The PeaceRep, Researcher Bernardo Mariani: “China Not to Jeopardise Its Strategic Partnership with Russia.”

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When German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Beijing on November 4, 2022, he agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping that Russia’s nuclear threats were unsettling. China, on the other hand, took great care not to include Russia’s name in any of its press releases. China’s state-owned media portrayed Jinping’s comments as opposing the use of nuclear weapons in Europe. As a result, China’s current posture toward Russia remains ambiguous.

From this point of view, Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM) presents the views it received from Bernardo Mariani, Researcher at the Peace and Conflict Resolution Evidence Platform (PeaceRep), in order to evaluate whether China’s stance regarding the Russia-Ukraine War has changed or not.

  1. During his meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Chinese President Xi Jinping opposed the use of nuclear weapons in Europe. Could this be interpreted as a clear warning from China to Russia? Do you think China’s view of the Russia-Ukraine War has changed?

Recently, there have been various signs that China’s stance on the war in Ukraine is changing. At a summit of heads of state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization held between 15 and 16 September 2022 in Samarkand, Russia’s President Putin acknowledged that China had “questions and concerns” about the war. Later, when sham referendums were held in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine on whether to link up with Russia, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, that China respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and rejects the use of force. More recently, on 4 November, during a visit to China, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Chinese President Xi Jinping found common ground in declaring that no nuclear weapons should be used in the war in Ukraine. During the G20 summit on 14 November, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping underscored their common position in rejecting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. It remains to be seen, however, whether China will further adjust its stance on Russia and whether it will do more, beyond expressing concerns and dissatisfaction, to exert influence on Russia to de-escalate and facilitate an end to the war.

  1. Do you think that Jinping personally warned Putin about not using nuclear weapons? (Before or recently)?

I am not aware of any direct interaction between the two presidents during which President Xi expressly warned President Putin not to use nuclear weapons. Given recent public statements that I mentioned before, this eventuality belongs to the realm of possibility, but in the absence of any further evidence, it can only be pure speculation and, probably, we will never know for sure. In its balancing act, China will continue to emphasize its policy of neutrality, while calling for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. It does not want to jeopardize its very valuable strategic partnership with Russia and it will refrain from actions that can be interpreted as direct criticism of President Putin. However, China is making its dissatisfaction with the prolonged war and its global impacts more known and it has opposed the use of, or threats to use, nuclear weapons. This carries political weight and should not be discarded as empty rhetoric. It is an admission of the limits of Chinese support for Russia.

  1. Do you think China may want The Russia-Ukraine War to end as soon as possible in order to concentrate on the Taiwan issue and to get the strong support of Russia on this issue?

I do not believe that China wants the war in Ukraine to end so that it can concentrate on the Taiwan issue. One could argue that a prolonged war in Ukraine that keeps western powers, especially China’s chief global rival, the United States, engaged, although indirectly through military aid and financial assistance, in a major war theatre far away from the South China Sea, favors China’s strategic interests. However, in China’s costs-benefits analysis, the concern is that, with no end in sight, the war might cause further instability, economic turmoil and internationalization of the conflict. All this is detrimental to China’s interests and makes the balance tilting towards the disadvantages outweighing the benefits.

Bernardo Mariani

Bernardo Mariani is a Researcher at the Peace and Conflict Resolution Evidence Platform (PeaceRep) with specialist knowledge of China and its growing role in global security affairs. Bernardo is a conflict prevention and peacebuilding consultant, with specialist knowledge of China. Since 2005, he has managed and implemented research and policy dialogue projects on the implications of China’s growing role in global security affairs. He served for 10 years on the Organisational Management Team of Saferworld as the Head of the China Programme. Previously, he managed and implemented advocacy, research and training activities in the fields of conflict prevention and peacebuilding across Europe, Russia and Central Asia. He has also worked as a Consultant for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and for the European Commission, researching and advising on trans-regional security threats.

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer, 2014 yılında Sakarya Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Aynı yıl Gazi Üniversitesi Ortadoğu ve Afrika Çalışmaları Bilim Dalı’nda yüksek lisans eğitimine başlamıştır. 2016 yılında “1990 Sonrası İran’ın Irak Politikası” başlıklı teziyle master eğitimini tamamlayan Tamer, 2017 yılında ANKASAM’da Araştırma Asistanı olarak göreve başlamış ve aynı yıl Gazi Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Doktora Programı’na kabul edilmiştir. Uzmanlık alanları İran, Mezhepler, Tasavvuf, Mehdilik, Kimlik Siyaseti ve Asya-Pasifik olan ve iyi derecede İngilizce bilen Tamer, Gazi Üniversitesindeki doktora eğitimini “Sosyal İnşacılık Teorisi ve Güvenlikleştirme Yaklaşımı Çerçevesinde İran İslam Cumhuriyeti’nde Kimlik İnşası Süreci ve Mehdilik” adlı tez çalışmasıyla 2022 yılında tamamlamıştır. Şu anda ise ANKASAM’da Asya-Pasifik Uzmanı olarak görev almaktadır.