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Why China is very unlikely to send military equipment to help Russia in Ukraine (WE)

20 March 2022


Washington Examiner: Why China is very unlikely to send military equipment to help Russia in Ukraine
By: Tom Rogan, National Security Writer
Date: 14 March 2022

“Were China to provide military equipment to support Russia’s war with Ukraine, Xi Jinping would be creating catastrophic risks for his own global agenda.

Still, the mere possibility of that support bears note, in light of Financial Times and New York Times reporting on Sunday. Referencing unnamed U.S. officials, the reporting suggests that Russia has requested China provide it with military equipment. The U.S. officials’ disclosures seemed timed to pressure China just before its top foreign policy official Yang Jiechi meets U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan in Rome on Monday. The war in Ukraine will form the centerpiece of these talks.

Yet, whatever Yang tells Sullivan, China would appear to take on far more risks in providing Russia with military equipment than it would accrue benefits.

The most obvious risk would be felt in Beijing’s relationship with Europe. A centerpiece of Xi’s pursuit of political and economic hegemony rests on his ability to maintain generally positive relations with the European Union. Often praising President Emmanuel Macron’s “strategic autonomy” doctrine, China wants to separate the EU from the Western alliance gradually. To achieve this objective, China wants to leverage massive investment in the EU and seek privileged Chinese market access to EU companies. The strategy has been successful so far, affording Beijing strong relations with many EU states, including Germany, France, and Italy (the three most powerful EU members). In turn, the EU forms the centerpiece of China’s global narrative that it seeks only “win-win cooperation” with other nations.

Yet all is not quiet on the European front.

Concerned by China’s arrogance in trade negotiations and diplomacy, China’s hostility toward Taiwan and EU member states that support that democracy, and the Communist Party’s genocide against the Uyghur population of Xinjiang province, the EU Parliament is embracing a tougher stance toward Beijing. Most notably, the Parliament has indefinitely suspended a much-vaunted EU-China trade deal that former Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to rush through before Joe Biden took office.

China cannot afford to ignore this concerning trend line, and this limits its options now with respect to Russia.

In 2021, the EU imported $516 billion of Chinese goods, more than seven times the value of Russia’s $68 billion in imports from China. So, while Russian energy supplies are increasingly important to China (stable energy supplies now risk affecting the Communist Party’s domestic credibility), Russia simply cannot compare to the EU’s economic importance. And that’s just one side of the EU coin. Beijing values its EU relationship for another reason: international prestige and political influence. This influence has so far prevented the EU from issuing any explicit genocide designations over the Uyghurs. The EU even rejected a diplomatic boycott over the recent Beijing Winter Olympics.

In contrast, were China to provide military support to Russia, it would risk validating in European eyes the U.S. narrative about China as an ideological adversary and security threat, not just an ideological competitor and trade partner. Moreover, China would take that risk in the context of a war that Russia is highly unlikely to win, at least in any meaningful, long-term sense. China’s hesitant diplomatic support for Russia over Ukraine, including its hesitation over even whether to admit there is a war in Ukraine at all, only underlines its fear of alienating the EU.

The fear is well-judged. Were China to send military equipment to Russia, it would be directly supporting Russia’s desecration of the post-Second World War European order — its attack on the peace and territorial inviolability of democratic Europe. It would thus risk a potentially irreparable breach between China and the EU, a breach that doomed not only long-term trade relations but invited the EU’s much-increased cooperation with the U.S., and Australia in countering China’s military posture in the Indo-Pacific. Already beset with tensions against the world’s most populous democracy, India, China would find itself very isolated very quickly.

As Xi looks to subjugate Taiwan forcibly, likely within the next two to 10 years, Xi wants a situation in which the West is fractured and the EU reliant on Chinese trade, not a West unified by Vladimir Putin, where the EU is already skeptical of his intentions.

China’s deep discomfort over Ukraine will have precipitated Xi’s decision to send Yang Jiechi to meet with Jake Sullivan. Yang will likely seek to leverage China’s pressure on Russia to end the war in Ukraine in return for U.S. concessions over Taiwan, Xinjiang, trade, and China’s claims over the South China Sea. In the end, however, China’s provision of military equipment to Russia remains highly unlikely regardless of what the U.S. does or does not concede. After all, China’s own interests give it immense motive to want the Russia-Ukraine war to end quickly.”



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