Beijing has not backed away from its core position, that Moscow has “legitimate security interests” in Ukraine. And like Moscow, state media in Beijing has labelled the US “an empire of lies”.
Still, there is little doubt that Beijing is squirming under pressure, not just from the US, but also from Europe, Japan and Australia, to condemn the invasion.
As Evan Feigenbaum, a former US government official and now head of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington thinktank, observed, Beijing is struggling to settle on a clear message for the simple reason that it is trying to reconcile the irreconcilable.
Beijing simultaneously wants to preserve its partnership with Moscow, stand by its longstanding policy of territorial integrity and non-interference in other states, and avoid being collateral damage in the war.
“The more China leans to Moscow, the more it paints a target on its back for Washington and Brussels on the sanctions,” Feigenbaum said in the SupChina podcast. “Obviously, facts on the ground in Ukraine flatly contradict anything the Chinese government would like to say about respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Beijing doesn’t welcome the conflict and appears to have been taken aback by Vladimir Putin’s full throttle invasion, even though the Russian leader met with Xi Jinping days before the tanks headed across the border.
Xi has been bedding down his own political system in readiness for the once-every-five-years Communist party congress at the end of the year, at which he is expected to seek a norm-busting third term.
Xi neither needs nor wants any instability at such a sensitive moment. His many enemies have learned to shut their mouths in recent years lest they feel their leader’s wrath. [Continue reading…]