Do not come to Russia’s help. Will Beijing listen to that?
Do not come to Russia’s help.  Will Beijing listen to that?

Do not come to Russia’s help. Will Beijing listen to that?

HONG KONG – Kl high-level conversations this week, the US had a clear warning to China: Do not help Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who met with Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Rome for seven hours on Monday, “directly and very clearly raised our concerns” about China’s support for Russia since the invasion and the implications it could have for Beijing’s world relations. , State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday.

China has so far avoided condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine or calling it an invasion, describing its growing ties with Moscow as “rock solid.”

While Beijing has expressed concern over the humanitarian situation and called for a peaceful solution, Beijing has blamed the United States for the Ukraine crisis, saying Western countries should respect Russia’s “legitimate security concerns.” It has also reinforced a Russian conspiracy theory that the United States is financing chemical and biological weapons activities in Ukraine.

Analysts say what may appear to be China’s silence or even support for Russia’s actions obscures the complex calculation the country is facing on the Ukraine crisis, which has not gone as expected.

“I think many are not only surprised at what the Russians did, but they are also surprised at how effective the Biden administration has been in bringing countries together to put pressure on Russia,” said Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor. in the Department of Politics. and International Relations at International Christian University in Tokyo.

Even when Russian troops converged on Ukraine, China was most likely unaware that Putin was planning to invade, said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center in Washington. But Beijing is not about to admit it, she said.

“If they say they knew it, they are accomplices; if they say they did not know, they were played by Russia, ”she said. “So not a viable option either.”

Did China know about Russia’s plans?

Photo: *** BESTPIX *** TOPSHOT-UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT
Irina Moprezova, 54, is standing in front of a house that was damaged in the Ukrainian city of Irpin on Sunday. AFP – Getty Images

The nature of Sino-Russian ties has been in greater focus since February, when Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Beijing and praised the “no borders” relationship between their countries. In a joint statement, they declared opposition to any enlargement of NATO, the US-led military alliance, which Ukraine has expressed interest in joining.

The US-China meeting in Rome followed a report by US officials that Russia has asked China for military equipment and other support as it faces rising international sanctions. Officials speaking to NBC News declined to elaborate on what kind of equipment Russia requested or how China responded.

“I think the Chinese standard position is ‘If the United States wants us to do something, there must be a game and we should not do it.'”

Yun Sun, Director of the Stimson Center’s China Program

On Monday, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as “disinformation” from Washington. Russia has also denied having asked China for military assistance.

While the details of the two countries’ communications are unclear, experts say Beijing did not appear to expect a complete Russian invasion of Ukraine. Days before it began, Chinese top academics were steep in their predictions against it.

One reason Beijing may have been taken by surprise by Russia’s actions, Sun said, is that they are incompatible with the way China views war. Beijing prefers to extract concessions through coercion rather than force, she said, and with Ukraine threatened by tens of thousands of Russian troops along its borders, China did not expect Putin to invade, “because they did not think he needed it.”

Sun said Beijing would also have been skeptical of intelligence about Putin’s plans for invasion, which the United States allegedly shared in the hope that Xi would dissuade him. With US-China relations at their lowest point in decades, she said, Beijing could have suspected Washington of trying to drive a wedge between it and Moscow.

“I think the Chinese standard position is ‘If the United States wants us to do something, there has to be a game and we should not do it,'” Sun said.

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The strongest evidence that Beijing has miscalculated, she said, is the “hectic and chaotic” evacuation of Chinese nationals in Ukraine, which numbered about 6,000. Unlike other foreign governments, China did not advise its citizens to leave Ukraine in the days leading up to Russia’s military attack. The Chinese embassy did not even begin registering them until the second day of the invasion, after which it was too late to charter aircraft.

Some Chinese nationals in Ukraine complained of a backlash against them over the Chinese government’s stance, as well as comments from the Chinese public mocking Ukraine on social media. On March 1, a Chinese national was shot and wounded while leaving the country, the foreign ministry said, although the details of the shooting are unclear.

All Chinese nationals have been safely evacuated from Ukraine, state media reported reported last weekwith reference to the Chinese Embassy.

What’s next for China’s relations with Russia?

