How Does China, the ‘invisible actor’ in the Ukraine crisis, support its ally Russia?

5 mins read
How Does China, the 'invisible actor' in the Ukraine crisis, support its ally Russia?

With the escalation of the ‘war of words’ between the US and Russia over Ukraine, China, a key player on the international stage, did not miss an opportunity to stand out.

In recent days, Beijing has called on both sides to maintain calm and end the Cold War mentality, while making it clear that it supports Moscow’s concerns.

It seems clear that China will side with its longtime ally and former communist comrade Russia, Sharkus’l Avsat reported from the BBC.

But it is necessary to take a closer look at how and why he did it.

China and Russia protect the world

China’s support for its ally Russia began last week when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Russia’s security concerns should be taken seriously, calling them ‘legitimate’.

China’s ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Zhang Jun, went further and made it clear that China disagrees with U.S. claims that Russia is threatening international peace.

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He also criticised the United States for calling a meeting of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and likened it to ‘megaphone diplomacy’ that was not conducive to negotiations.

In diplomatic rhetoric, China’s official line on the crisis has been cautious and nuanced. He did not de facto support Russia’s use of military force against its former Soviet neighbor Ukraine.

In addition to official statements, China, through the media, has expressed support for Washington’s role with Moscow in maintaining the new world order in the face of a decline in its military power.

The Global Times, the English-language publication of the Communist Party of China, said the ‘close relationship between China and Russia is the last line of defense to maintain the world order’.

A report in Xinhua, China’s official news agency, claimed the United States was trying to distract the country and revive its influence over Europe.

“Beijing’s goal is to undermine the soft power of the United States, discredit the credibility and attractiveness of liberal institutions, and discredit the open media,” Jessica Brandt, Policy Director at the Brookings Institution, told the BBC.

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Common goals, common enemy

International relations experts believe that China and Russia share close ties strengthened by common interests, closer than at any time since the days of Stalin and Mao.

The Crimea crisis in Ukraine in 2014 appeared to push Russia further into the arms of China, which offered it economic and diplomatic support amid international isolation.

Since then, the relationship has improved further, with China being Russia’s largest trading partner for years and bilateral trade reaching a new peak of $147 billion last year.

The two countries stepped up joint military exercises last year, while also signing a roadmap for closer military ties.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s travel to Beijing today to attend the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Shi Jinping shows the warm relationship between the two sides.

Most importantly, both countries currently have strained relations with the West.

“Beijing and Moscow perceive a common interest in resisting the United States and Europe and gaining a greater role in international politics,” said Chris Miller, an assistant professor of international history at Tufts University in the United States.

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International experts believe that if the conflict over Ukraine escalates and Western sanctions are imposed, China could provide economic assistance to Russia as before.

However, this support will not mean military support for China due to beijing’s consequences for antagonizing the European Union (EU), the second largest trading partner of this step.

Bonnie Glaser, Asia Program Director at the Germany-based Marshall Fund, stressed that China currently wants to stabilize relations with the United States.

“If Beijing gives Stronger support to Moscow, it could create more tensions with Europe and the United States,” Glaser said.

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