Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat visits Moscow amid the Russia-Ukraine war. This visit comes post-U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine.
Beijing over the period of war has positioned itself as a negotiator for ending the Ukraine conflict and has said its President Xi Jinping will deliver a “peace speech” on 24th February, one year anniversary of the war.
These assertions came post Washington’s accusations on Beijing, that it is aiding Moscow in the war following up on their “no limits partnership” signed in February last year, just before Russia invaded Ukraine.
With western sanctions being imposed on Russia with an objective to affect its financial market and reduce the money supply, China’s trade with Russia has not seen a down graph, rather its trade in the oil and gas sector with Russia has increased dramatically in the past year. Beijing has benefited immensely as it is able to buy cheap oil and gas from Russia, the best proof of this is China replacing Germany as the largest purchaser of Russian oil ever since the war began. Furthermore, Russia too has replaced Saudi Arabia as China’s largest supplier of crude oil.
David Fyfe, the chief economist at research organization Argus Media, says that 40% of Russia’s total exports are from Oil and Gas, but with these bans, Russia’s access to hi-tech components that are essential requirements for its military sector has been affected.
Furthermore, Russia’s removal from the international financial messaging system SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) has led to delays in payments for its oil and gas export. The European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom banning all imports from Russia have suddenly quivered its economy.
CHINA’S ROLE AS A NEUTRALISER
Moscow expected a quick and swift victory in Ukraine, but with the war dragging on for almost a year, the Chinese attempts at peace negotiations have caught the eye of scholars. Chinese state media on 21st February, Tuesday released the Global Security Initiative or GSI, a concept paper released by Global Times highlighting Mr. Jinping’s aim of eliminating the root cause of international conflicts amongst countries around the globe and improving global security.
In the above statement, China’s emphasis on “countries across the globe” demonstrates its position of equidistant from both Russia and Ukraine.
In May 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated his satisfaction with the status quo of the Jinping led government. He expressed his contentment with the Beijing’s policy of not taking any sides and staying neutral in such a situation
In September 2022, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba once again applauded the Chinese stand in the conflict and called it to be more beneficial for Ukraine than for Russia.
In light of such statements, it can be assumed that Jinping led government is attempting to decrease the animosity between Russia and Ukraine and is trying to act as a moderator between the two. Keeping in mind the ages-old ties and similar ideology it is only China in the current scenario that can bring peace back to this region.
RUSSIA SUSPENDS ITS INVOLVEMENT IN NEW START
At the same time, Russia’s suspend its involvement from NEW START, a treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation over adopting measures for further reduction and limitations of strategic offensive arms has further created confusion regarding Russia’s stand on ending its war with Ukraine.
NEW START was signed in 2010 by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. This treaty limited each country to store not more than 1500 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. This agreement also cogitates both countries’ approval of on-site inspection to verify the acquiescence of the above-mentioned norms.
UNDERSTANDING THE REASONS BEHIND CHINESE NEUTRALITY
The epicenter of China’s relationship with both Russia and Ukraine is trade. China is the largest trading partner for both conflicting countries.
In 2019, China replaced Russia as Ukraine’s largest trading partner, Ukraine is China’s biggest market for defence goods and the third-largest supplier of military equipment. Not confining their relations to just trade, Ukraine is also the largest supplier of corn to China. Therefore, keeping in mind, needs of its own too China cannot fully decide to not take the side of Ukraine.
China also needs to keep Russia close to it as both of them are permanent members of the UNSC and the only ones too sharing a communist ideology. Furthermore, China could require Russia’s support to fulfill its ambition of challenging rising U.S.Dominance in world politics. Russia also helps China in trade and technology, especially at the time when the Chinese economy is trying to lift itself from Zero-Covid revitalization. Hence China can not openly take Russia’s side as it will also face backlash from the European Union.
Therefore, even for China, the best-case scenario under the present circumstances is to maintain neutrality and act as a peacemaker between the two conflicting countries.