As the world holds its breath watching the East-West stand-off over Ukraine take shape, one piece of the puzzle settling into place should come as a relief to all peace-loving people: China is not backing Russia’s move. At least not explicitly – and probably not implicitly either.
“We respect the choice made by the Ukrainian people on the basis of national conditions,” Shen Bo, a counselor at China’s U.N. mission said on February 24 statement.
After Russia began sending troops into Ukraine, the Chinese explained it this way (in the transcript of Xi Jinping’s talk with Putin):
“At present, the situation in Ukraine is highly complicated and sensitive and has regional and global impact…China believes that Russia can coordinate with other parties to push for the political settlement of the issue so as to safeguard regional and world peace and stability. China supports proposals and mediation efforts of the international community that are conducive to reduction of tension.”
In other words, as Edward Luck, quoted in the same FP article notes:
the Ukraine crisis underscores the limits of the partnership between Russia and China. As China emerges as a true global powerhouse, its interests have grown more complex, he said, requiring it to act more nimbly in a world where its allies come into conflict. Russia, meanwhile, remains primarily focused on its stature in its own neighborhood.
As for the US, while the Ukraine crisis presents a credibility issue in Europe – it’s not the historical Cold War all over again – despite all the chatter. The new Cold War is really about China and US. And that competition is less about tanks and planes and more about superfast computers and economies.