Should China Support Russia in the Ukraine?


Should China Support Russia in the Ukraine?

Эксперты МГИМО: Лукин Александр Владимирович, д.ист.н., PhD

Alexander v. Pantsov: The Chinese Communist Party leadership has always maintained: «China believes in non-interference in internal affairs." In the current Ukrainian situation it is the most we can expect from the P.R.C. because it is not able to lean to either the Western or Russian side without reservation. China cannot unconditionally support the West since she disagrees with the Western perception of political and social democracy. Moreover, the Chinese leaders cannot be pleased with the popular revolution in Ukraine because the 2013-14 events on Independence Square in Kiev clearly resemble those of April-June 1989 on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. It is well known that the Beijing authorities do not embrace Mencius’ assertion that the people have the right to change the Heavenly Mandate (tianming) if a ruler lost virtue (de). So how can they favor the downfall of the corrupted Ukrainian President? However, the P.R.C. cannot approve the Russian invasion of Crimea either. After all, it openly violates sovereignty of another country and undoubtedly brings to mind the Nazi Anschluss with Austria (March 1938) and the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland (October 1938) and Memel (March 1939). The P.R.C. has her own problems with potentially unstable territories such as Tibet and Xinjiang and it certainly cannot consider legitimate the future Crimean referendum of March 16 that will definitely endorse the break away from Ukraine and the joining Russia. Given this, China, on the one side, has recently repeated that she respected the territorial integrity of Ukraine and hoped that all parties would preserve peace in Europe, but on the other side, has failed to support the American and E.U. sanctions. The very word «sanctions» must bring to their mind the 1989 negative reaction of the Democratic World to the Tiananmen Massacre. As the Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang asserted, «China has constantly opposed the easy use of sanctions in international relations, or using sanctions as a threat».

Of course, I would be pleased to learn that the P.R.C. denounces Putin as a vicious aggressor as he is, but I do not think it will happen. The Chinese failed to do so in the wake of the Russian shameful invasion of Georgia in 2008 and they do not seem likely to do it now.


Alexander Lukin:

I am not in the business of telling China what it should do (the very question put to us is very American). However, I can analyze what China is doing and may do in the future regarding the crisis in Ukraine. First, it will surely not support the West since it sees the crisis was engineered by the West aiming at world domination. In countering this tendency, in China’s view, Russia is a valuable ally. A commentary by Xinhua news agency on March 7 entitled «The West’s Fiasco in Ukraine» is very sympathetic to Russia’s actions and critical of those of the West: «Russia may no longer be interested in competing for global preeminence with the West, but when it comes to cleaning a mess the West created in the country’s backyard, Russian leaders once again proved their credibility and shrewdness in planning and executing effective counter moves». In short, Beijing is happy that someone was brave and resolute enough to take effective measures against Western «hegemonism." But it is also comfortable that this was not China, and the Ukrainian crisis would not worsen Sino-U.S. relations that China values. It would also divert U.S. attention from it alleged plot of encircling China and limiting its legitimately growing influence in East Asia.

Beijing has already rejected any kind of sanctions against Russia and would veto them in the Security Council alongside with Russia. Generally, China sees the current situation in Ukraine as a «mess» created by the Western ineffective and greedy policy. The Xinhua commentary runs:

«For the rest of the world, once again, people see another great country torn apart because of a clumsy and selfish West that boasts too many lofty ideals but always comes up short of practical solutions.»

By «mess» Beijing usually means a situation created by Western sponsored actions aimed at undermining stable (often authoritarian) regimes all over the world which in Beijing’s opinion can effectively secure the country’s economic development and growing cooperation with China. This term was used to describe the Tiananmen crisis in 1989, «color revolutions» in Arab states, etc. Beijing’s regime sees countering this tendency even far from China’s borders as a means of protecting itself since it understands that the same tactics can be used by the West in China. From this point of view China would only welcome Russia’s growing will to counter Western expansion.

The only thing China would not officially support is Russia’s decision to annex Crimea or recognize its independence (in case such a decision is taken). Beijing’s position will be similar to that on the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia: generally supportive of Russia’s actions, but not approving undermining territorial integrity of existing states. Here China’s approach is determined by its own separatist problems in Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang. Beijing, as it has already clearly stated, will also not support any kind of military action initiated by any side and will support a peaceful, diplomatic resolution of the conflict on the basis of compromise.

Sergei Zamascikov:

I. Why China will support Russian aggression:

  1. Because it never supports the position of the U.S. or the West, particularly when it has to do with condemning the actions of authoritarian regimes. In addition, China believes that the crisis in the Ukraine is orchestrated by the West.
  2. Because China’s authoritarian leaders fear that a Ukrainian «revolution from below» that overthrows the corrupt regime might serve as an example for the Chinese people. A Ukrainian revolution would be an authoritarian governments’ worst nightmare.
  3. Because the new Ukrainian government is pro-Western and is likely to join the majority of democratic nations in condemning the Chinese government’s human rights violations.
    Because the Chinese government never supports international sanctions, fearing that such sanctions could be applied against their own policies.

II. Why China should not support Russian aggression:

  1. Because China has several regions where the rights of the indigenous population are violated and native languages are suppressed. The Crimean example might give these peoples the «wrong» ideas.
  2. Because of the situation in Taiwan, where China never recognized independence.
  3. Because a fear that Xinjiang and Tibet might be emboldened by the Crimean situation.
  4. Because Beijing usually does not support military actions outside the country’s sovereign borders.
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Источник: ChinaFile
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