Russia-Ukraine war puts China in difficult position

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Ideally, China needs to maintain friendly relations with Ukraine because of extensive trade relations as supporting Russia would bring China’s robust trade with Ukraine to a screeching halt. …reports Asian Lite News

The ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine has placed China in a difficult position as Beijing struggles to balance its stance to protect its economic and strategic interests.

China and Russia relations have become closer since 2014 when it stepped in to help Russia, which was dealing with heavy economic sanctions post its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and establishing a de-facto republic.

After the annexation, Russia was heavily sanctioned, impacting its economy. China stepped in and helped Russia’s economy to recover by buying oil, investing in companies, etc. China and Russia also share a similar stance of opposition to Western powers. While China has opposed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) presence in Ukraine, Russia has stated that it recognized Taiwan to be part of China.

Moreover, Russian President Vladimir Putin had gone to Beijing for the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games at a time when China was being diplomatically boycotted over allegations of human rights violations and genocide of Uyghurs Muslims. Putin and Xi held a summit where the former declared closer relations with China and also their common stand against threats to internal security.

Notably, just after the Winter Olympics concluded, Putin declared recognition of the independence of two regions in Ukraine, accused Ukraine of violating treaties and sent troops inside Ukraine.

China has neither supported nor denounced Russia’s actions against Ukraine. However, it has been alleged that Russia has finally moved against Ukraine despite being heavily sanctioned because it has China’s backing. Moreover, China has issued directives for covering the Russia-Ukraine crisis which includes not showing Russia in an unfavourable light and not being pro-West. Comments are also to be monitored on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. State-run press accounts are heavily promoting comments in support of Russia and opposing the US.

However, China is Ukraine’s biggest trading partner as it imports wheat, corn, iron ore, sunflower oil and barley from Ukraine and exports machinery and consumer goods to the country. Since 2018, Ukraine has been supplying modern engines for jets to China. Ukraine is also a major arms supplier to China. Ukraine joined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s ambitious infrastructure project, in 2017. In 2020, Ukraine and China signed agreements for the financing and cooperation of BRI.

Moreover, Huawei, a Chinese company providing telecommunication services and hardware, has robust operations in Ukraine. Huawei has been banned by several countries including the US, UK and Australia over reports and allegations of having backdoors in its products which provide unauthorized access to the Chinese government to data. Ironically, Huawei was selected to improve cybersecurity in Ukraine in 2020. China is also undertaking several infrastructural projects in Ukraine such as installing 4G and metro lines.

Ideally, China needs to maintain friendly relations with Ukraine because of extensive trade relations as supporting Russia would bring China’s robust trade with Ukraine to a screeching halt. Further, China would also face severe backlash and economic sanctions from Eastern Europe as well.

However, there are speculations that China will need Russia when it moves against the US over Taiwan. China’s stance on the Russia-Ukraine crisis has been ambivalent. China is providing moral support to Russia but not actively supporting Russia in an attempt to maintain friendly relations with Ukraine. China has called for a diplomatic and non-violent solution and has appealed to both sides to stop the aggressive behaviour.

Asked if what is occurring right now in Ukraine amounts to an invasion, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a press conference that the “historical context is complicated” and that the current situation is “caused by all kinds of factors” but refused to acknowledge the situation as an invasion.

Though China’s actions seem to lean more towards Russia, this might be dangerous as it would further worsen China’s already strained relations with the US, EU and even Japan, China’s biggest trading partners. (ANI)

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