Analysis-Russia’s attack on Ukraine forces Beijing into a diplomatic dance

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome
FILE PHOTO: China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi poses for a photo before meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome, Italy October 31, 2021. Tiziana Fabi / Pool via REUTERS

February 26, 2022

By Martin Quin Pollard and Yew Lun Tian

BEIJING (Reuters) – Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which China refuses to condemn or even call an invasion, has plunged Beijing into a diplomatic scramble to limit its counterattack in the region. when side-by-side with a partner they became increasingly intimate with in contrast to the West.

China has repeatedly called for dialogue, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi telling senior European officials in a phone call on Friday that China respects the sovereignty of countries, including Ukraine. Russia’s concerns about NATO’s eastward expansion need to be properly addressed.

After a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, China said Putin was willing to engage in “high-level” dialogue with Ukraine, and the Kremlin later said Putin was ready. ready to send a delegation to Minsk to hold talks with representatives of Ukraine. .

The diplomatic boom comes after an invasion that some diplomats in Beijing believe has taken China by surprise, which has not asked its citizens to leave Ukraine ahead of time and has repeatedly accused forcing the United States to exaggerate the threat of a Russian attack.

This week, Beijing, in the face of criticism of its stance on Ukraine, will not directly address whether Putin told China he is planning an invasion, saying Russia as a an independent power without China’s consent.

China’s foreign policy is based on non-interference in other countries’ affairs, and it has yet to recognize Russia’s claim to Ukraine’s Crimea region after its 2014 invasion.

“Their first reaction to denying there was an invasion surprised us,” said a Western diplomat in Beijing, who asked not to be named, given the sensitivity of the issue.

“It is in stark contrast to their longstanding stance on sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-interference.”


Three weeks ago, Putin met Mr. Xi hours before the start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing and they signed a wide-ranging strategic partnership aimed at countering US influence and said they would “There are no “forbidden” areas of cooperation.

The attack on Ukraine, which is considered China’s largest trading partner with a total two-way trade of up to $19 billion and which has close diplomatic relations, took place a few days later. when the Olympics are over.

“My sense is that their initial instinct to follow the playbook after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 worked quite well for them, where they basically tried to stay on the sidelines and take a step back. little,” said Helena Legarda, principal analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies, in Germany.

Legarda said there is more geopolitical competition now than there was in 2014 and that China is more closely monitored.

“People are watching a lot more carefully, and that ‘We’re not going to take sides, and we’re going to fade to the background’ is no longer a viable option,” she said.


Some analysts say Beijing’s relations with the United States have been deteriorating for years, and that its diplomatic support for Russia could hasten the deterioration of relations with Western Europe, an export market. China’s largest, although some other analysts say China still has room for carriers.

“We understand Russia, but we also have our own considerations,” said Yang Cheng, a professor at Shanghai University of International Studies who was one of those who expressed surprise at the Russian attack. .

“But it will not be the case that our relationship with the West will not be affected at all.”

Late Friday in New York, China abstained from voting on a draft UN Security Council resolution that would have frustrated Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

Diplomats said the abstention, seen as a victory by Western countries, was warranted after two hours of delaying last-minute talks by the United States and other countries to ensure told China to abstain, diplomats said.

Just last month, Mr. Xi marked 30 years of relations with Ukraine, praising the “deepening political mutual trust” between them. Ukraine is a hub in the Belt and Road Initiative, a vast infrastructure and diplomatic engagement that ties China closer to Europe.

The Ukraine crisis created uncertainty for China during a year in which it craved stability, with Mr. Xi expected to secure an unprecedented third term of leadership in the fall.

“It is a very unfavorable situation where an unprepared China has been dragged in by Russia,” said Wu Qiang, an independent political analyst based in Beijing.

(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard and Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Tony Munroe and Clarence Fernandez) Analysis-Russia’s attack on Ukraine forces Beijing into a diplomatic dance

Bobby Allyn

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