Jesus Centeno |
Beijing, Feb 23 (EFE).- One year after the war broke out in Ukraine, China continues to maintain an ambiguous position: on the one hand, it calls for respect for “the territorial integrity of all countries”, including Ukraine, but, on the other another calls for attention to the “legitimate concerns of all countries,” in reference to Russia.
However, according to some analysts, the Chinese position hides its intentions to safeguard the interests it shares with Moscow, show itself as a force for peace, keep the United States at bay and, at the same time, continue doing business with the West.
A friendship “without limits”
Barely a week before the war broke out, the presidents of both countries, the Chinese Xi Jinping and the Russian Vladimir Putin, pledged in Beijing to a friendship relationship “without limits”.
The strong commercial ties and the mistrust of both towards the West have kept this partnership “solid as a rock” in the face of international pressures, in the words of Wang Yi, the head of Chinese foreign policy.
“China has developed its relationship with Russia based on strategic interests. He’s not going to deepen those ties any further to satisfy Russia (like sending weapons to Moscow), but he’s not going to cut them to satisfy the West either. That is the Chinese bet”, comments academic Yun Sun, from the Stimson Center, to the South China Morning Post.
During his last tour of Europe, Wang Yi assured that China will make more “efforts” to achieve peace, and that Ukraine and Moscow should start direct negotiations to reach a political agreement.
However, he stressed that the conflict “is not going to be resolved with simple solutions” and that “we must think of a framework.”
The Asian country has also announced that it will present a peace plan, and while many expect it to act as a mediator, analysts do not believe it intends to take any concrete steps unless Moscow and Kiev are genuinely willing to talk.
“Until China is clear that Russia is ready for talks, I don’t think Xi will take steps to, for example, meet with Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky. China is in no rush,” says expert Zhao Long, from the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.
The Red Lines of China
A year ago, China refused to condemn the Russian invasion at the United Nations and opposed the imposition of unilateral sanctions against Russia, but analysts point to Xi expressing “concerns” to Putin in person during the Organization for Cooperation on Russia summit. Shanghai last September.
Added to this is the Chinese position, reiterated by Wang Yi in Munich, that Beijing opposes “nuclear wars” or “attacks on nuclear facilities” to “avoid catastrophes.”
“In the same way, we must oppose the use of biological weapons under any circumstances,” he said, referring to what appear to be Beijing’s red lines on the conflict.
In the background, the United States
According to Jean-Pierre Cabestan, emeritus professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University, China wants the war to end soon, but “Beijing won’t let that happen at the expense of Russia being annihilated by the West.”
“The relationship between Beijing and Moscow will continue to be strong for a reason: it is based on their opposition to the alliances led by the United States,” says the academic.
When speaking of Ukraine, Chinese officials also reiterate that the US “inflames” the conflict by sending weapons to Ukraine, and they miss no opportunity to denounce Washington’s “hegemony”, Beijing’s true obsession.
China in its own dilemma
Chinese academics insist that China seeks to build a framework of relations among the major powers in which “stability and balanced development” reign, while Cabestan stresses that China wants to show that it is “a force for peace.”
“They will refrain from criticizing Putin and will share with him their criticism of the West, especially NATO and the United States,” he says.
Meanwhile, China, which is emerging from three years of isolation due to the “zero covid” strategy, has its own agenda, which involves revitalizing its economy and trade with the US and Europe: “China is not going to harm its their own interests for a war that occurs in a region so far from their territory”, says Cabasten.