Xi’s stance on Russia-Ukraine conflict tempered by economy

Beijing, April 2 (IANS) Chinese president Xi Jinping’s online rendezvous with European leaders in Brussels on Friday defied an undercurrent of tensions that have seeped into EU-China relations because of the Russia-Ukraine war. Xi tried to wiggle out of the geopolitical quagmire that Beijing finds itself in by telling EU leaders that China has its own way of pursuing peace.
However, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned China not to let Russia bypass sanctions that have been imposed by EU nations and the US after Russian president Vladimir Putin’s misadventure in Ukraine. Parts of Ukraine have been under the Kremlin’s influence for years even before Moscow last month decided to send troops into the country, destabilising the region, sending ripples across financial markets and making oil markets nervous through the world.
Xi’s repertoire of statements in the summit which saw Chinese Premier Li Keqiang meet the leaders virtually before the main meeting began, included urging Brussels to form an independent policy on China. This assertion of an independent policy implies a break from what Beijing sees as Brussels’ kowtowing to the requirements of the US strategy which China claims can ultimately lead to a decoupling between the world’s two largest economies.
Chinese state media quoted Xi as saying that the Ukraine crisis has come after a protracted Covid-19 pandemic and a stuttering global recovery. In this context, China and the EU, as two major forces, big markets and great civilisations, should step up communication on relations and on major issues concerning global peace and development, and play a constructive role in adding stabilising factors to a turbulent world, the Global Times quoted the Chinese leader as saying during the summit.
Michel told a press briefing after the summit: “We called on China to help end the war in Ukraine. China cannot turn a blind eye to Russia’s violation of international law.”
China has lent tacit support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, refusing to condemn it but calling for a political situation to the crisis. Beijing finds itself in a tight spot as it cannot displease its traditional ally and chief US adversary. US and China have seen relations plummet over several bilateral issues, recently more so due to US stance over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Though the West-China divide has seen the entire Western hemisphere go ballistic at China over the Ukrainian invasion, Beijing does not want itself isolated over the geopolitical standoff that has seen Putin at the receiving end of worldwide criticism.
Says a European academic who teaches EU law: “I won’t call the meeting very good. They were threatening to slap sanctions if China supported Russia with money or arms. The problem is that China wants a GDP growth of 5 per cent which can only be reached if does not sever ties with Europe. On the other hand, the Covid situation in the business hub of Shanghai is bad.”
To keep the economy going at a steady pace, China needs the help of the West, a truth corroborated by von der Leyen who said on Friday that Beijing needed to defend the international order that has made China the world’s second-largest economy.
Therefore, Xi’s European stance, though not capitulation to Brussels can be seen as a climbdown. China is afraid of Western solidarity, adds the European academic.

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