China’s Policy on the Russian-Ukrainian War

July 21, 2022
Oleksii Koval analyzes Chinese neutrality and cooperation between China and Russia.

What is China's policy on the Russian-Ukrainian war? — UkraineWorld talks to Oleksii Koval, journalist and member of the Board of Directors of the Ukrainian Association of Sinologists.

Key points from our discussion, #UkraineWorldAnalysis

1. On the Chinese neutrality

  • China supports the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine and has never recognized either the annexation of Crimea or the so-called "LPR" and "DPR." Without reference to Russia, China condemns war as a way to resolve interstate conflicts and favors diplomacy.
  • While having declared neutrality, China maintains a policy line that is close to Russia and Russia's propaganda narratives. 1) China views the war as a conflict between Russia and the West. 2) It holds the US is responsible for starting and inciting the war. 3) China emphasizes the suffering of people but is reluctant to talk about Russia's military actions and war crimes. 

2. On the place of Taiwan and Crimea in bilateral relations

  • By holding an illegal referendum in Crimea, Russia set a precedent that, China fears, could have consequences for Taiwan. China has warned that it is ready to launch military action in the event of such a scenario.
  • The Taiwanese have been inspired by Ukraine's example, which has shown China that it will not succeed in seizing the island by force. The war has also cast doubts on China's ambitions for peaceful unification with Taiwan.

3. On the Chinese policy towards sanctions against Russia

  • China condemns unilateral sanctions in general, without focusing on Russian sanctions in particular. Fearing being subject to US sanctions, China does not cooperate with Russia in sectors that have come under restrictions, first of all with supply of weapons.

4. On the economic, energy, and technology cooperation between China and Russia

  • 🇨🇳will not supply 🇷🇺with weapons or military technology. 1) 🇨🇳uses 🇷🇺 tech for their missiles, radars, & aircraft. 2) The missile and tank components 🇷🇺needs are not produced in 🇨🇳. But some microchips 🇷🇺 is buying from 🇨🇳are probably destined for military purposes.
  • In the 100 days since the invasion, China has increased its purchases of Russian oil and gas because they are still not subject to sanctions. Thanks to cheap Russian energy resources, China is accumulating its own reserves.
  • By producing global chaos, Russia hurts China the most. China can only develop in conditions of peace and tranquility, not chaos. The war in Ukraine has already damaged China's economic prospects, particularly its Belt and Road initiative.

5. On Ukraine's long-term strategy toward China

  • Ukraine should define its policy towards China separately from the EU and the US. Before the war, China was Ukraine's biggest single trading partner ($15 bn. in turnover). Under  Poroshenko and Zelenskyy, there have been no serious political negotiations with China for 9 years.
  • Ukraine's policy towards China should be clear and long-term, and should not depend on a change in Ukraine's administration. China must understand what place it occupies in Ukraine's foreign policy. Ukraine can use Chinese investment to rebuild its economy to be compatible with the EU.

This material was prepared with financial support from the International Renaissance Foundation.

Oleksii Koval
member of the Board of Directors of the Ukrainian Association of Sinologists