China for Russia means that it has one prominent partner to turn to as geopolitical processes soar with the West over Ukraine.
However, it seems unlikely that China will offer more than supportive words to Russia’s economy if it launches an invasion of Ukraine. Beijing’s diplomatic and military ties with Moscow might seem strong, but its economic commitments are a lot more complex.
On Friday, the Russian President met his Chinese counterpart as the Beijing Winter Olympics started. According to an account published by a Chinese state news agency, the Kremlin described the meeting as warm and productive. The leaders agreed to deepen their cooperation. Russian oil company Rosneft said it agreed to raise supplies to China over the next few years.
Putin wrote in an op-ed that working together can achieve stable economic growth while standing together against risks and challenges.
Those risks might seem challenging if Russia invades Ukraine. Moscow has said a couple of times that it has no intention of doing so.
But US lawmakers are threatening to set the “mother of all sanctions” on Russia if it crosses a red line. European leaders are also preparing penalties. Those sanctions go way beyond the curbs imposed on Russia when it annexed Crimea in 2014.
With its tensions with the West, China has already expressed diplomatic support for its ally. In a joint statement after their meeting, Xi and Putin said that two sides opposed the further enlargement of NATO. Russia seems afraid that Ukraine might join the alliance.
Senior China fellow at the DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Craig Singleton, talked about these processes. He said that Xi almost clearly believes there is a strategic claim in supporting Russia. He pointed out that China remains engaged in a permanent dispute with the United States.
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