Does China Support Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine? War Tests 'No Limits' Friendship

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Mar. 4 2022, Published 9:39 a.m. ET

The war between Russia and Ukraine, which was started by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has taken thousands of lives, including those of civilians. There have been massive economic costs as well, not only for Ukraine and Russia but for the entire world. Does China support Russia's invasion of Ukraine?

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The Western world has taken a strict stance on Russia and imposed multiple sanctions on the country. Some of the former Soviet countries have come out in their support. However, China and India, which are the world’s two most populous countries respectively, have taken a somewhat ambiguous position.

Which countries support Russia?

Belarus, which is led by Alexander Lukashenko, has been among the staunchest supporter of Putin in the war. Eritrea, Syria, and North Korea also support Russia.

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Some of the other Soviet Union countries like Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Kazakhstan also supported Russia. Initially, Cuba supported Russia but has since taken a more nuanced position and has instead abstained from voting at the UN.

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Does China support Russia?

China has been calling for a dialogue between Ukraine and Russia, and at the same time, it has been blaming the U.S. for the military conflict in the region. China has been abstaining from voting at the UN, which shows that it at least partially supports Russia and Putin.

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How has China been helping Russia?

China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, along with Russia. By abstaining from voting, it helps lower the pressure on Russia. Also, China brokered an agreement between Pakistan and Russia, and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Russia just when the war was starting.

Russia waited for the Winter Olympics to end before invading Ukraine.

It isn't a coincidence that Russia waited for the completion of the Beijing Winter Olympics. Also, it isn't a coincidence that Khan, whose country has almost become a vassal state of China, visited Russia the day Putin ordered the military operation inside Ukraine. No Pakistani prime minister had visited Russia since 1999. Pakistan has also been abstaining from voting on the UN resolutions against Russia.

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Another aspect to consider here would be the diplomatic pressure that Khan’s visit to Russia put on arch-rival India. The country relies on Russia for most of its military hardware and equipment. Khan’s visit to Russia, especially the timing, was a signal to India. India has been abstaining from voting against Russia even though it has been more open in criticizing Russia.

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Why does China support Russia?

First, the U.S. is the common enemy for Russia and China. The U.S. and Russia rivalry dates back to the Soviet era and has intensified under Putin, who is an ex-KGB spy. The U.S. and China rivalry has been building for many years but came to the forefront when former President Trump targeted the country with punitive tariffs.

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Second, like Russia, China has also been opposed to the U.S. forging military alliances in the region. Putin has been vehemently opposed to Ukraine or any other former Soviet country joining NATO. Similarly, China has been opposed to the Quad, which consists of the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India.

Finally, for Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was expected to be the template of his aggression towards Taiwan. China sees Taiwan as part of its territory and intends to integrate it into itself, including through the use of force if necessary.

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However, it seems like China and Russia underestimated the resolve of the Western nations as well as Ukraine. Although Putin might not worry much about the economic costs, maintaining financial stability is a priority for Jinping as it helps the Communist Party maintain its control and legitimacy in China.

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China is finding it hard to openly support Russia.

China is having a difficult time supporting Russia openly even though just a month ago, the two countries said that their friendship has “no limits.” Any nation which has a standing in the world wouldn't be able to support Russia’s actions, especially the bombing and killing of innocent citizens.

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China is having second thoughts about supporting Russia.

China seems to be having second thoughts about how far it will go in supporting Russia. The world community is closely watching who stands where in this conflict, and the choices countries make now will have long-term ramifications.

The anti-China sentiments in western countries have been running high due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Jinping’s aggression. The country might not want to lose more friends and customers in the West, especially given the continued slowdown in its economic growth.

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