In six months of war, Beijing has not proven to be a trustworthy partner for Moscow. The Chinese population is little interested in what happens in Ukraine, except for opposition to the West. Chinese industries and banks fear secondary sanctions from the United States and Europe.
Moscow () – China will participate in the Russian military exercises “Vostok-2022” in the Siberian Far East. The leadership of the Chinese army explained the objectives of this participation: “deepen pragmatic and friendly cooperation” and “raise capabilities to counter the various security threats.” Experts and Russians residing in China, consulted by Sibir.RealiiThey believe, however, that in six months of war in Ukraine China has not proved to be a completely reliable partner for Russia, and is unlikely to be so in the near future.
Russian businessman Mikhail Čertykov has been working in China for a few years. He comes from the Siberian region of Khakassia and is engaged in retail trade. According to him, during the first months of the war, strong discussions arose among Russians living in China regarding support for the Russian invasion. In general, Russians living abroad are much less aggressive than those at home, partly due to the lesser influence of state propaganda. “Here in China, the official press is limited to copying the Kremlin statements, but there are different nuances: for example, Chinese propaganda mainly insists that the conflict is fueled by the West, with the supply of weapons to Ukraine, while everything it would be resolved peacefully if kyiv surrendered to the invader.”
According to Čertykov, the Chinese population is not interested in the details of Russian-Ukrainian relations, nor in the specific motivations for this war. They stick to the concept of opposition to the collective West, according to which Russia tries to stop the spread of Western values to the East. “For them, Ukraine is like Eritrea for us, about which we know very little; we say that China stands on one leg, the economic one, while the political one is stuck. The West stands on two legs and therefore assumes a threat to Beijing.” The Chinese, explains the businessman, “just try to keep their balance, and they say that you don’t have to shake the boat to avoid sinking.”
Elena is a language teacher originally from Khabarovsk and lives in Shanghai. She confirms that the war in Ukraine has not in the least altered the daily life of the Chinese. Nor are major Russian initiatives seen on the streets of Chinese cities. “For the Chinese, the war in Ukraine is an image on television, and nothing more, especially since only official meetings or some general scenes from the front are shown, nobody knows what happened in Bucha or Mariupol… many, when they find out I’m Russian, they give me their thumbs up, and they say things like “Putin is great!” And I don’t reply, I just smile bitterly.”
Russian sinologist Viktor Uljanenko believes that alternative sources of information are still accessible in China, just as they are in Russia, but the vast majority of people continue to believe official propaganda: “The population relates to Ukrainian events as They are being told from above, the press is saying that Russia has every reason to do what it is doing, and that the eternal enemy is always the United States… However, the ruling elite is not so simplistic.”
Uljanenko also deals with Chinese business in Russia. He says that since the war began, Chinese exporters have begun to delay deliveries, or simply cancel them, to prevent many technical items from being dismantled for military use. They now require the exact destination of each product before accepting shipment to Russia.
China does not condone or adhere to sanctions against Russia, but has introduced a number of restrictions in its own way, in order to avoid secondary sanctions. In fact, Chinese banks and many companies work according to criteria imposed by the West, and “this is the position indicated by the authorities,” says Temur Umarov, an expert at the Carnegie Fund.
“Banking institutions,” adds Umarov, “obey the Central Bank, and it asks to take sanctions into account, although its recommendations are not published in any document… China is very pragmatic, and only works with predictable partners.” According to Of all those interviewed, China has no intention of supporting Russia militarily, because it would not derive any real advantage from it.