Why China Does Not Want The Ukraine Crisis To End? – OpEd


China has been keen to exploit the geopolitical opportunities created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing war. This strategy serves China’s ambition to become a dominant global power in a great-power competition. Beijing sees the weakening of the existing hegemonic order as a chance to assert its superior role in the emerging world order. 

Accordingly, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who advocates for a multipolar world, has urged many countries in the global south not to back the U.S. policy on Ukraine. He has also portrayed China as a peace broker, trying to demonstrate its significant influence over Russia, while welcoming the continuation and escalation of the war. As Putin’s most important economic partner, he has three main objectives for prolonging the conflict: 1. preventing Putin’s downfall and Russia’s defeat 2. challenging the liberal order based on American values 3. securing a stake in the peace negotiations and reaping economic benefits from Ukraine’s reconstruction. In order to achieve these goals, it is highly likely that China increases its support for Russia, especially if the West gains the upper hand in this war.

China, as an impartial player and an engaged observer, does not want to see Russia lose and Putin fall. China views Russia under Putin’s leadership as a very valuable asset, as it provides China with cheap energy in its Cold War-like rivalry with Washington. Beijing fears that a Russian defeat in the Ukraine war would destabilize Russia. The disintegration of Russia could create turmoil along China’s borders and hamper China’s ability to trade smoothly with Central Asia, the South Caucasus, and Europe. Although Putin and Xi may differ on how to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, they concur that a Russian defeat would be intolerable.

The second objective is to expose the failure of the liberal order. If the war persists and exacerbates inflation and food insecurity worldwide, China can portray the conflict as proof of the collapse of the former U.S.-led global order. Beijing officials can claim that this is the outcome of decades of American hegemonic management, which has brought our world to such an impasse while presenting themselves as the heralds and protectors of a new, fair, and alternative order. Furthermore, China will be more than willing to prolong the war as long as it keeps U.S. attention and resources concentrated on Europe and away from the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

China’s third aim is to secure a significant stake in Ukraine and its post-war developments. Beijing may be content to exhaust the parties involved in the war in Ukraine, but ultimately, as a rising great power, it wants to exert a decisive influence on the political process of peace and economic reconstruction of Ukraine after the war. Although Kyiv insists that only its supporters in the war can be the real beneficiaries of the opportunity to revive and rebuild the country. But Zelensky will eventually need the assistance of wealthy China to meet his enormous needs in the recovery and reconstruction process.

Xi’s peace plan reveals Beijing’s ambition to be both a mediator and an economic player in Ukraine and to join the peace talks and win the win-win peace game. These three goals are so important that they rule out a passive approach by Beijing’s officials and compel China to align the events in Ukraine with its interests. China will do all it can to thwart the U.S. and the West in Ukraine. If Russia fares poorly in the war, China will support Putin strongly. China sees this war as a chance to reshape its preferred international and world order. Beijing does not mind the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, as it allows it to be an active actor. But if the balance tilts towards the West, it is ready to change from an observer to an intervenor. A strategy that is dreadful for the U.S. and its allies.

Hence, to prevent Putin’s defeat, China may have to go beyond being a political-economic ally and supporter of Russia and adopt a risky approach of providing military aid to Russia in order to give Russian forces an edge on the battlefield. This tactic would reassure the anxious Russian elite that Russia can sustain the war. China’s military aid would increase Russia’s readiness to wage a prolonged war and shield Putin from the political vulnerabilities of his disastrous invasion of Ukraine. It would also divert the U.S. attention from Taiwan and the Pacific Ocean. The war in Ukraine and the Western involvement in that region, on the other hand, would advance China’s grand policies, including the Belt and Road Initiative from its southern axis. However, the end of this war, especially if it entails Russia’s defeat, would mean the West’s focus on the strategy of containing China in the form of a comprehensive economic, political, and military blockade. In this way, China should either prevent Russia from losing the war or open a new front in the battle with the US, which would seriously challenge the West.

