China sees at least one winner emerging from Ukraine war: China
Officials in Beijing believe it can take advantage of a distracted US and weakened Russia. The war in Ukraine is far from over, but a consensus is forming in Chinese policy circles that one country stands to emerge victorious from the turmoil: China.
After a confused initial response to Russia’s invasion, China has laid the building blocks of a strategy to shield itself from the worst economic and diplomatic consequences it could face, and to benefit from geopolitical shifts once the smoke clears.
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has avoided criticising President Vladimir Putin of Russia, but he has also tried to distance China from the carnage. His government has denounced the international sanctions imposed on Russia but, so far at least, has hinted that Chinese companies may comply with them, to protect China’s economic interests in the West.
Xi reached out to European leaders last week with vague offers of assistance in negotiating a settlement, even as other Chinese officials amplified Russian disinformation campaigns meant to discredit the United States and Nato.
“This is just not good for China’s international reputation,” said Bobo Lo, an expert on China-Russia ties at the French Institute of International Relations. “It’s not just China’s reputation in the West; I think it also affects China’s reputation in the non-West, because it’s essentially associating itself with an imperial power.”
China could also face economic disruptions from the war and the western efforts to punish Russia by restricting trade and cutting off its financial institutions. Chinese officials have denounced such measures, and while the United States and its allies have shown remarkable unity in imposing them, other countries share Beijing’s reservations about using powerful economic tools as weapons.
In any case, China’s economy is large enough to absorb blows that would cripple others. Chinese companies may even end up well positioned to take advantage of Russia’s desperate need for trade, as happened when Moscow faced sanctions over the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
> Read the article in The New York Times.