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Revealing the deep reasons why it is difficult for China to abandon Russia in the Ukraine crisis

Chinese officials are facing great foreign pressure when Russia conducts a “special military operation” on Ukrainian territory. However, there are many signs that China will find it difficult to abandon its geopolitical ally Russia in the current difficult circumstances.

China’s situation in relations with Russia

On the one hand, Beijing and Moscow have been very close at the top for many years. Russia is a supplier of raw materials to China. Russia also plays the role of a geopolitical ally for China as it confronts a series of blows from the United States under President Donald Trump.

Revealing the deep reasons why it is difficult for China to abandon Russia in the Ukraine crisis - 1

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: The Print.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in January 2021 used a well-known formula to describe the relationship between the two countries: China-Russia strategic cooperation has no limits, no no-go zones, and no ceiling.

A year later, China and Russia reinforced this political line with a joint communiqué adopted during Russian President Putin’s visit to China. During Putin’s visit, China for the first time linked itself to Russia’s need to stop the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and joined Russia in calling the organization “from abandoning the Cold War ideological approach, in order to respect the sovereignty, security and interests of other countries, the diversity of civilizations, cultures, and histories of other countries. country, as well as adopt a fair and objective attitude towards the peaceful development of other countries”.

But on the other hand, China also has concerns. New instability in Europe due to fighting, Western sanctions, and Russia’s retaliatory measures have created problems for the Chinese economy such as rising fuel prices. increase and the possibility of Chinese companies being indirectly punished through sanctions imposed on Russia. Besides, China also wondered about the possibility of Russia ending its military campaign early and still maintaining its power, not falling into a state of weakness.

Perspectives from China’s experts

There are currently internal controversies among China’s experts, which are reflected in various publications and private communications with these figures.

Overall, Chinese writers believe that the current conflict in Ukraine is caused by the US maintaining a provocative policy for many years, that it is the US that has started this conflict.

But on the other hand, they also have the opinion that China is right to not choose a side, opposes the “zero-sum game”, calls for a peaceful resolution of issues, respects sovereignty and territorial integrity. territories of all States, in accordance with the purposes and principles set forth in the Charter of the United Nations.

Hu Xijin – former Editor-in-Chief of China’s Global Times, who is famous for his nationalist ideology, also recently unexpectedly made some very soft proposals. In a status line on the social network Weibo (of China) on March 4, he hoped that Russia would “land gently” and restore the strategic security environment in the West. But at the same time, he opposes efforts to “Russianize” China’s foreign policy, that is, not to do the same as Russia. According to him, China’s strength lies not in the military (in contrast to Russia) but in the economy. Therefore, he said China should act more moderate, in the longer term, use diplomatic means to bring the US closer economically to China, gain a competitive advantage.

In an interview posted on the website of Phoenix Television at the end of February 2022, Feng Yujun – Deputy Director of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University (China) commented that historical reasons are The main principle that governs Russia’s development direction has always been the contradiction between the desire to restore the great power position and the actual lack of power.

The official view from the Chinese authorities

Of course, the above comments represent the personal views of experts, not directly related to China’s official line, although such commentators have connections to the Chinese system of government.

China’s official position is reflected in the statements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its diplomats.

Perhaps the most obvious is the article by the Chinese Ambassador to the US, Qin Gang, published in the Washington Post on March 15, 2022. He denied US media reports that China knew in advance of the Russian attack and even asked Moscow to delay the attack until the Winter Olympics in Beijing ended. Mr. Qin also remarked that China is a major trading partner of both Russia and Ukraine, and there are more than 6,000 Chinese citizens living in Ukraine, implying that Russia’s military campaign is detrimental to the interests of China. China.

Ambassador Qin Gang also said that if China knew about the Russian military campaign in advance, China would do everything possible to prevent armed conflict. He also stressed that China supports peace talks, ending wars, and maintaining regional and global stability.

China’s Supreme Leader, Xi Jinping, also confirmed this view during a video meeting with President M.yes Joe Biden on March 18, 2022. At that time, Mr. Xi declared: “China does not want to see the Ukraine situation to this extent. China supports peace, opposes war.

Xi rejected US efforts to get China to unilaterally pressure Russia, calling on all countries that support Russia and Ukraine to negotiate effectively to achieve peace. He also called on the US to enter into dialogue with Russia to resolve the core issues in the Ukraine crisis, alleviating security concerns for both Russia and Ukraine.

On March 17, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that the US government’s decision to expand NATO to the east is directly related to the current crisis in Ukraine. According to Mr. Trieu, the key to solving this crisis lies in the hands of the US and NATO. Two days later, Mr. Zhao urged the US to think deeply about its role in the development of the Ukraine crisis and make concrete efforts to defuse tensions there. On March 19, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng also harshly criticized the “mindfulness” of the NATO military bloc and its continued existence even after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The deputy minister also criticized unilateral sanctions against Russia without the consent of the United Nations Security Council …

Big point in common: China still supports Russia to the fullest extent possible

China’s official positions can be summarized as follows: China opposes military action and advocates peaceful resolution of disputes. However, China believes that Russia’s military action is due to the “provocative” policy of the US, first of all due to the expansion of NATO. China considers Russia’s actions somewhat outrageous, but Russia remains an important partner and any peaceful resolution must take into account Russia’s legitimate concerns.

Overall, Beijing does not seem to have expressed its final position, they still have to observe how the situation in Ukraine develops. However, there are still some key points that are relatively clear about their position.

Russia remains a very important partner for China in its confrontation with the United States. China understands that the confrontation with the US is serious and prolonged. Therefore, China has been quite indifferent to the US call to put pressure on Russia to force Russia to stop its military campaign in Ukraine. From practice, China can judge that if Russia is defeated, then it is quite possible that the United States will redouble its efforts to isolate China.

China will not benefit from a weakened Russia. It is highly likely that China will continue to support Russia to the extent possible while it itself tries to avoid the side effects of US sanctions. China’s future cooperation with Russia is forecast to depend more on geopolitical interests than on a shared vision of the world order.

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