Washington – With the Russian war on Ukraine approaching its first year, Russia has become increasingly dependent on China, and at a time when the latter officially adopts a neutral position, many American circles see that Beijing’s position reflects interference in the conflict indirectly.
CIA Director William Burns said last July that “it is in China’s interest to keep Russia and the West divided, lest they cooperate against China as they did in the 19th century.”
Moreover, as the conflict prolongs, the West’s attention will be distracted from the Indo-Pacific theater, and Russia will be left so weak that it poses no threat to China’s growing influence in the space of the former Soviet republics, at a time when China can fill the economic void inside Russia, Which was left behind by the withdrawal of Western investments and technology.
For its part, China portrays the United States and NATO as the main instigators of the crisis, as since the Russian attack occurred, China has not supported any of the seven resolutions put forward by the West for a vote in the United Nations General Assembly and the Security and Human Rights Councils against Moscow, as Beijing voted against 3 resolutions. It abstained from voting on 4 others.
Chinese diplomacy repeats the saying, “the need to abandon the Cold War mentality and the idea of military alliances, and shift to a pragmatic, multipolar international system in which non-Western countries play a more decisive role.”
Biden and China’s hostility
US President Joe Biden’s national security strategy identified China as “the most important geopolitical challenge to America.” Immediately after the start of the US president’s term two years ago, Biden took steps to form a network of new alliances surrounding China, aimed at confronting its rising power, and as a result an alliance was established. AUKUS with Australia and Britain, and Quad with Japan, Australia and India.
Hence, the Russian military attack on Ukraine caused a major dilemma for the makers of the American security strategy, who were planning to confront one strategy represented in confronting the Chinese rise. With the start of the war a year ago, Moscow and Beijing brought together what they consider to be the desire of the West – led by the United States – to continue its hegemony over the rest of the world. the world.
China and Russia participate in a “comprehensive strategic coordination partnership for a new era” that was signed weeks before the start of the Russian attack, as China did not support unilateral Western sanctions against Russia, because Washington uses these sanctions as a means to expand its geo-strategic influence.
Cautious Chinese support
American experts do not believe that Moscow informed Beijing of the war decision before its forces crossed the Ukrainian border, as Joshua Kurlantzik, a Chinese affairs expert at the American Council on Foreign Relations, considered that Beijing was surprised by the Russian move.
In an interview with Al-Jazeera Net, Korlantzik indicated that “China had to deal with the situation immediately, and quickly chose to stand behind Putin, because there was no other choice before it, as it established close relations with Russia decades ago.”
But Korlantzik believes that “there was a kind of support tinged with anxiety, because Beijing was still not sure what Putin would do and how far he would go, and I think that the Chinese leadership, although it has direct channels of communication with President Putin, does not seem to have the ability to predict the steps.” Russian President.”
Sun Yun, an expert on China-US relations at the Stimson Center in Washington, agrees, estimating that China did not expect Russia to launch a large-scale attack on Ukraine.
Chinese neutrality in support of Russia
Before the start of the fighting, China was the first trading partner for both Russia and Ukraine, and Western sanctions resulted in a favorable opportunity for China to obtain its needs of Russian oil and gas at low prices, as expert Sun believes that “China’s refusal to condemn Russia for the war, or to take Punitive measures against it, and its attempt to defend Moscow’s position diplomatically, all of this prompted questioning of China’s neutrality in the conflict.
And the expert considered that, “Once the attack took place, China tried to defend Russia’s position diplomatically by blaming NATO and Ukraine for pushing Russia into the war.”
For his part, Matthew Whalen, CEO of the American Security Project – a think tank focused on military affairs – considered that China plays a key role in helping Russia to overcome the sanctions imposed against it, especially with regard to the energy sector.
Whalen pointed out that China seemed unenthusiastic about the war, especially at its inception, but its position and its needs for Russian resources supported Moscow’s ability to avoid an economic collapse.
China’s gains from the war
Changing US military interest away from Southeast Asia and the Pacific and Indian Oceans towards Europe and Ukraine is a direct Chinese benefit from the war in Ukraine.
China repeats that the situation in Ukraine should not be compared with Taiwan, because Ukraine is a sovereign country that was attacked by another country, while Taiwan is part of China and recognized by the world as such.
The expert, Korlantzik, said, “China believes that it must support Russia. Beijing will not abandon its Russian ally, because that would make it weak, and this also has implications for the future of China’s planning to annex Taiwan.”
However, Korlantzik also believes that the continuation of the Russian war on Ukraine negatively affects China’s position on the world stage, as it is linked to Putin, and this is especially bad for China in terms of its relations with countries in Central and Eastern Europe, where its image collapsed due to its support for Putin, according to him. For her part, expert Sun Yun acknowledges that China has benefited greatly from the war, especially with regard to increasing Russian dependence on it.