Apparently, in the wake of the ongoing Ukrainian crisis, communist China has stood like a rock behind Russia. Beijing has refused to condemn President Vladimir Putin for the current crisis. It has taken exception to the US-led Western sanctions against Russia.
Last month, after a video call with US President Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping, the supremo of the communist party that runs the government, defended his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, complaining it is US President Joe Biden who has “ tied the bell to the tiger’s neck.”
According to a report, the Xi government regards China and Russia as menaced by “colour revolution,” a Chinese communist euphemism for the West-backed insurrections. It has of late produced a documentary that is full of praise for President Putin. It depicts him as a real hero and previous Soviet leaders — such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Nikita S. Khrushchev– as dupes.
The documentary says the humiliating collapse of the Soviet Union resulted from efforts by the United States to destroy its legitimacy. President Putin has restored to Russia its standing as a great wartime leader.
Party newspapers have run a series of commentaries that blame the United States for the present conflict in the region. They argue Russia is right to worry about the activities of its neighbours that broke away from the Soviet Union. They assert that since the demise of the Soviet Union, “some countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Transcaucasia have become forward positions for the West to contain and meddle in Russia.”
One, however, is not sure if China will stick to Russia for long. Observers say that political, economic, and diplomatic relations between Beijing and Moscow have undoubtedly improved a lot in recent years. President Xi may be calculating if the current Russia-Ukraine crisis aggravates, it would compel Washington to focus its attention on dealing with Moscow, and Beijing could use this to focus on advancing its own economic and military capability.
However, it would be naïve to forecast Beijing’s approach toward Moscow in the future. Beijing is hedging its bets. It did not support Moscow during the UN General Assembly vote to condemn Russia’s invasion. Beijing abstained. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang has said his country respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Last month, after President Putin began a full-scale invasion in Ukraine, Russia is said to have asked China to give it military equipment and support. But Beijing did not oblige. Besides, China has not yet recognized Russia’s annexation of Crimea or the independence of the so-called people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
President Xi may desist from doing what Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II did in the early twentieth century. Germany was then rising in economic, military, and technological prominence. But it got off its track when, in 1914, it backed Austro-Hungarian Empire’s decision to wage war on Serbia. Xi might calculate that continuing to support Russia would destabilize the very international system that has made it possible for China to rise all these years.
(The author is a New Delhi-based journalist)