China will very soon have to decide for itself which side of history it will stand on when it comes to the war in Ukraine. And if the regime in Beijing, led by President Xi Jinping, chooses the Russian side, it could have extremely serious economic consequences for China.
That was the clear message from Western leaders when they met last week for a series of crisis summits in Brussels, DR News writes.
After the meeting of the defense alliance, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO’s Heads of State and Government are urging China not to support the invasion, either economically or militarily. China must instead use its influence to stop the war.
China has so far refused to take a clear stand against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which they consistently refer to as ‘a crisis’ and not ‘a war’. And although the Chinese president has stated that the conflict in Ukraine is not in anyone’s interest, they have at the same time described the many Western sanctions against Russia that have been imposed in recent weeks as “scandalous”.
Xi Jinping has a particularly close political relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Since becoming President of China in 2012, he has met 38 times with his Russian counterpart. And during a visit to Moscow three years ago, Xi Jinping said that “President Putin is my best friend and colleague.”
In connection with this year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, the two countries announced a partnership ‘without restrictions’, while at the same time distancing themselves from what they describe as the US and NATO ‘s ‘ideologized Cold War approach’.
According to Mette Thunø, associate professor of China studies at Aarhus University in Denmark, they both view the United States “as an aggressor, leading an alliance with other countries that is about keeping Russia and China away from global influence,” she told DR News last week.
That is why Xi Jinping does not want to push Vladimir Putin too far.
The EU and China will hold a summit this Friday, and the war in Ukraine will undoubtedly be a subject of discussion. Here, too, the message will be that if China continues to support Russia in a conflict that directly threatens Europe’s security, the relationship will only suffer further damage.
The question, however, is whether it has any effect.
Changing spokesmen for the Chinese Foreign Ministry is being questioned almost daily about China’s neutrality. When spokesman Wang Wenbin was asked about the NATO Secretary-General’s criticism of China’s lack of stance and potential arms sales to Russia, he replied:
“Time will show that China will stand on the right side of history. And all unfounded accusations and all distrust of China are indefensible,” he said.
China’s Foreign Ministry has announced that it is willing to contribute to potential peace talks, but that neither NATO nor the United States is contributing to it becoming a reality right now.
“What is needed during such a crisis is a cool head and a rational approach. No more fuel on the fire,” the ministry in Beijing said.