China continues to condone Russian aggression

Hong Kong, February 27 (ANI): China refuses to back down from unstinting support for Russia’s protracted "special military operation" in Ukraine, but at the same time, it pretends to be a neutral peace broker to avoid international opprobrium. However, it is becoming increasingly untenable for China to maintain both positions.

As China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) stated: "The China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership is built on the basis of non-alignment, non-confrontation, non-targeting of third parties. It’s within the sovereignty of two independent countries. We never accept the US dictating or even coercing the Sino-Russian relationship."But its argument is disingenuous. How can China say it is "non-aligned", when it shares a comprehensive strategic partnership with Russia?How can it be "non-confrontational" when it has repeatedly refused to criticize Russia’s tsar Vladimir Putin for his wanton invasion of Ukraine? China studiously refuses even to call the bloody conflagration a "war".

And how can it be "not targeted at third parties", when Beijing actively diplomatically supports Russia’s position, and winks at the invasion of a sovereign Ukraine?China wishes to support Russia to the hilt, yet it purports to be an honest peacemaker. In fact, Beijing seems more concerned about criticizing the USA than it does about showing sympathy for Ukraine.

The Sino-Russian relationship could be set to deepen further if American predictions are realized. In February, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of "very real concerns" that China is contemplating lending material support to Russia’s war effort. He warned: "We’ve seen already over these past months the provision of nonlethal assistance that does go directly to aiding and abetting Russia’s war effort. And some further information that we are sharing today, and that I think will be out there soon, that indicates that they are strongly considering providing lethal assistance to Russia."Blinken was referring to China’s supposed intent to supply weapons and ammunition, perhaps including drones, to Russia. If it does so, this will seriously complicate China’s relations with the West.

American alarm was echoed by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who said the alliance was "increasingly concerned". Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the United Nations, said Chinese military support would be an unacceptable "red line".

China says its relationship with Russia has no limits. If that is the case and it provides lethal aid to Russia, this would represent a seminal moment in the bloody war for Ukraine. Surely China must know this, and it would therefore disguise or hide any support. Perhaps, like its high-altitude spy balloon flying over North America, it would blame private companies and wash its hand of responsibility. Or perhaps it will provide dual-use components such as microchips, electronics, sensors and other subsystems that it would claim were "innocently" sold to Russia for civilian use. There is no doubting that China would obfuscate the issue to maximum extent.

Der Spiegel alleged that China and Russia were negotiating the purchase of 100 armed drones to be delivered as soon as April. The agency named Xi’an Bingo Intelligent Aviation technology as the supplier. It is widely thought that China is already supplying commercial drones to Russia.

Furthermore, Dutch public broadcaster NOS reported that Dutch microchips had reached Russian defence manufacturers after being on-sold via Chinese firms. The Wall Street Journal has alleged that China is supplying equipment such as superconductors, jet fighter parts and electronic jamming technology.

China’s MFA simply accused NATO of playing old tricks by raising accusations of weapon supplies. With nary a trace of irony, spokesman Wang Wenbin said China has always been on the side of peace, upholding an objective and impartial position and actively promoting peace talks.

He also had the temerity to blame NATO for supplying the bulk of weapons to Ukraine, accusing it of breaching NATO’s geographic confines and expanding its agenda. In other words, China would prefer the world to abandon Ukraine and allow Russia to have its violent way. NATO is the one "stoking division and tensions", Wang warbled, even though it was Russia who instigated this war.

Chinese state-controlled media are also muddying the waters by accusing the USA of prolonging the war, of exploiting conflicts so that Washington DC can expand its influence and control, and so its arms manufacturers can rake in profits. The USA is "using human rights and democracy as a pretext for military intervention", Chinese torchbearers intone.

China’s balancing act is illustrated by Wang Yi, China’s former foreign minister who was later promoted to Director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission. In a diplomatic tour from 14-22 February, he attempted to assure Europe with visits to France, Italy, Germany and Hungary.

However, Wang immediately afterwards went to Moscow, incidentally the first visit of a high-ranking Chinese official to Russia since the invasion a year ago. Wang even worryingly told Russia’s National Security Council that China is "ready to join forces with the Russian side ... to decisively stand up for national interests and virtues".

Putin himself declared that the bilateral relationship had reached "new frontiers". The two nations performed joint naval drills and bomber deployments in late 2022. Both also share antipathy towards "Western hegemony", of which the USA is the head of the beast.

On the one hand, Wang was in damage control mode as China’s relations with Europe fray badly. And yet he was also assuring Putin of Chinese support thanks to their special unlimited friendship. That will be further cemented as Chairman Xi Jinping travels to China in coming months.

