Putin unpresentable friend for China? Xi’s ambiguity and the key role of the US in alienating Beijing from Moscow

There China opposes a nuclear war. In recent days Xi Jinping he has declared it countless times: first alongside the German chancellor, Olaf Scholzthen meeting for the first time Joe Biden on the eve of G20. Xi – who said he was “extremely concerned about the current situation in Ukraine” – called the Chinese position “clear and consistent”: Beijing calls for a “ceasefire, an end to the war and peace talks”. It is no mystery that in the palaces of power in the square Tiananmen bad moods are spreading due to the continuation of a conflict that transversely involves the Chinabound to Vladimir Putin from a “friendship without limits”. The question has returned to the fore especially after the rumors of Wall Street Journal he was born in Financial Timesaccording to which not only the behavior of the “Russian tsar” is making the China. Last February, the head of the Kremlin he would even lie to Xi Jinping about the imminent start of the war, putting at risk the lives of thousands of Chinese citizens residing in Ukraine.

It is not the first time that the strong man of Beijing use piqued tones in speaking of the “special military operation” of Fly. It had already happened on the occasion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organizationin Uzbekistan, Xi’s first international appearance since the start of the pandemic. The context has its importance: Central Asia, satellite of the Russia since the fall of the USSR, has demonstrated in recent months worry for developments in Ukraine. Considering that the China for years he has been pushing for greater influence in the region, for Xi it would have been inconvenient not to show solidarity with the hosts.

The same goes for the G20 from Bali. Beijing it aims to leverage the political capital of foreign visits to validate its ascent into the pantheon of great powers. Especially since, after about three years of absence from multilateral forums, Xi’s trip to Indonesia coincided with the start of a controversial third term as secretary of the CCP. There Chinaseeking international legitimacy, seems therefore to consider Putin an unpresentable friend from whom to distance oneself in certain circumstances. Especially after the unexpected loss of Kherson. A defeat in Ukraine would make the “Russian Tsar” totally useless for Chinese purposes: a Beijing need a partner charismatic to face head-on the West. Not a defeated and humiliated warrior.

Are we therefore facing a turning point? Probably not. Not only is it unrealistic to imagine that Xi publicly backtrack after holding the point for months – the “mianzi” (face) is all in China. Beijing rather it seems to want to keep faith with the usual “strategic ambiguity”. At the beginning of the war the Chinese ambassador a Washington, Qin Gangsclarified that the “friendship without limits” with Putin is actually bounded by the “principles of Charter of the United Nations, from the fundamental norms of international law and international relations”. Those same rules that bind Beijing to Kiev. According to Treaty on Friendship and China-Ukraine Cooperation and the Joint Statement on Deepening the Strategic Partnership (2013), the government Chinese “reaffirms its unconditional commitment never to threaten or use nuclear weapons against theUkraine” as well as “to provide corresponding security guarantees should the country suffer, or be threatened, by aggression with nuclear weapons”. The last thing the China what she wants is therefore to find herself involved in the conflict.

But while Xi does not tolerate intimidation by Putinequally fears the suffocating embrace of Washington. Opening at G20 the Chinese president lambasted Fly declaring that “food and energy problems should not be politicized, exploited and used as a weapon”. But shortly after she also added that “le sanctions unilateral and restrictions on cooperation technological should be eliminated”. Clear reference to Western retaliation against the Russia and the tech war waged by Biden with the introduction of new restrictions on the supply of advanced semiconductors to China. Always looking for a diplomatic balancing act, after posing in front of the flashes with Biden and criticized Putin’s nuclear rhetoric, Xi he then wanted to cheer up Fly: this is how – according to the Washington Post – the pressing of the China to remove the word “war” from the final release of the G20. The unanimously agreed formula notes that “most of the members” – not all – “condemn the war”.

Equally distributing the accusations, the Asian giant tries to remain “super partes”. On the one hand, it makes vague proposals of mediation. On the other hand, it sticks to the proverbial pragmatism that has characterized Chinese foreign policy since the end of the Maoist era: second Beijingthe pursuit of interests transcends ideological constraints And alliances. This allows the Asian giant to appear “pro-Russian” only when it suits him. “There China is ready to cooperate with the Russia to pursue a well-coordinated approach in high-level exchanges and in various fields, to deepen pragmatic cooperation and facilitate personal exchanges,” said the foreign minister, Wang Yimeeting Sergey Lavrov to Bali.

The fact is that the Asian giant considers Fly a precious shore to repel the encirclement American. For this will be precisely the moves of Washington to affect a possible spacing of Beijing. The meeting with Biden served to ease the tension between the two sides of the Pacific. Especially in the Strait of Taiwan. But US sanctions against Chinese tech giants are still there, and the Republican comeback in the House portends troubled times ahead.

Beijing is already looking to the US presidential elections in 2024. So Xi will still be steadfast in command. Potentially sine die. Nell Study Oval instead, who knows. Another may come Trump. The real one just announced their candidacy with a Sinocentric agenda that, in case of victorynew threat tariffs commercial. Without concrete assurances from the American side, it is unlikely that China will risk jeopardizing relations with friends in the Kremlin. These are just guesses, of course. But to date the Chinese position has really remained “clear and coherent”: since the beginning of the war Xi he has heard from and met with Putin on multiple occasions. Zelensky never.

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