Why Chinese military support for Russia would change the scenario of the war

The image of Xi Jinping on a screen in front of Chinese army soldiers (Reuters) (Jason Lee /)

United States says that China is considering sending weapons to Russia for its war in Ukraine And, although the Beijing regime denies it, experts believe that if this were true, there would be a change of scenery in the conflict that began a year ago.

The following are some key questions about Washington’s version and its implications.

What is behind the US claim?

Since the Russian tanks entered Ukraine, China has provided diplomatic cover and financial support for Putin, though it has refused to get involved militarily or send lethal weapons.

State-controlled Chinese firms have sold non-lethal drones and other equipment to Russia and Ukrainebut Moscow has had to turn to Iran to acquire weapons, such as drones.

The United States has also said that North Korea sent Russia rockets and artillery shells.

Washington believes that could change, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken has made those fears public. “Based on the information we have…they are considering providing lethal support,” Blinken said of the Chinese on Sunday.

Blinken provided no evidence to back up the account, and critics point to other US intelligence missteps, but his statement follows the US pattern of release sensitive information preemptively to disrupt Russian plans.

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping (Sputnik/Reuters)
Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping (Sputnik/Reuters) (Sputnik Photo Agency/)

“The fact that Mr Blinken chose to make his fears public suggests that the US has strong intelligence,” said Richard McGregor, an East Asia specialist at the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

Beijing accused Washington of “spreading false information” and “apportioning blame.”

Why is Washington concerned?

During the war, Russia has had difficulties in providing sufficient personnel, ammunition and weapons to subdue the fierce Ukrainian resistance, forcing Putin to resort to massive recruitment, mercenary groups and imports.

Meanwhile, Ukraine managed to contain Russian supremacy and even gain the upper hand. But some experts believe the war is at a tipping pointin which each gang clamors for resources with the aim of achieving decisive victories.

In that context, an inflow of Chinese arms would change the scenarioMick Ryan, a retired Australian Army major general, told AFP.

Xi Jinping and soldiers and officers of the Chinese army (The Grosby Group)
Xi Jinping and soldiers and officers of the Chinese army (The Grosby Group) (Sipa Usa/The Grosby Group/Lagenc/)

“This is a war of industrial systems. At the moment Russia is overtaken by the West. If China enters, any advantage Ukraine has from Western industrial capacity disappears.”, he explained.

Chinese munitions “would make life very difficult for the Ukrainians, be it artillery ammunition, be it precision munitions and long-range weapons, which Russia is running out of,” he added.

Why would China get involved?

Chinese military analyst Song Zhongping insisted that China will not send weapons, although trade and military cooperation between Moscow and Beijing deepened before the war in Ukraine and will continue.

“China will not listen to (the demands) of the United States. China will strengthen cooperation with Russia in accordance with its own will and national security concerns”, he assured.

Many experts believe something bigger is at stake, seeing the Ukrainian war turned into a Cold War-style power struggle.

“The war in Ukraine is a crucial moment for the international security environment, for the world order,” said Alexey Muraviev, professor of security and strategic studies at Perth’s Curtin University.

A Chinese decision to export arms will be “a huge step” that it exposes it to Western sanctions, it would burn its remaining bridges with Washington and it would affect its relations with Europe.

But Muraviev believes that the prospect of a Russian defeat is worrisome for Beijing. “If Russia loses politically or militarily in Ukraine, China will be left alone,” she said. “Russia is the only superpower that supports China”.

Military exercises of the People's Liberation Army (Reuters)
Military exercises of the People’s Liberation Army (Reuters) (China Stringer Network /)

While, a Russian victory would be “inflicting a strategic defeat on the United States”, he added, which would help revive President Xi Jinping’s narrative that the West is in decline.

“For the Chinese, the Russian inability to win last year was almost a bucket of cold water,” he said. “They started to reassess their own ability to carry out a similar campaign,” he added.

“The war in Ukraine shows that you can have lavish military parades and large-scale exercises, but the real test of whether your military is up to the task is on the battlefield.”

Muraviev believes that China could try to supply weapons through state-controlled companies, North Korea or the Wagner Group, rather than directly at the Russian forces. “I think that your approach will be more clandestine”, he anticipated.

(With information from AFP)

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