It is no secret that President Xi Jinping has pursued close ties with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. Since the invasion began, China has pursued a position of neutrality towards the conflict, but nobody doubts China’s pro-Russian lean.
China’s calls for peace are undermined by its amplification of Russian arguments for the invasion, including American involvement in propping up a puppet Ukrainian government or NATO’s admission of former Soviet satellites after the end of the Cold War.
This is not to say that opposition to the war is absent in China. Some have taken to digital platforms to voice their disagreement with Putin’s war and China’s response. However, by far the most common voices are anti-Western. The government has not taken a nationalist hardline support for the invasion, in spite of instances such as China’s foreign minister Wang Yi’s comments that relations with Russia were ‘rock solid’.
All this said, the war ultimately represents something of a problematic issue for China. War is bad for business, China’s pandemic-hit economy is already feeling the pinch. Russia’s unprovoked invasion is the exact action that China has historically accused ‘Western imperialists’ of taking: the undermining of a sovereign state’s territorial integrity. The war threatens to open cracks in the tightly controlled messaging throughout the country.
Furthermore, Beijing will no doubt be taking note of Russia’s campaign and its significant losses, learning valuable lessons for any potential future military action the country will wage. China, as much as most others, will want the war to end soon.
The panel of experts answers key questions including:
What is the true state of the Russo-Sino relationship? Has the war shifted the relationship’s dynamic
In a post-war environment, will China take advantage of Russia’s war-weary economy and diplomatic position?
How has the Chinese government controlled the online narrative about the war and can it be maintained?
Ultimately, does the war undermine or strengthen China’s geopolitical position?
This event is part of Chatham House’s ongoing work on the geopolitical impact of US-China competition.