Ukraine crisis: China accuses NATO of pushing Russia to 'breaking point'

WION Web Team
Beijing, ChinaUpdated: Mar 09, 2022, 03:35 PM IST

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China Photograph:(Reuters)

Story highlights

Beijing has refused to condemn Russia's attack on Ukraine or call it an invasion while asking Western countries to respect Russia's 'legitimate security concerns'

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has accused US-led NATO of pushing Russia to a ''breaking point'' in the Ukraine crisis.

At a daily news briefing, he urged the United States to take China's concerns seriously and avoid undermining its rights or interests in handling the Ukraine issue and ties with Russia.

The Chinese Red Cross will also provide a batch of humanitarian assistance worth 5 million yuan ($791,540) to Ukraine, consisting of daily necessities, Zhao added.

Beijing has refused to condemn Russia's attack on Ukraine or call it an invasion while asking Western countries to respect Russia's "legitimate security concerns."

It comes after the CIA's director said Tuesday he believes China leader Xi Jinping has been "unsettled" by Russia's difficulties in invading Ukraine, and by how the war has brought the United States and Europe closer.

"I think President Xi and the Chinese leadership are a little bit unsettled by what they're seeing in Ukraine," Central Intelligence Agency boss William Burns told US lawmakers during a hearing on global threat assessments.

"They did not anticipate the significant difficulties the Russians were going to run into."

Nearly two weeks into the invasion, Russian forces are bogged down in Ukraine, suffering as many as 4,000 fatalities, according to the Pentagon's estimate, and encountering unexpectedly strong resistance from Ukrainian forces.

Even if Beijing wanted to, its ability to support President Vladimir Putin by importing more Russian gas and other goods is limited.

Relations with Moscow have warmed since Xi took power in 2012, motivated by shared resentment of Washington, but their interests can conflict. While their militaries hold joint exercises, Putin is uneasy about the growing Chinese economic presence in Central Asia and Russia’s Far East.

“China-Russia relations are at the highest level in history, but the two countries are not an alliance,” said Li Xin, an international relations expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

“China doesn’t want to get so involved that it ends up suffering as a result of its support for Russia,” said Mark Williams, chief Asia economist for Capital Economics.

Chinese trade with Russia rose to $146.9 billion last year, but that is less than one-tenth of China’s total $1.6 trillion in trade with the United States and EU.

“It all hinges on whether they’re willing to risk their access to Western markets to help Russia, and I don’t think they are,” said Williams. “It’s just not that big a market.”

China, the world’s second-largest economy, is the only major government not to have condemned the invasion.

China’s multibillion-dollar purchases of Russian gas for its energy-hungry economy have been a lifeline for Putin following trade and financial sanctions imposed in 2014 over his seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.

(With inputs from agencies)