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There is a tiny sliver of daylight between Beijing and Moscow when it comes to talking about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but it’s just a sliver.
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As China tries to square a circle in Ukraine, it will continue to navigate between unpalatable choices. Beijing prizes its security ties with Russia but also seeks to safeguard its economic and technological ties to Europe and the rest of the West. These contradictory interests remain unresolved, but it is increasingly evident that Beijing will tilt to Vladimir Putin even as it seeks to maintain some rhetorical separation.
China will double the permitted trading range between its currency and Russia’s ruble, allowing the currency cross to trade 10% in either direction of a daily midpoint set by the People’s Bank of China, up from 5% previously. This will “help bolster trade between the two countries,” reports the Financial Times.
The Chinese state is largely aligning with the Kremlin, repeating its rhetoric, and even adopting Russian talking points:
Chemical weapons conspiracies: Beijing is also amplifying the Kremlin’s false claims surrounding alleged U.S. biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine. Zhào Lìjiān 赵立坚, the verbally aggressive MFA spokesperson, who criticized EU, U.S., and U.K. sanctions against Russia, also stated:
U.S. biological labs in Ukraine have indeed attracted much attention. According to reports, a large quantity of dangerous viruses are stored in these facilities. Russia has found during its military operations that the U.S. uses these facilities to conduct bio-military plans.
The White House warned that Russia may “possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them.”
While Beijing is generally aligning itself with Moscow, it will nevertheless seek to preserve some distance. As Ryan Hass of Brookings notes, China’s policy in the crisis exists along a spectrum and is not an either/or binary.
The Chinese MFA reported that the “overwhelming majority” of Chinese citizens in Ukraine has been evacuated.
Joe Webster edits the China-Russia Report, an independent, nonpartisan newsletter covering political, economic, and security affairs within and between China and Russia. Read more
Former U.S. Ambassador to China
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