Ukraine crisis: China quietly distancing itself from Russia's sanction-hit economy, says report

Beijing has refused to condemn Russia's attack on Ukraine but wants to avoid being impacted by the sanctions it has repeatedly denounced as an ineffective way of resolving the crisis.

Published: 20th March 2022 11:57 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th March 2022 11:57 AM   |  A+A-

Russia President Vladimir Putin (L) with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping

Russia President Vladimir Putin (L) with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping (Photo | AP)


BEIJING: As the war between Russia and Ukraine continues, China is quietly distancing itself from Moscow as its economy is being slammed with sanctions from the US and its allies.

Last month, both countries proclaimed that their friendship had "no limits." That was before Russia launched its war in Ukraine.

Beijing has refused to condemn Russia's attack on Ukraine but wants to avoid being impacted by the sanctions it has repeatedly denounced as an ineffective way of resolving the crisis, CNN reported.

Fears that Chinese companies could face US sanctions over ties with Russia had contributed to an epic sell-off in Chinese stocks in recent days. That slump was reversed on Wednesday when Beijing promised it would pursue policies to boost its sputtering economy and keep financial markets stable.

US officials told CNN that they have information suggesting China has expressed some openness to providing Russia with requested military and financial assistance. China dismissed that as "disinformation."

Citing analysts, CNN reported that China is attempting to strike "a delicate balance" between supporting Russia rhetorically but without further antagonizing the United States.

Chinese banks cannot afford to lose access to US dollars, and many Chinese industries cannot afford to be deprived of US technology.

The most significant help China could offer Russia is through the USD 90 billion worth of reserves Moscow holds in Chinese yuan, wrote Alicia Garcia-Herrero, chief economist for the Asia Pacific at Natixis, in a research report, according to CNN.

It further reported that Russia's Finance Minister Anton Siluanov this week said that the country wanted to use yuan reserves after Moscow was blocked from accessing US dollars and euros.

Following the invasion of Ukraine, the World Bank has halted all its programs in Russia and Belarus. It hadn't approved any new loans or investments to Russia since 2014, and none to Belarus since 2020.

According to CNN, more surprisingly, is the decision by the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to do the same. In a statement earlier this month, it said it was suspending all its activities related to Russia and Belarus "as the war in Ukraine unfolds." The move was "in the best interests" of the bank, it added.

The AIIB's decision to suspend activities in Russia means USD 1.1 billion of approved or proposed lending aimed at improving the country's road and rail networks is now on hold, CNN reported.

On Friday (local time), US President Joe Biden held a video call with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and warned China of implications and consequences if Beijing provides material support to Russia.

"President Biden detailed our efforts to prevent and then respond to the invasion, including by imposing costs on Russia. He described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians," a White House readout informed.

Meanwhile, the two leaders agreed that a diplomatic solution to the present conflict in Ukraine is the most desirable outcome as of now. 

Amid escalating fight between Russia and Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday said that Moscow's cooperation with Beijing will "get stronger" in the face of western sanctions.

During a media event, he said, "At a time when the west is blatantly undermining all the foundations on which the international system is based, we -- as two great powers -- need to think how to carry on in this world," reported CNN.

The view was echoed at a separate event in Beijing on Saturday. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said Western sanctions against Russia were getting "more and more outrageous," according to UK-based media.

Although China has expressed concern about the war in Ukraine, Beijing has fallen short of condemning the Russian invasion. Chinese President Xi Jinping told US President Joe Biden during a video call Friday, "the Ukraine crisis is something we don't want to see."

The Western countries have strongly condemned Russia's attack on Ukraine calling it an invasion and imposed harsh sanctions on Russia.

Lavrov also said that Russia hopes its military operation in Ukraine will end with a "comprehensive agreement" on security issues and Ukraine agreeing to neutral status, reported CNN.

Lavrov said Moscow is "ready" to look for guarantees of security and "to coordinate them for Ukraine, for the Europeans and, of course, for ourselves beyond the expansion of the North-Atlantic Treaty."


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