China Supporting Russia as Tensions Between Russia and Ukraine Mount

China flag.
Flag of China | Image by Igor Ilnitckii

As tensions between Ukraine and Russia come to a head, China is lending its support to Russia.

According to a report by Eleanor Olcott in London and Demetri Sevastopulo and James Politi at The Financial Times, the conflict at hand deals with the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into Ukraine.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi declared that Russia has “reasonable security concerns” that the United States and its allies in NATO should take “seriously.”

Wang told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Europe’s security architecture could not be secured through “strengthening or even expanding military blocs.”

According to the Financial Times report, Wang called on all parties involved in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict to “abandon the cold war mentality” and urged for “balanced” negotiations to ease tensions over Ukraine during a video conference call on January 27, 2022.

Blinken emphasized that de-escalation and diplomacy must be used to alleviate tensions between Russia and Ukraine. In addition, the American secretary of state “underscored the global security and economic risks posed by further Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

Russia has mobilized over 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, which has raised speculation that it may be preparing to launch an invasion.

NATO increased military activity in Eastern European member states, with several Western allies delivering military aid to Ukraine.

In light of Western attempts to incorporate Ukraine into NATO, Russia has made several demands of the West, including a promise that the West will not allow Ukraine to be admitted into the alliance.

On January 26, the U.S. and NATO issued formal written statements addressing Russia’s demands, which they considered unacceptable.

China and Russia have increased their cooperation over the past year over perceived threats from the U.S., Meanwhile, the U.S. has tapped into its alliance network to counter the rising Eurasian powers.

This past October, China and Russia conducted joint military exercises through international waterways between Japan’s northern and southern islands, which caused the Japanese government to criticize the country’s naval exercise heavily.

For the present, the Biden administration has warned Russia that it will enact harsh sanctions if it invades Ukraine.

The Biden administration is also keeping an eye on China’s interactions with Russia. According to the Financial Times report, there is a potential scenario wherein China moves to help ease sanctions pressure placed on Moscow by offering financial and diplomatic support.

Victoria Nuland, the U.S. under-secretary for political affairs, said on January 27 that it would not benefit China to throw its support behind Russia.

“If there is a conflict in Ukraine, it is not going to be good for China either,” Nuland declared. “There will be a significant impact on the global economy. There’ll be a significant impact in the energy sphere.”

Wang also urged the U.S. to “stop playing fire on the Taiwan issue” and to “stop interfering” with the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The U.S. made waves by not sending diplomatic representatives to the Olympic Games, a subtle protest of the alleged human rights abuses taking place in Xinjiang.

The Western province of China is home to the ethnic minority Uyghurs, who are of primarily Islamic belief. The Chinese Communist Party has undertaken controversial efforts to assimilate them, which has been met with significant international criticism.

The Dallas Express reached out to Velina Tchakarova, the Director of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, for her perspective on the growing cooperation between Russia and China in strategic affairs.

Tchakarova noted the following opinion about the new dynamics taking place on the world stage:

Since it has become clear that the U.S. will not intervene militarily in a possible war between Russia and Ukraine, China has been counting on a likely U.S. withdrawal from the old continent in the long run in order to focus more on the Indo-Pacific region and East Asia. In this context, China views NATO as an institutional reminiscence of the Cold War and is vehemently opposed to geopolitical and military blocs such as the U.S.-led QUAD (an informal alliance between the U.S., Australia, India, and Japan) or AUKUS (a trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK, and the U.S.) in the Indo-Pacific region, a view shared and diplomatically supported by Russia.

She emphasized the formation of a new “two-front” scenario that the U.S. must confront when dealing with China and Russia:

“The military escalation of the crisis in eastern Ukraine has shown that China and Russia have created a two-front scenario for the U.S. on the diplomatic stage of global affairs. The two-front scenario, with Russia openly supporting China’s position on Taiwan and China openly supporting Russia’s position on Ukraine, creates a new level of diplomatic confrontation between the Dragonbear and the U.S. What China defines as ‘Russia’s strategic space’ with regard to Ukraine, Russia correspondingly defines as ‘China’s strategic space’ with regard to Taiwan and the South China Sea.”

“Dragonbear,” the director explained, is a term describing Russia and China’s ramped-up security and diplomatic cooperation, which she then expanded upon, saying:

“The Dragonbear has proven to be a unique [feasible arrangement] for coordinating Moscow’s and Beijing’s positions on key international issues of strategic importance to their national interests. The Dragonbear is, however, neither an alliance nor [a friendly understanding]. China and Russia have tactically joined forces to manage the uncertain transitional phase of the [branching into two parts] of the global system (the growing systemic rivalry between China and the U.S.) without the strategic need to formally enter into an alliance. Russia’s challenging demands on the U.S. and NATO regarding the future of the security architecture in Europe show that Moscow is preparing for ‘the long game,’ i.e., the system rivalry between Washington and Beijing, and Russia’s future positioning in it.”

Arta Moeini, the Research Director of The Institute for Peace and Diplomacy, offered his perspective on the growing levels of cooperation between Russia and China:

“With the advent of multipolarity, we are witnessing the formation of a Eurasian belt united against U.S. global [dominance] & liberal interventionism—with Russia and China and even Iran and Turkey recognizing that it is in their long-term interest to work in tandem to resist efforts by the United States and its vectors such as NATO to contain them on their own turf.”

Moeini continued:

“With Beijing already concerned about America’s forward force posture in East Asia, it rightly sees parallels between the foreign policy establishment’s incendiary rhetoric about a new Cold War with China and Washington’s tendency to regularly inflate threats when it comes to Russia and Ukraine.”

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