About a decade ago, a friend expressed his intention on staying neutral in my divorce. I expressed my doubts: not picking sides in a conflict, like a divorce, seemed impossible. Subsequently, it appeared that his neutrality was in his words, and not in his deeds. Also see my blogs on Deeds, Words & Intentions.
In 2017, the Chinese president stated that the China-Russia relations were “unshakable“.
In 2019, the Chinese president expressed the “unbreakable bond” with Russia and its president.
Ultimately, this is about risk management: limiting your downside risk and maximising your upside potential.
In my view, there is a huge downside for China in supporting Russia and little upside. The opposite may also be true: not supporting Russia may have a huge upside for China and little downside. This risk assessment may, however, not be valid for the Chinese president himself. He may lose his third term.
Recently, USA claimed that (i) Russia has asked for China for military support in Ukraine, and (ii) US tells allies China signalled openness to providing Russia with military support. China reacted angrily (eg, “malicious disinformation” with “sinister intentions”) according to The Guardian.
However, according to multiple opinions, China cannot afford being subjected to Russia-style sanctions. I suppose that is true. China has promised its citizens more wealth in exchange for less freedom (eg, EFE-2019). Western sanctions could jeopardize that Chinese trade-off and could create a Chinese revolt.
I suppose that is the reason why America uses these arguments against China. Both know that China cannot afford to be dragged into this war. Neutrality is difficult once you’ve chosen sides because the Asian cult of face is very important (eg, the Cult of “Face” in China). The Russian president must know this.
However, what’s worse for China? Betrayal by a (Russian) friend or losing face by changing course? In my view, changing course allows you to save face. The worst outcome is betrayal by a friend and losing face.
Note: all markings (bold, italic, underlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.