China's Position on the Russia-Ukraine War

Bin Xiao
(Professor of the Center of SCO Studies )

The stance of China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a 
country in a partnership of all-around strategic cooperation with Russia, 
has drawn international attention since the start of the Russia-Ukraine 
war. The United States and its Western allies wish China would adopt their 
position, but China has chosen a stance that conforms to its own interests: 
advocating respect for every country's sovereignty and territorial integrity; 
abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter; proposing peace, 
opposing war; adhering to a common, comprehensive, collaborative and sustainable 
security outlook; appealing for Russia-Ukraine negotiations; and advocating 
benevolence and good-neighborliness. Yet not all countries are satisfied 
with this.

When it comes to mediating the war, China, first of all, doesn't have the 
kind of influence other countries may imagine. From the perspective of China-
Russia relations alone, all-around strategic cooperation does not restrict 
Russian adventurism. Under the influence of the historical legacies of the 
Cold War and its desire to become the leader and center of Eurasia, Russia 
has strong motivation to develop relations with China and seeks to guide 
them in a direction consistent with its own strategic interests by means 
of various political norms and regulations.

Second, Russia concealed information about the war. According to information 
available to me so far, the Russian leader didn't reveal anything about 
his intentions during his visit to Beijing for the Winter Olympics. Even 
in his phone conversation with the Chinese leader on Feb. 25, Vladimir Putin 
only mentioned a “military operation” in eastern Ukraine, making no mention 
of any action beyond eastern Ukraine. This explains why Chinese expats and 
companies in Ukraine suffered different degrees of harm after the war broke 

Third, it is impossible for China-Russia economic and trade cooperation 
and interdependence to become a diplomatic tool for bargaining with Russia. 
China is Russia's No.1 trading partner, and Russia is China's largest source 
of energy imports. Bilateral economic and trade cooperation is of critical 
significance to both parties. And with the Chinese economy under unprecedented 
downward pressure, stability of energy supplies is critical.

China's position on the Russia-Ukraine war is influenced by multiple concurrent 
factors. In international politics, as long as any country is involved in 
international affairs it will face various unfathomable risks, and when 
it has to show its position to the international community, it usually combines 
the factors of facts and values, because the scope and orientation of each 
factor's influence are contingent on the state of the others.

As to facts, in accordance with such international treaties ─ the UN Charter,
 Budapest Memorandum (December 1994), Joint Statement of the Russian Federation 
and the People's Republic of China on the Twentieth Anniversary of the Treaty 
of Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation Between the Russian Federation 
and the People's Republic of China (June 2019), and Joint Statement Between 
the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of Ukraine 
on Further Deepening the China-Ukraine Strategic Partnership (December 2013) 
─ the Russia-Ukraine war does not conform to China's position of proposing 
peace and opposing war. China's leader has emphasized this repeatedly in 
communications with the U.S. and European Union. Yet, owing to huge differences 
in concrete action, the U.S., EU and some other countries are dissatisfied 
with China's position.

As is the case with other countries, facts are not the sole element behind 
China's position. Values are also at work. Under the premise that the U.S. 
and its Western allies take China as a threat, dodging risks is a value 
factor that China must take into consideration in all its foreign policy 
moves. Thus the risk-dodging inclination takes on significant weight in the 
Chinese stance. The more the U.S. and its Western allies speak of a China 
threat, the less likely it will become for China to synchronize with them 
through concrete actions. One thing is certain: In the absence of a significant 
turn in relations between China and the U.S. side, the latter will have 
deceasing willingness to maintain a partnership.

No matter how the Russia-Ukraine war ends, Russia will lose the space for 
strategic defense that it had formulated with NATO before the war. European 
hostility will solidify against it, and it will sink itself in a new cold 
war featuring extremely asymmetrical factors. Meanwhile, the post-Soviet 
space may fragment, and instability in the Eurasian regional order will 
increase. An inspiration from the war for China is that no hegemon country 
can persist for long because the cost of preserving hegemony will exceed 
its economic, military, demographic and diplomatic resources. Facing hegemonic 
pressure from the global regime, China should choose a philosophy that is 
flexible. More important, it should become a major independent force for 
peace ─ a responsible stakeholder in the international economic system 
and a participant in preserving justice and fairness on the stage of international 

(The source of the article comes from

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