China’s diplomatic double game

Nobody likes the unexpected. What was “sold” to Xi Jinping by Vladimir Putin on February 4 at the Winter Olympics in Beijing should have been just a “special military operation” legitimate few days in Ukraine. But three weeks after the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, Xi Jinping had time “to observe and learn”, to use the expression of China specialist Antoine Bondaz. And if China still publicly displays diplomatic support for Russia and defends peace negotiations, this posture is likely to change in the weeks to come.

“China’s position is becoming more and more unsustainable”, assures Valérie Niquet, China specialist at the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS). “If Xi Jinping is going to continue to take up Russian propaganda by avoiding talking about war or conflict, she adds, he will still wait to see how the situation on the ground develops, but will not let go of Russia immediately. » In his eyes, if the Russian offensive had been crowned with success in a few days, “the Chinese military invasion of Taiwan would have been accelerated”.

In the meantime, China will continue to play this delicate balancing act between the defense of the sovereignty of States, a rapprochement with Moscow steeped in common hostility towards the United States and opposition to the sanctions decided by the West. It is in this unstable context that Washington wants to increase pressure on Beijing to prevent it from providing Moscow with economic, military or financial aid. “We have made it very clear to Beijing that we will not sit idly by. We will not let any country compensate for the losses suffered by Russia”a spokesman for the US State Department explained on Tuesday March 15.

In some academic circles in Beijing, scholars like Hu Wei of China’s State Council have called for “sever ties with Putin as soon as possible”. In a long article translated into English, he even goes so far as to say that “China does not have the means to support Russia” and that would not be “in his interest”. Seemingly marginal, this kind of reflection reflects a real concern within the Communist Party.

“China must not find itself isolated by the West, it must come out of its neutrality and get closer to Europe and the United States”, adds Hu Wei. Major economic partners for Beijing: 750 billion dollars with the United States and 600 billion with Europe. Against only 150 billion with Russia, of which 70% in energy contracts… Faced with these economic realities, the large “rock-solid Sino-Russian alliance” won’t resist.


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