Chinese Attitudes to the Russo-Ukrainian War


There is no denying that the global power structure has shifted. Those who assume that the United States, Europe, Russia, or China are the same countries they were before the breakup of the Soviet Union are erroneous, as are those who believe that Europe is still the same it was before the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

So all interpretations of what is happening in the world’s interactions in terms of the structure of international relations today must be grounded in the idea of the birth of a new world order, which the world is currently engaged in a difficult struggle for. After World War II, the United States was the “bystander” country and the least affected by the conflict.

Theorists in the United States agree that their nation is on the verge of a fall, but they are not attempting to defy global rules, but rather plan and manage this decline in a way that will make their country a second-tier power rather than a third-tier one. According to Robert Kaplan, the best way for the United States to survive as a strong nation is to plan for its eventual demise and devise an appropriate mechanism for a peaceful retreat. He notes that the globalization that the United States invented in order to consolidate its hegemony over the world was exploited by other powers (especially China) to undermine American influence from within this globalization.

After the year 2000, the United States shifted its foreign policy priorities from Europe and Northeast Asia to China, the Gulf region, and Iran’s nuclear power. The importance of the European continent dropped to third place. Currently, there are some main challenges to the US and its allies that have been recognized by the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken: Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran all pose a military danger; the same countries can pose a non-military danger in the form of (cyber-attacks – rumours and media misinformation – questioning the effectiveness of American vaccines…etc.); terrorism, pollution, climate change, and COVID-19 are all examples of global problems.

The US views Moscow as its primary military danger, and this helps us understand the United States’ goal of undermining Russian national security by means of Ukraine.

China’s leadership is extremely careful since the Middle East has been a graveyard for many huge empires and countries, and it always focuses on acting as a mediator and nothing else, just as it did during US discussions with Iran. The countries in the region are open up to work and forge agreements with China.

Russian President Vladimir Putin may be the first president to visit China since the outbreak of Covid-19, and that visit coincided with the 50th anniversary of Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. China and Russia now exchange 140 trillion dollars in goods yearly, with Russian gas shipments to China reaching 48 trillion cubic meters. Besides their shared anti-American and anti-Western hegemony views, the nations have a long history of cooperation on energy, weapons, and technology. Their perspectives on a number of international issues, including as Syria and North Korea, are converging.

Beijing has expressed its understanding of Russia’s concerns over Ukraine joining NATO and has urged the United States and the West to avoid intervening in Ukraine’s affairs. On the political front, the two nations made joint successes. Nonetheless, Beijing insists on the sovereignty of Ukraine, a country with which it has maintained close ties for more than 30 years, and has urged both nations to resolve the matter peacefully via diplomacy. Moscow, for its part, has backed China’s position on Taiwan and urged those who are fuelling the situation to do so.

Trump believes that the Russians have realized the decline and weakness of the US role in the international arena since the administration of President Bush Jr., so Russia launched a military operation against Georgia at that time. Under President Barack Obama, Moscow took control of the Crimea, and now, under Biden, it has turned to Ukraine. Moscow was able to conduct a pre-emptive strike against serious dangers to its national security, notwithstanding disagreements regarding the causes of the conflict.

As for China’s stance on the Ukraine conflict, it was a prudent one. Despite popular belief, Beijing did not fall into line with Moscow’s blind allegiance nor did it denounce Moscow’s actions when it revealed its awareness of the Russian security dangers.

China’s latest decision to abstain from voting at the United Nations has nothing to do with appeasing the United States or abandoning Russia’s backing. To the contrary, China’s support for Moscow’s support for the Donbass’ secession shows China’s approval of the territorial sovereignty base on which China relies in its demand for the restoration of Taiwan, so it is illogical for it to oppose this principle, which supports it in its strategic demand for Taiwan’s reunification.

For its part, the Chinese government has no doubt that Russia would use its veto to obstruct the passage of the Security Council resolution, and therefore its objection does not change the outcome, so it clings to the principle of territorial sovereignty, and has failed to pass the Security Council resolution by relying on the Russian veto.

As part of its announcement, Beijing reaffirmed Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence and called for a peaceful resolution to the crisis rather than a return to Cold War mind-set. China has been Russia’s largest trading partner since 2014, and Ukraine’s largest trading partner since 2019. In light of the long-standing Sino-Ukrainian ties that date back more than 30 years, Beijing has no choice but to protect its interests with both parties.

The participants to the issue did not accept this Chinese approach at all. They were hoping that Beijing would support one of the parties completely. As a responsible superpower seeking to solidify its political decision-making independence, China appeared unconcerned with appeasing the United States and the West and was not interested in a total support for Russia, Beijing realized that after the Ukrainian war, the world order dominated by the United States and financial forces will change, and a new reality will come.

It is widely believed in the West that Russia’s successes in Ukraine will prompt Beijing to reclaim Taiwan. However, China denies this connection. Beijing claims that Ukraine is an independent and sovereign country; thus, drawing comparisons between Taiwan and Ukraine is absurd. Taiwan is an integral component of the People’s Republic of China and will eventually come home.

Beijing, which has established a lofty strategic aim, the (Belt and Road Initiative), and is actively working toward realizing it, has likely put Taiwan’s issue on hold for the time being. Even though Taiwan will definitely return to China, conventional thought in China holds: (Defeat your enemy before your enemy knows that he has entered into a war with you).

Beijing typically avoids using military action; therefore its retaliation is likely to be non-military in nature. When John Mearsheimer first coined the term “offensive realism” in 1993, he argued that China’s ascent was impossible without a military conflict with the “major” (Western) nations. The “gags war” alone exposed the capitalist system and its utter detachment from humanity, even though China rose and the conflict never occurred.

Even if China’s policy on the Ukraine conflict is risk-free, the route to war is still open and Beijing will have to cope with a “weak victor” in the future. Beijing’s capacity to deal with all future possibilities, strive to transform any crisis into an opportunity, and invest it in fulfilling China’s mission is what counts to Beijing from a strategic perspective. In contrast to battles, this enterprise promises to be a winner-winner situation. In most battles, the victor or victories are shared by the aggressor and the victors’ allies.

Since global economic conditions are deteriorating and thousands of companies in Europe and the US have declared bankruptcy, China’s companies have returned to production strongly and quickly, helping China narrow the economic gap with the US. The 5G technology will play a significant role in this reduction of the economic gap between China and the US. China’s ability and willingness to assume global leadership will have a significant impact on the future of the planet. Today, China is not only a major player; it is the most important player ever.

Mohamad Zreik
Mohamad Zreik
Mohamad Zreik is an independent researcher, doctor of international relations. His areas of research interests are related to the Foreign Policy of China, Belt and Road Initiative, Middle Eastern Studies, China-Arab relations, East Asian Affairs, Geopolitics of Eurasia, and Political Economy. Mohamad has many studies and articles published in high ranked journals and well-known international newspapers. His writings have been translated into many languages, including French, Arabic, Spanish, German, Albanian, Russian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, etc.


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