How long will China stand apart over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

Even while declaring respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity as its major diplomatic principles, China has voiced no opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. How long will China continue to respond to the issue in such a contradictory manner?

At a press conference on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi emphasized, “No matter how precarious and challenging the international situation may be, China and Russia will maintain strategic focus and steadily advance our comprehensive strategic partnership for the coordination of a new era.”

Regarding China’s role in resolving the crisis, he only stated that Beijing is willing to “work alongside the international community to carry out necessary mediation when needed.”

Isn’t now the “necessary” time for Beijing to do so? An attitude that appears as if China is sitting idly by amid a grave situation in which civilian casualties in Ukraine are mounting can never be tolerated.

The current crisis has been caused by Russia’s unilateral invasion. China’s attitude of calling for restraint by both parties is totally unreasonable.

China and Russia share a common interest in challenging the U.S.-led international order and seeking to transform it into an order that suits themselves.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which many Western leaders diplomatically boycotted. It was symbolic that Putin released a joint statement with Chinese President Xi Jinping, declaring that in developing bilateral strategic cooperation, they see no forbidden zone and no ceiling.

At that time, China agreed to increase imports of Russian natural gas and facilitate settlements in yuan in trade between the two countries. China may have been anticipating that Russia would launch an invasion and face sanctions from Western nations.

The miscalculation for China is that the Russian invasion has not been limited to a short period of time or a small scale, and sanctions imposed on Russia by the international community have reached an unprecedented scale.

If China deals with Russian banks and companies that have been excluded from international financial networks, China, in turn, also will highly likely be blocked from doing business with the United States and European countries. In that case, the Chinese economy would be harmed, and it would be impossible to expect the “stability” of either the domestic or international environment, which is necessary for Xi to establish an extended administration.

Wang said exaggeratedly that the United States is trying to create an Indo-Pacific version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Japan, the United States, Australia and India pursue a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific because they consider a rules-based order to be indispensable. Wang’s remarks are totally unacceptable.

China’s claim that the United States and its allies are heightening the threat — while in reality Beijing is destabilizing the region by changing the status quo by force — is sophistry resembling Russia’s claims about its invasion of Ukraine.

China has been mentioning the possibility of an armed “unification” with Taiwan. Isn’t it possible that Xi too will misjudge the situation and run out of control, following the same path as Russia? There is no denying such a concern.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 9, 2022.