Yes, an international precedent in foreign policy for China to follow has indeed been set by the use of force by the Russian military to "resolve" conflict and territorial issues in this century.
But the precedent was not set by the recent Russian-Ukraine (2022) war but more than a decade earlier with tension renewing between Russia and Georgia in 2003 culminating in the Russian-Georgian conflict in 2008. The mute international response encouraged Russia to also use its military with Ukraine in 2014 and now in 2022.
On August 8, 2008, Russian forces began the invasion of Georgia, marking the start of Europe’s first twenty-first century war ... The international reaction to Russia’s military campaign in Georgia was to prove remarkably muted, with Moscow suffering few negative consequences ... Understandably, many in Moscow interpreted this accommodating approach as an informal invitation for further acts of aggression in Russia’s traditional sphere of influence. Six years after the Russo-Georgian War, Russia embarked on a far more comprehensive military campaign against Ukraine, where Moscow continues to occupy Crimea and large swathes of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
Source: The 2008 Russo-Georgian War: Putin’s green light
It is not a coincidence that this increased assertiveness by Russia was preceded by a Russian - Sino pact. In 2001, Russia and China signed a very important military and economic treaty which spells out their common foreign policy and vision for a multi-polar world order:
The 2001 Russia-China treaty covers five important areas of cooperation:
- Joint actions to offset a perceived U.S. hegemonism;
- Demarcation of the two countries' long-disputed 4,300 km border;
- Arms sales and technology transfers;
- Energy and raw materials supply; and
- The rise of militant Islam in Central Asia.
... The signing of the Russia-China Treaty of Friendship this week, on the heels of the creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization last month, portends the establishment of a strategic partnership that could influence the future of Eurasia and East Asia for decades to come.
Source: The Russia-China Friendship and Cooperation Treaty: A Strategic Shift in Eurasia?
During the same period as the Russians began to assert itself militarily, a study of China's foreign policy shows that this encouraged China to also experiment with using military force to settle or make political gain on border disputes and disagreements with weaker countries that also worked (or desired closer relations) with the United States.
The world has indeed seen increased military aggression by China in South China Sea, and with Bhutan and India in the Himalayas.
In 2012, China and the Philippines agreed to withdraw naval vessels around Scarborough Shoal in a deal brokered by the United States. The Chinese ships never left, and have controlled it since.
... China this week began what it said will become regular military air patrols over the South China Sea. Xinhua, a party-controlled newswire, said Monday that China's air force "recently" flew an air combat patrol over the Scarborough Shoal, a disputed fishing ground not far from the Philippine coast. Photographs released by the news agency show a Chinese H-6K bomber cruising high above a submerged shoal in azure sea. China seized controlled of Scarborough Shoal in 2012, and its coast guard has since angered Manila by chasing out Filipino fishermen.
Source: China: Disregard the South China Sea ruling. The Philippines: No.
In 2017, China's military illegally started building infrastructure in Dokhlam, Bhutan, which prompted India to respond militarily too as this threatened India's territorial integrity too:
Several reports in recent days have spoken about the Chinese side beefing up its military presence in the disputed Doklam area, where Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in a two-month stand-off in the summer of 2017. Recent satellite images and intelligence reports show the Chinese have erected several permanent military posts, a few helipads and new trenches not very far from where the two Armies faced off. About 1,800 Chinese troops are stationed, even in deep winter, in the Doklam area, according to other reports. India has also strengthened its presence in the region.
Source: What is the Doklam issue all about?
Reports in 2022 now claim that China has increased its incursion and built more infrastructure in and around Doklam, despite promising to resolve the issue diplomatically issue with Bhutan and India.
While China did indeed pull back troops and bulldozers from the face-off site, these were simply shifted just 10 km away to work on expanding existing dirt tracks into Doklam, NDTV reported a month after the crisis had ended. Subsequent reports revealed “extensive construction activity” along the Amo Cho River, including a military complex with bunkers and helipads and a bridge spanning river. Last year, reports emerged of the Chinese constructing three villages in the area.
Source: China Advances Into Bhutan’s Doklam; India Watches
In 2020, China made an aggressive military incursion into Ladakh, India and has occupied large swathes of the territory, despite the military face-off with India:
For the first time in forty-five years, on 15 June 2020, India and China recorded the death of Indian soldiers on the Line of Actual Control—the contested border between the two countries, which stretches from the Karakoram Pass in the west to Myanmar in the east. The deaths occurred in the Galwan Valley, in Ladakh, and these were the first military casualties in the territory since the 1962 Sino-India War ... “We were taken by surprise by how well prepared they were for the clash,” a top officer at the army headquarters in Delhi, who was part of the decision-making in the Ladakh crisis, told me.
Source: How China outmanoeuvred the Modi government and seized control of territory along the LAC
Despite the 8+ month of military stand-off between China and India in this area, China still holds sway over more than 600 miles of indian territory it managed to occupy.
Rahul Gandhi, an opposition leader in India, has drawn this parallel between Russian and Chinese foreign policy when he publicly stated that China's military action against India was in fact strategically quite similar to what Russia was doing with Ukraine:
"Russia says that they don't accept the territoriality of Ukraine, they don't consider the Donetsk and Luhansk regions parts of Ukraine. Russia attacked Ukraine on that basis. What is the aim? Break the alliance of NATO-Ukraine-US. China is applying the same principle to India. China is saying that Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh are not yours (India's) and they have deployed their troops there. Govt is ignoring this. But we have a model (Russia-Ukraine). That model can be applied here too," Rahul Gandhi said as he was asked to comment on the ongoing crisis between Russia-Ukraine
Video: Chinese troops sitting inside India, exactly like what is happening in Ukraine: Rahul Gandhi
While China seems to be adopting some of Russia's aggressive foreign policy, it is also learning from the negative international reactions and the actions against Russia to further fine tune its strategy. And so when the world criticises it, it pretends to listen to their concerns and even give in a little, unlike Russia, but slowly continues to push forward with its agenda (as seen in South China Sea with US and Philippines, and in Doklam with Bhutan and India) over the years. The increased escalation in aggression in South China Sea and in the Himalaya against India and Bhutan points towards the increasing confidence in China of continuing this policy, perhaps because of Russia's "success" in 2014 with Ukraine.
But so far, all indications are that China is only prepared to use its military for posturing and low-intensity military skirmish or battles. And it tries to avoid inviting public international criticism. Chinese foreign policy has always avoided a direct military confrontation with both Russia and America - countries it considers more powerful than itself - and so it only picks on weaker countries as it asserts itself globally. Invading Taiwan would be a full-scale war that would not only invite economic sanctions but also direct military confrontation with the USA (and perhaps even with Australian and Japanese military with whom the US has been engaging to form a military pact against China). That could cripple China both economically and militarily and weaken it considerably (and they may not even be successful in conquering Taiwan). I do believe that China might consider that a price too high, currently, and so it will be patient and continue to strengthen itself both economically and militarily till it believes it can take on the other world powers.