As Russia invades Ukraine, launching the largest attack on European soil since the Second World War, the Star is working to demystify the complex geopolitics behind the war by answering reader questions. Here, we look at: Does China support the Russian invasion of Ukraine?
Officially, China has tried to stay neutral on Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, but its sympathies are clearly with Russia. The Chinese government, led by President Xi Jinping, has neither condemned Russia nor described the war as an invasion at all, preferring obfuscating euphemisms such as “the situation in Ukraine.”
China’s regime has criticized economic sanctions against Putin’s, and said it “understands Russia’s legitimate security concerns” with regards to NATO’s eastward expansion. At the same time China has affirmed the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of all countries, urged both sides to “exercise restraint” and encouraged negotiation.
Equivocating official statements aside, the bond between Xi and Putin has never been stronger than it is today. While most Western countries staged a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics, Putin not only attended the opening ceremonies, but met face-to-face with Xi and issued a joint statement that ran more than 5,000 words in English.
While there is no formal alliance between the two countries, Xi and Putin’s statement said their countries’ friendship has “no limits” and “no forbidden areas of co-operation.”
For Russia, which has been hit with extensive economic sanctions from the West and is increasingly isolated, its friendship with China is vitally important, especially economically.
Earlier this month the two countries signed a 30-year energy deal, with China agreeing to buy Russian gas via a new pipeline. It’s this kind of economic partnership that will help Russia withstand Western sanctions.
The U.S. reportedly tried to use China’s influence on Russia to avoid a war in Ukraine, with the New York Times stating that senior U.S. officials tried for months to convince their Chinese counterparts to persuade Putin not to invade.
On Friday, Xi and Putin spoke by phone, according to Chinese state media. Following the phone call, a spokesman for the Russian government reportedly said Putin was open to negotiations with Ukraine, although no talks are planned.
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