Xi Jinping is unlikely to abandon his “old friend” Vladimir Putineven as the Russian leader’s decision to send thousands more troops to Ukraine and his nuclear threats test Beijing’s “unlimited” partnership with Moscow, experts say.
Instead, China will deepen its awkward stance of calling for dialogue and a peaceful resolution while refusing to condemn the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
On Thursday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York that China would maintain an “objective” and “fair” position.
Xi and Putin have grown closer in recent years, united by their mutual mistrust of the West, and reaffirmed their partnership just days before Russia invaded Ukraine. But China has been careful not to provide any direct material support that could trigger Western sanctions against it.
Putin acknowledged those limits last week when the two met in Uzbekistan for the first time since the war began, describing Xi as someone who has questions and concerns about the situation in Ukraine and praising him for his “balanced” position.
“I don’t see how different any new position will be… China does not support the wardoes not support the conflict, that has been very clear from the beginning,” said Henry Wang Huiyao, founder of the think tank Center for China and Globalization, located in Beijing.
Russia says its actions in Ukraine are a “special operation” to degrade its neighbor’s military capabilities and root out people it calls dangerous nationalists.
Although China likely hoped for a short war, Putin’s battlefield moves in Ukraine, seeking to counter recent defeats, are unlikely to worry Beijing or change the substantive nature of the countries’ relationship, analysts said. The central factor remains geopolitics, including Beijing’s competition with Washington.
Economic cooperation between the two giant neighbors is likely to grow as China reaps the benefits of cheaper and cheaper energy supplies, while Russia makes up for losses from European Union bans.
“What matters most to Xi is that Putin does not fail or make the invasion a disaster that could cause collateral damage to China, mainly in the economic field.”said Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at SOAS University London. “The basic engine behind Xi’s foreign policy is to put China first.”
STAY OUT OF DISASTER
Chinese official media provided little coverage of Putin’s latest speech, even after it rattled world markets and drew condemnation from Western powers. The comments, however, were widely discussed on the Weibo social network (the Chinese version of Twitter), generating a mix of shock and criticism that the censors did not remove, as well as support.
Yuan Jingdong, an associate professor at the University of Sydney who specializes in China’s defense and foreign policy, said he hoped China would continue to tread the fine line of refraining from publicly criticizing Russia or openly showing sympathy towards Ukraine, while also refraining from , as far as possible. to back Putin’s actions.
“Given that Putin’s national security adviser (was) in China when Putin made the announcement, there could be some reassurance from China to Russia about the importance of the bilateral relationship, but also a clear indication of what Russia can expect.” realistically from China,” he said. .
“At this point, Beijing’s option seems to be to stay out of the mess. and the growing danger that the Russian invasion has led to,” he said.
Posted by Reuters
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