China’s ties with Russia continue to deepen one year after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine.
However, China is still presenting itself to the West as a responsible global leader working toward peace.
China’s top diplomat is in Moscow ahead of the anniversary of Russia’s Ukraine invasion, tipping the war into its second year.
It marks the first visit to Russia by a Chinese official in that role since the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began nearly a year ago.
Wang Yi was named Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s top foreign policy adviser last month. He will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday.
China keeps deepening its military, economic, and political ties with a weakened Russia. Beijing signed a no-limits partnership with Moscow weeks before the invasion of Ukraine one year ago.
The country has cultivated an important strategic partnership without itself becoming an international pariah.
Experts say the approach is likely to continue as the Russian war in Ukraine drags on.
China has not condemned Russia’s war and appears to be largely following basic international conventions regarding the war. Some senior Chinese officials have offered explicit support for Russia’s aims.
Moscow has become increasingly reliant on Chinese companies and consumers as Western sanctions have isolated the Russian economy from much of the West. Chinese energy traders and companies have started to fill the void left by Western companies exiting Russia.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned Putin not to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, and there’s no evidence that China has sent direct lethal military aid to Russia.
The U.S. says China is, however, considering sending direct military aid.
Meanwhile, China’s new foreign minister accused the U.S. of shifting blame for the Ukraine war onto China, in an apparent pushback against warnings from Washington that China is considering supplying weapons to Russia.
Speaking on Tuesday morning, at the launch of a Chinese government paper on its global security initiative, Qin Gang said China was “deeply concerned” about the war in Ukraine escalating and possibly “spiraling out of control”.
Last week, Want said at the Munich Security Conference that China was not directly concerned with the war, but was also not standing idly by. He also said the proposed Beijing peace plan would be based on “the sovereignty of all countries.”
Western leaders appeared skeptical at this announcement. Experts said the peace plan is likely a “diplomatic ploy” aimed at persuading Europeans that China shares the same goals they do.
With so much hanging on a close China-Russia relationship, it’s unlikely a peace plan from China would significantly harm Russia’s interests — and unlikely it would significantly support Western goals.