Although Beijing has extended firm diplomatic support to Russia during the Ukraine conflict, it appears unwilling to back Moscow in a whole-hearted manner to avert Western sanctions due to the fear of secondary sanctions.
In an effort to stem growing suspicions over its ties with the Kremlin, China was sending a delegation headed by Huo Yuzhen, China’s special representative to China-Central & Eastern Europe Cooperation, to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, and Poland in the coming days, reported Russian media council.
China’s support to Russia in opposition to the enlargement of NATO has given rise to concerns in the Eastern and Central European countries about the reliability of the Asian giant as a partner which can be counted on.
While on one hand, China was looking for heavy discounts on the purchase of Russian oil/oil products and gas, it was at the same time denying the supply of Russian oil to Asia through tankers, thus depriving Moscow of economic benefits.
It was also unwilling to route Russian payments through its financial system for fear of secondary sanctions and expressed an inability even to shift products of Russian processors deemed necessary for the Russian industry from Taiwan to China.
In order to expedite the freight movement, the first cross-border railway bridge between China and Russia was expected to be fully operational by August 2022, cutting the train journey from Heilongjiang to Moscow by 800 km and travel time by 10 hours. The Bridge would further facilitate China to the transport of coal, iron ore, timber, and mineral fertilizers from Russia, which was expected to boost cross-border trade.
Interestingly, Chinese customs data revealed (March 2022) an increase in trade with Russia by over 12 percent as compared to March 2021 as well as a rise in imports from Russia by 26 percent.
According to reports, China’s interest in the Russia-Ukraine conflict was purely economic, other indicators also suggest that the relationship between Beijing and Moscow was more than just numbers. A survey conducted between March 28 and April 5, 2022, by the ‘Carter Center China Focus’ on Chinese public opinion regarding Russia’s actions in Ukraine, reveals that the majority of China’s netizens feel that supporting Russia was in China’s best interest.
China’s Deputy permanent representative to the UN Dai Bin too stated that arms supplies to Ukraine and sanctions against Russia will not bring peace to Ukraine.
The whole world is currently paying for economic pressure on Russia, and the sanctions have led to a food crisis and rising energy prices.
On April 14, 2022, CIA Director William Burns, speaking at the Georgia Institute of Technology, termed Chinese President Xi Jinping ‘a silent partner in Putin’s aggression in Ukraine’ and pointed to the “immediate threat posed by renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine” as well as the “longer-term problem posed by China’s ambitious leadership”, calling it “the single most important geopolitical challenge” of the 21st century.
It seems that Beijing wants to have the best of both worlds; however, it must keep in mind that sailing simultaneously in two boats may lead to capsizing one, if not both of them.
China’s subtle isolation from Russia can be attributed to protecting its own interests as Beijing has recently come under international scrutiny, with a never-ending stream of US officials urging it to distance itself from Russia or suffer “consequences.”
Despite being asked to mediate a truce between Russia and Ukraine, and Beijing openly proclaiming its determination to do so, China appears to be choosing a low-profile strategy. (ANI)