Photo: Members of the Chinese delegation leave the Rome Cavalieri a Waldorf Astoria hotel in Rome
Members of the Chinese delegation leave the hotel, where US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met on Monday with Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi. Remo Casilli / Reuters

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in which it has recognized two breakaway republics, has challenged fundamental principles of Chinese foreign policy, Nagy said, especially non-interference in other countries’ affairs and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

»If the concept of sovereignty means something in practice for a country like [China]we would expect countries like it to rise, ”Price said on Monday.

In formulating its response, China has had to consider consequences for Taiwanan autonomous island that Beijing claims as its territory.

“If China explicitly supported the separatists’ plans for Ukrainian sovereignty, then the Japanese, Americans and others could logically make similar claims in Taiwan. That’s the kind of logic the Chinese government would like to avoid,” said Simon Shen, associate professor at National Sun. Yat-sen University in Taiwan.

Both Beijing and Taipei have said that Taiwan is in a fundamentally different position than Ukraine. But China’s takeaways from the Ukraine crisis are “not as positive as people originally expected,” Sun said. Instead of the quick victory that Russia had assumed, it has met fierce opposition both in Ukraine and internationally. If a military invasion of Taiwan were to unfold in the same direction, Sun said, “China will be in very big trouble.”

Washington’s support for Taiwan was underscored this month by visits from former government officials, including one delegation sent to Taiwan by the Biden administration.

China also has major economic considerations in relation to Russia and Ukraine, both of which are important trading partners. They are also both part of China’s belt and road program for global infrastructure investment, and Beijing sees them as gateways to business across Europe.

At the same time, China is increasingly dependent on Russia for imports of energy and food. It recently agreed to lift all restrictions on imports of Russian wheat, criticizing it for giving Moscow an economic lifeline as other countries impose sanctions.

The White House has warned that China will face “significant consequences” if it provides Russia with aid that violates sanctions or supports war efforts. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday that Beijing would strongly oppose any US effort to “harm China’s legitimate rights and interests,” and criticized the US government’s remarks as “naked bullying and coercion.”

While China has expressed opposition to sanctions, analysts say it does not appear eager to help Russia evade them.

Bloomberg News has reported that two of China’s largest state-owned banks are limiting the financing of purchases of Russian commodities. March 3rd Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a Beijing-based development bank whose members include Russia, said all activities related to Russia and its ally Belarus had been suspended. China also refuses to supply Russia with aircraft parts after Boeing and Airbus cut off supplies, Reuters reported, citing Russian news agencies.

Photo: UN Security Council meeting in New York City
China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, will speak at the Security Council in New York on Monday. Andrew Kelly / Reuters

Experts said it was also noteworthy that China had failed to vote on UN resolutions criticizing the Russian invasion instead of voting against them.

“I think it’s a very subtle and diplomatic way of saying no,” said Jon Yuan Jiang, an expert on Sino-Russian relations at Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

Jiang pointed out that China is mainly focused on domestic concerns, including the pandemic, the economy and its two largest annual political meetings, which ended on Friday. For Xi, stability is paramount as he prepares to seek an unprecedented third term at a Communist Party congress later this year.

“China does not want to see this kind of war continue,” Jiang said.

Beijing has made comments suggesting it could play a mediating role, at least in the ceasefire negotiations ahead of broader negotiations. But if the United States and its allies see China as complicit in facilitating Russia’s invasion, it is unlikely they will consider it an honest mediator, Nagy said.

Wang Huiyao, a Chinese government adviser, said China is ideally placed to play a diplomatic role, precisely because it seeks to balance its interests with both Russia and the West.

“China also wants to maintain a good relationship with the United States,” he told NBC News.

Although the Ukraine crisis has created a dilemma for China, experts say, it may still have benefits. For example, China could take advantage of a weaker Russia to negotiate lower energy prices, Nagy said.

Beijing will also benefit if the Ukraine crisis again diverts the United States from its efforts to focus on the Asia-Pacific region, which has already been delayed for years by wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

“China has been tormented by the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy more than anything else,” Sun said.

“If the United States gets distracted and Russia becomes more dependent on China as a result of this war, it could come out as a winner.”

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