Since Russia began its attack on Ukraine, many believe China is backing Russia with full force. People claim China is even supplying military drones to Russia! But could this be a misunderstanding? Andrew Korybko, a political analyst from America living in Moscow, suggests China might not be taking sides at all.
He explains in his Substack newsletter that Ukraine has unintentionally shown that China is actually “staying out of the fight” in the ongoing war between NATO and Russia. “China has been wrongly accused of aiding Russia while it’s indirectly helping Ukraine get drones. These claims about China arming Russia are baseless,” he argues.
Meanwhile, Vitaly Deinega, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister, dismisses rumors of China providing direct military aid to Ukraine. Why? Ukraine doesn’t want to upset President Joe Biden and his administration. Deinega revealed to a Ukrainian news channel that their forces get Chinese drones through volunteers because of U.S. pressure.
Korybko emphasizes that this doesn’t mean China is fueling the conflict against Russia. “Chinese businesses sell drones to private buyers, who then secretly give them to those directly involved in the war,” the analyst said.
Critics, though, notice China is benefiting by selling military equipment, even if indirectly. But it’s just good business for China.
Interestingly, Chinese President Xi Jinping seems to play peacemaker by discouraging Russia’s Vladimir Putin from launching a nuclear attack on Ukraine. In other words, China says, “We might be friends with Russia, but we care about your safety too, Ukraine.”
During Xi’s trip to Moscow, he delivered this message to Putin, say officials from the West and China. A top advisor to the Chinese government believes this move is part of China’s efforts to mend ties with Europe.
However, there are skeptics who doubt China’s true intentions, noting Xi’s close friendship with Putin. Yet, there’s a glimmer of hope that China’s public words match its actions behind closed doors.
“The Chinese are saying they’ve warned Russia at every possible opportunity,” a senior U.S. administration official noted. EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell agreed, saying back in March that Xi’s visit “lessens the risk of nuclear war, and the Chinese have made this very, very clear.”
Even so, according to Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, Putin doesn’t rely solely on China’s advice. “Putin’s ultimate safety net against losing this war disastrously is nuclear weapons,” he emphasizes.
So, as the dust settles, one wonders whether China is playing a double game or just being a savvy business player. Only time will tell.