In any case, the ongoing war in Ukraine will be more of an opportunity than a threat to China if its outcomes are managed. However, it should be noted that China’s military intervention in the Ukraine conflict would trigger a strong and unified response from the West. This response could deal a severe blow to China’s loss of its privileged position in the world, which was attained through mediation, and place it among the despised countries. In other words, intervening in the Ukraine war, which is not seen as a threat to China, would set a bad precedent, lead to the heightening of the fear of China in the countries of the global south, and ultimately, undermine Beijing’s efforts to challenge the international order in line with the past Western liberal internationalism, and severely weaken this country’s narrative of a fair and multilateral alternative international order.

Finally, as long as the current precarious balance remains unchanged; Chinese officials will eagerly observe the persistence of the war in Ukraine and the realization of their goals with their mediation capacity and will refrain from directly entering the conflict. But perhaps the time will come when the risks of military intervention will not deter Beijing from pursuing its threefold interests in the Ukraine war.

Sarah Neumann

Sarah Neumann is a professor of political science and teaches political science courses at Universities in Germany

4 thoughts on “Why China Does Not Want The Ukraine Crisis To End? – OpEd

  • August 21, 2023 at 4:43 am

    Well written article and logically analysed. So this is a war which the US,NATO and China do not want an early end for selfish motives.NATO to expand towards the East.US to sell weapons and have a hold on EU through the energy war and China for the reasons expained by the author.

    • August 22, 2023 at 4:43 am

      “China Does Not Want The Ukraine Crisis To End” THAT IS TOTAL HOGWASH! It’s the United States that doesn’t want the war to end. The United States is scoring huge propaganda coups against Russia over its war in Ukraine. It is the United States that has been pushing NATO ever closer to Russia’s borders.The UNited States armed, trained, and financed the “Orange Revolution” that overthrew the legitimately elected government of Ukraine. It is the United States that is fueling the fire by pouring tons of arms and money into the conflict. It is the United States that is training Zelenski’s forces, providing them with sophisticated intelligence and battle plans, and encouraging them to “take back” Crimea and ALL of their “lost” lands. The UNited States instigated that war and is keeping it going as long as it can. The war in Ukraine is a distinct threat to China. If Russia falls to the West and a Western(American) satrap government is installed there, China will be next. All of Russia’s powers and resources will be turned against China.

      America’s “regime change” plan for Russia is to set up a puppet government there to gain access to Russia’s vast stores of strategic resources. America’s plan for China is Death and dismemberment, death of the Communist Party there and dismemberment of China into smaller powerless states.

      For a “professor of political science” you are incredibly naive or are an American troll in Europe. There is a definite whiff of CIA emanating from you. Where did you go to school in the UNited States?

  • August 21, 2023 at 10:20 pm

    Hi Sarah
    Thanks for the article – food for thought!
    I wonder if you have a view on how China might be influenced in its decision to provide overt support for Russia, in light of the number of economic challenges it currently faces.
    For example, in the real estate market, which represents around a quarter of China’s economy, investments in the property sector are down for the 17th consecutive month and organisations are facing financial difficulties or filing for bankruptcy; as new owners protest in the street that the apartment they bought off plan and are paying for is still not finished, and is looking less likely to be handed over to them any time soon.
    In trade, where international trading partners “de-risking” from China are impacting China’s industrial output, so we are seeing reduced imports (of raw goods) and falling exports (of finished product) that has smaller enterprises laying off staff or closing down altogether, pushing up unemployment rates (particularly for 16-24 year olds) to the degree that China has stopped publishing them.
    And contagion leaking from the above into the financial market, as the Yuan wobbles and the economy may be tottering at the top of a downward deflationary spiral, with weak consumer spending / borrowing (liquidity trap approaching?) and the real estate sector default threat to banks being compounded by disgruntled apartment owners threatening to refuse to pay their mortgages for undelivered apartments.
    So, what do you think? Could Xi’s decision to support Russia openly with weapons and other materiel be constrained by the fear that such a step would worsen his economic woes? Or is the impact purely political? How do you think this might play out?

  • August 22, 2023 at 3:53 pm

    Interesting article. The best case scenario is for us (east and west) to maintain the status quo. Any escalation does not increase outcome for either EU, US, China or Russia. it’s a lose lose. Right now it’s a losing proposition for Russia only – apart from Ukraine.


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