China’s typical response is simply to accuse others of "smearing" it. But what should the world make of China’s own deliberate smears? Zhang Meifang, China’s Consul General in Ireland, demonstrated how China’s wolf warrior diplomacy is alive and well. She tweeted, "What some believe ‘NATO’ really stands for = Not A Trustworthy Organization! What do you believe? Share your thoughts and pls retweet so others can too!"Likewise, MFA spokesman Wang Wenbin tweeted this aspersion: "The US has been falsely accusing China of offering weapons, even though the US itself is the biggest source of weaponry for Ukraine’s battlefield. What’s the US up to?"These are blatant examples of Chinese officials spreading propaganda designed to undermine the West. Then, Beijing released "China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the UkraineCrisis" on 24 February. However, it is not a peace plan at all, as had been promised, but rather just an idealogue’s statement of principles. In fact, it regurgitates many of China’s favorite canards.

Its contents fall under the following twelve principles: respecting the sovereignty of all countries; abandoning the Cold War mentality; ceasing hostilities; resuming peace talks; resolving the humanitarian crisis; protecting civilians and prisoners of war; keeping nuclear power plants safe; reducing strategic risks; facilitating grain exports; stopping unilateral sanctions; keeping industrial and supply chains stable; and promoting post-conflict reconstruction.

As can be seen, there is little new, demonstrating that China has little constructive help to offer. Worse than that, it is hypocritical in places. "The security of a country should not be pursued at the expense of others," China proclaimed. Well, why does it not tell its friend Putin that?Drew Thompson, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, assessed China’s position paper: "To be a credible plan, it would need a geographic component. Statements addressing the return of territory to Ukraine would be welcomed by NATO and Ukraine. Even a statement drawing a line somewhere would be a starting point for negotiations. It lacks that."The American scholar continued: "It strikes me that nowhere in Beijing’s statement does it state that arms should NOT be provided to belligerents. ‘Avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions’ isn’t a proscription against providing arms. The absence of a proscription against arms transfers concerns me. It is possible Beijing is getting ready to provide Russia with lethal support."Wang denied that China is going to deliver weapons, and said his country is "playing by the rules". However, Thompson warned his ambiguous statement is "possibly a warning that ‘the rules’ as he interprets them includes providing weapons to belligerents. NATO provides arms, China can provide arms. Are those the rules as Wang Yi interprets them?"Thompson pointed out that, if China is preparing to provide arms to Russia, it gives context to Beijing’s tenth and eleventh points that cover unilateral sanctions, long-arm jurisdiction against others, and that "all parties should earnestly maintain the existing world economic system and oppose using the world economy as a tool or weapon for political purposes".

Ironically, China does use economic clout and trade sanctions to browbeat others. Nonetheless, Thompson mused that perhaps "China is pre-emptively arguing that it should not face economic sanctions if they provide arms to Russia".

"Unfortunately for Beijing, its twelve-point principles for resolving the Ukraine conflict have no buy-in from the key stakeholders in Europe or the US, and they lack sufficient specificity to make them actionable. These principles will neither affect the conflict, nor lessen global reactions should China decide to provide arms to Russia."Europe would like China to use its leverage to persuade Moscow to reach a peace agreement. However, Chinese pledges are quite worthless and, one year later, it offers nothing new.

When China urged that "the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected" and that "the legitimate security concerns of all countries should be taken seriously," the truth is that these two positions are mutually exclusive when it comes to the Ukraine conflict. China is trying to uphold opposing principles, and Russian aggression must not be rewarded with captured territory.

Some commentators argue that China will end up putting more pressure on Russia, while others predict Beijing will strengthen its support for Russia’s military. Such diverse opinions show just how finely balanced China’s tightrope walk is. But Xi would probably be happy that such disparate views hold sway, as Beijing tries to remain as ambiguous as possible.

Undoubtedly, however, China will irreparably damage its relationship with Europe if it gives military aid to Putin. Yet Xi’s foreign policy and national security strategy might see that as an acceptable trade-off.

The Sino-Russian relationship has been permanently altered, with Russia far more dependent on China for capital investment and technology. This gives the economic giant greater leverage over Moscow. For example, China is gaining energy at bargain basement prices right now, a boon to its struggling economy. China is also making money by reselling Russian liquid natural gas to Europe. Indeed, Russia is becoming something of a client state to China, and its strength will surely be less worrisome to Xi after this war.

Yet nor does China want Russia to be badly weakened by the Ukraine conflict either. China would have applauded a rapid conquest of Ukraine, but the longer the war draws on, the more difficult a position it puts Beijing in. Additionally, Russian aggression has coalesced Western and NATO unity and support, which gives China much to think about in its own quest to subjugate Taiwan. Perhaps China imagined the West was insipid, discordant and would not resist strong-arm tactics.

In the end, China is offering mere lip service to the Ukraine conflict to make itself look good, without remotely jeopardizing its friendship with Russia. (ANI)