The official Chinese line on the Ukraine crisis thus far has been one of ambivalence. In press conferences, Foreign Ministry spokespeople have answered questions indirectly, refused to officially take sides, and urged everyone to come to an acceptable political agreement on their own. A slew of articles and editorials in Chinese government-run newspapers, however, urge Beijing to firmly support Russia over Europe and the U.S.Officially, China opposes the sanctions effort by the U.S. and Europe. “China has consistently opposed the easy use of sanctions in international relations, or using sanctions as a threat,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said today. He also called on all sides to “peacefully resolve” the crisis and “bring order back as soon as possible.The unofficial line is much more pro-Russia and anti-U.S./EU.“We shouldn’t disappoint Russia when it finds itself in a time of need. China should become a reliable strategic partner. This way, we will make more friends,” concludes one editorial in the Global Times. “Some think China’s policy of non-interference will be tested in this matter, and that if China supports Russia, it will become ensnared in a diplomatic trap. This is the mentality of the weak…. If Russia led by Putin is defeated by the West, it will deal a heavy blow to China’s geopolitical interests.”An article in the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, attacks the West for creating the problem in the first place:
The West’s strategy for installing a so-called democratic and pro-Western Ukrainian government did not get anywhere at all. On the contrary, they have created a mess they do not have the capacity or wisdom to clean.Their ill-fated plan was fundamentally flawed from the very beginning. First of all, they were destined to shoot their own feet when they, under the cliche pretense of supporting democracy, interfered in Ukrainian domestic affairs by engaging in biased mediation.Second, they underestimated Russia’s will to protect its core interests in Ukraine. Russia may no longer be interested in competing for global preeminence with the West, but when it comes to cleaning a mess the West created in the country’s backyard, Russian leaders once again proved their credibility and shrewdness in planning and executing effective counter moves.
If (or when) push comes to shove in Ukraine, Beijing’s official stance is likely to become more pro-Russia. After all, China’s leaders are looking toward the future. If Beijing takes a more aggressive posture in asserting its territorial claims in the East and South China Seas, diplomatic cover from Russia could certainly come in handy.