China is under intense diplomatic pressure from Europe and the United States to stop supporting Russia and its economy, which has been hit by numerous sanctions since the invasion of Ukraine.
Western countries have imposed several sanctions in recent weeks that could even lead to Russia defaulting on its debt, according to financial ratings agency Fitch.
Sanctions range from freezing assets to banning exports of certain products to Russia, to measures to paralyze the banking sector or the closure of European airspace to companies in the country.
But Beijing is reluctant to stop supporting its ally.
The Russian government, isolated and fighting the devaluation of its currency, would have asked China for economic and military aid, and, according to the American newspaper The New York Times, which cites anonymous sources, China seems to have responded positively to the demand, at least in part.
But it is difficult for Beijing to find the balance between its friendship with Russia and its desire to avoid conflicting international interests and even be subject to Western sanctions.
The United States on Monday described the “alignment” between Beijing and Moscow as “deeply worrying” after a meeting in Rome between Jake Sullivan, a US national security adviser, and Yang Jiechi, a top diplomatic official of the Party. Chinese Communist (CCP).
Since the beginning of the invasion, China has refused to openly condemn the military operation. Last week, he called his friendship with Russia “solid”.
Weapons for Russia?
“China is looking out for its own interests,” says Alexander Gabuev, an expert on Sino-Russian relations at the Carnegie Moscow Center in Moscow.
“A weaker Russia is probably a Russia that will serve its interests better, because it will have more influence over it,” says the expert.
At the moment, China is trying to appear as a neutral power, calling for “restraint” and negotiation between Russia and Ukraine, while criticizing the expansion of NATO.
US media, citing unnamed sources, say Beijing is willing to support the Russian economy and even provide weapons and logistical support to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops in Ukraine.
AFP was unable to verify these claims.
European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, in line with other Western countries, said he had urged Beijing to exert its “considerable influence” over Moscow to secure a ceasefire.
An appeal apparently to the void.
In China, state media picked up on some of the Kremlin’s arguments, such as Ukraine using civilians as human shields and the United States funding military biological programs in Ukraine.
“The Chinese position is not so much pro-Russian as it is anti-American,” says Gabuev.
The invasion of Ukraine, which came three weeks after Vladimir Putin’s visit to Beijing for the Olympics, could damage Sino-Russian friendship, described as “unlimited” during the Kremlin leader’s visit.
“The longer and more violent the conflict, the more complicated the situation for China,” predicts Ni Lexiong, a professor at the Shanghai Institute of National Defense Strategy.