Connect with us



China’s stand around the Russian Ukraine invasion

While the West unites in harsh sanctions against Russia because of the attack on Ukraine, China is keeping a low profile. The Chinese have an interest in their neutral status, but why exactly? And what does the war in Ukraine mean for the long-standing tensions between China and the West around Taiwan?

To understand why the Chinese are so flat for the time being, it is important to look at the relationship between Beijing and Moscow.

That relationship has not been as good in a long time as it is now, notes Frans-Paul van der Putten. He is a China expert at the Clingendael research institute.


“The relationship between the two countries has gotten better and better in recent decades. Especially in the past ten years, because both Russia and China see the United States as its biggest threat,” says Van der Putten.

Since Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and western sanctions as a result, Russia has also started to focus more on China.

Yet China is not a (military) ally of Russia. “China does not want to make alliances with other countries anyway, because the country wants to keep its hands free. As soon as you are an ally, you can get obligations as a result of that alliance,” says Van der Putten. China calls Russia a “strategic partner”.


The nature of the Russian-Chinese relationship is therefore mainly economic. Like many European countries, China is a major buyer of Russian gas. Russia is also important for the New Silk Road, which is intended to promote trade between Europe and China.

Kim Kardashian Accused Of "Stealing" Hindu Element

Perhaps the highlight of those warm ties was the Winter Olympics last month in Beijing, even before the invasion of Ukraine. On February 4, the day of the opening ceremony, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin declared that the friendship between the two countries knows “no borders.” Putin was one of the few world leaders to visit China during the Games.

A number of Western leaders boycotted the sporting event because of human rights violations in China.

China's stand around the Russian Ukraine invasion, but why?

China has close ties with both Russia and Ukraine

Yet China prefers not to take sides in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Van der Putten: “China has close ties with both Ukraine and Russia. The Russians are more important as a strategic partner, but China attaches great importance to territorial integrity.

That means states must keep the borders they have now. And Putin is trying to change the border with Ukraine.”


However, China understands that Russia feels threatened by NATO enlargement in recent decades. Van der Putten: “In the Chinese perspective, it is therefore not so much a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, but mainly between Russia and the West. And the West is seen as the cause of the problems.”

The Netherlands sees Portugal approaching something in the battle for direct CL tickets

That is also what Beijing communicates to its own people. On Chinese social media (especially on Weibo, the Chinese-controlled counterpart of Twitter) it’s raining messages with praise for the Russian invasion, The New York Times recently wrote. “The image of Putin as a victim of Western political, ideological and military aggressions resonates with the image that many have on social media,” the newspaper said.

“In the Chinese perspective, it is therefore not so much a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, but mainly between Russia and the West.”

Frans-Paul van der Putten, China expert at Clingendael

China’s stand around the Russian Ukraine invasion

China's stand around the Russian Ukraine invasion, but why?

Xi Jinping fears independence movements in his own country

China’s commitment to the territorial integrity of states has to do with Xi’s own priorities. China is afraid of a number of independence movements inside and outside its own country, such as in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang, but also in Taiwan.


“The Communist Party promised when it took office that China would be restored to one country, as it used to be, and that they would never lose parts of the country again,” explains Van der Putten.

According to Xi, Hong Kong and Taiwan belong to China. Hong Kong has a special administrative status within China, and Taiwan has governed itself since 1949. China’s ambitions fuel fears in the West that China wants to bring those regions back into its sphere of influence.

China’s stand around the Russian Ukraine invasion

In Hong Kong, autonomy is already being severely affected by Beijing, and the Chinese threat in Taiwan is also increasing.

Incidentally, Van der Putten does not expect the war in Ukraine to open the door for Beijing to plan an invasion of Taiwan in the short term. “In such a case, the Americans would probably intervene militarily, because Taiwan is simply more important to them than Ukraine,” says Van der Putten. Moreover, there is no urgent reason for China to attack Taiwan.


Nevertheless, tensions around Taiwan also continue to rise. Both the West (especially the US) and China are scaling up militarily in Asia. A long-term conflict can therefore certainly not be ruled out, certainly not because the interests surrounding Taiwan are enormous.

It is difficult for China to openly criticise Russia

Back to Ukraine: there the course of the war remains unpredictable and the events in the battle with Russia follow in rapid succession. That is why, according to Van der Putten, it is also difficult to say how China will relate to Russia and the West in the future.

What does seem clear is that the consequences of the war in Ukraine for the geopolitical world stage are being closely followed by both the West and China.

“While China may not be happy with what is happening in Ukraine, Beijing cannot afford to openly criticize Russia,” van der Putten summarizes the situation.


That is why China does not recognize that Russia has committed an invasion, nor does it join the sanctions of the West. “They won’t do that any time soon. China does not want to be played off against Russia by the West,” says Van der Putten.


Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *