onsdag 9. mars 2022

The invasion of Ukraine puts Beijing in an uncomfortable position. That doesn’t mean it will distance itself from Moscow

Can China play peacemaker? That is the faint hope now being seized upon by western leaders desperate to end the bloodshed in Ukraine. “It has to be China,” said Josep Borrell, the UN foreign policy chief. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has said that “China is interested in stopping this war”. On Tuesday, Xi Jinping made his strongest statement on the war yet as the French president and German chancellor met him virtually, calling for “maximum restraint” and saying that China was “pained to see the flames of war reignited in Europe”.

What he did not do was call it an invasion or blame Russia. The bilateral relationship is at its closest for seven decades, since the Sino-Soviet split. Weeks before the invasion, the two presidents declared that it had “no limits” as Vladimir Putin visited Beijing for the Winter Olympics – the only major leader to do so amid a western diplomatic boycott. China has denounced reports that it asked Russia not to invade during the Games as US disinformation. Even if Mr Xi knew that his counterpart planned a full-scale invasion across Ukraine, he surely failed to anticipate the strength of resistance and the scale of the international backlash. But his personal investment in the partnership makes it extremely hard to correct course.