiative to develop a 21st-century Silk Road.

“The world is getting even smaller. In joining One Belt, One Road, Ruritania’s opportunities are getting even bigger,” Rassendyll proudly shared at the press conference. “Also, for any foreign reporters in the room, we’re a Central, not Eastern, European country. There’s nothing wrong with being an Eastern European country. But Strelsau is actually west of Vienna. So we’re at the heart of Europe. Central to Europe. Central European.”

Ruritania’s ties to China are long-standing. After the overthrow of the Hentzau regime, Ruritania was one of the few countries, together with Albania and Sokovia, to side with Beijing in the Sino-Soviet split under the Hynkelian dictatorship. But in 1991, the winds of change blew the country firmly into the American camp.

Some, however, wonder if, in joining One Belt, One Road, Ruritania is turning away from the European and trans-Atlantic alliance. While government officials dispute this claim, saying that Ruritanian values ensure that its true allies will always be in Brussels and Washington, some careful observers are skeptical, wondering whether enthusiasm for One Belt, One Road is a sign of growing Chinese influence. “It’s like Rassendyll is one person to us, and a completely different person to the Chinese,” commented former British Ambassador Sir Harry Flashman.

One government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, points to the Chinese executive and scion of a princeling family Ku Shenna, who bought up various media outlets, hotels, and even an airline in Ruritania before being put on trial for “party disciplinary offense”’ in March. “But, sure. No Chinese influence here,” the official sighs, taking a swig of beer and a shot of beliyrusski, the country’s traditionally strong, hard alcohol. “Maybe we can blame Soros for that, too,” he says. Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros is frequently accused by Rur zom Ruriti (Ruritania for the Ruritanians), a far-right party currently part of Rassendyll’s coalition, of funding the “flood” of LBTQ Muslim migrants into Strelsau.

Ruritania might lack the obvious attractions of its neighboring states, such as the ruins left by the failed Syldavian space program or the red mercury deposits of Orsinia. Yet China is but one country thought to be sweetly seducing Ruritania with its soft power — and also money.

“Russian disinformation is the real problem here. Just look at these past elections!” expatriate analyst William Boot cries in a Strelsau coffee shop, Café Kafka, speaking from his days of experience in the country.

“This is a clear case of democratic backsliding,” Boot suggests. “Perhaps the roots of civil society just didn’t go deep enough in this post-Communist country to avoid the allure of Russia’s dancing bear. The country’s just undergoing a really unfortunate metamorphosis.”

Elsewhere in the same café, a local offers a different perspective. “I think the real problem is local attitudes. Sure, you can influence them from afar, but isn’t it easier to do so from the seat of national power?” the strikingly beautiful Natasha Fatale says.

“The government can start speaking out for migrants, for Europe, for the trans-Atlantic alliance. Until then, you can get rid of Chinese money and Russian fake news, and still nothing will change,” Fatale says, tossing back her long raven hair with one hand and smoking a cigarette with another. “It’s not like China and Russia are really that involved here. It’s not like Freedonia,” she adds, referring to Ruritania’s divided neighbor, flooded by the deep rivers of ethnic hatreds between Freedonians, Syldavians, and Bordurians. Both China and Russia have been known in recent years to send money and arms, respectively, to rival political power brokers, including separatists from Grand Fenwick. “We don’t have any of that here. Not yet.”

Does she think One Belt, One Road will make things better or worse?

“The truth is,” Fatale says, tugging sensually on her traditional Ruritanian shirt and tapping one high heel, “I don’t think China cares that much about Ruritania. It’s like all of these big countries and unions — sometimes I think Ruritania is the only place in the world that cares about Ruritania. I guess every place is like that, in its way.”

This piece was funded in part by the Institute for April Foolery. 

Tag: satire

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