Will China help Russia cope with the fallout from economic sanctions?
That has been the big question since Russia invaded Ukraine last week. The two nations have forged close ties in recent years, with Chinese leader Xi Jinping calling Russian President Vladimir Putin his “best and bosom friend” in 2019. During Putin’s visit to Beijing last month, the two states proclaimed that their friendship has “no limits.”
That was before Russia launched its war in Ukraine, and was hit with unprecedented sanctions from Western countries. Now, China’s ability to help its neighbor is being sorely tested. Experts say Beijing’s options are limited.
“China’s leaders are walking a very difficult tightrope on Ukraine,” said Craig Singleton, senior China fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a DC-based think tank.
Beijing has not rushed to help Russiaafter its economy was slammedby sanctions from all over the world. On Wednesday, Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission,said that the country won’t participate in sanctions,but he didn’t offer any relief either.
Earlier this week, China’s foreign minister spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, and said that China was “deeply grieved to see the conflict” and that its “fundamental position on the Ukraine issue is open, transparent and consistent.”
And the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a development bank backed by Beijing, said Thursday it was suspending all its activities in Russia as “the war in Ukraine unfolds.”
“China’s complicated messaging suggests that Beijing will continue to blame Washington and its allies for provoking Russia,” Singleton said.
However, “such moves will fall far short of further antagonizing the United States on account of Beijing’s desire to avoid a complete breakdown in US-China relations,” he added.