by Eileen Cooney '23 on April 6, 2023
Amidst already strained diplomatic relations between the United States and China following the U.S.’s shooting down of a purported Chinese spy balloon, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced over the weekend that China has considered providing “lethal support” in the form of arms and ammunition to Putin’s Russia in its war with Ukraine. In response, a spokesperson from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs defended its strong ties with Moscow and claimed the Biden administration was spreading propaganda.
Up until this point, China has defended its economic ties with Russia, continuing to trade with the nation even as most of the world has imposed economic sanctions in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year. China’s trade with Russia hit a record $190 billion in 2022, and Russia has more than doubled its exports of liquified natural gas into China via the Power of Siberia pipeline. Moreover, evidence of the strong diplomatic relationship between the Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin was on full display last year at the Winter Olympics held in China. At the world games, Xi and Putin released a 5,000-word statement declaring they had “a friendship with no limits.” Three weeks later, Putin sent Russian tanks into Ukraine, beginning his onslaught of the country that has gone on for a year.
While Xi Jinping has maintained strong trade and diplomatic relations with Moscow throughout this time, he has stopped short of supplying any weapons or ammunition in Russia’s fight against Ukraine. Xi Jinping has, instead, chosen to stand on the sidelines of the conflict, insisting on peace in Ukraine and respect for the nation’s sovereignty. If China were to send weapons or provide other battlefield equipment for Russia’s invasion, the Biden administration and other world leaders have made it clear that these actions would jeopardize already precarious diplomatic relations.
Many officials are also worried about the ominous implications of Chinese involvement in the conflict, as it is reminiscent of the Cold War decades ago. Then, the United States, the Soviet Union, and Russia engaged in proxy wars and invested vast amounts of military resources in Korea, Afghanistan, and Vietnam. In attempts to quell tensions and put out flaming fears, foreign policy officials from both the United States and China made an appearance at Europe’s global security conference in Munich, stressing that their governments were seeking to avoid a type of conflict similar to a new cold war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky responded to the news by saying that China’s giving of weapons to Russia would amount to a “world war.” He maintained his pleas to NATO countries to keep providing financial support and military equipment for his nation. This all comes at the one-year anniversary of Putin’s invasion and amidst recent expectations that Russia is going to launch an aggressive spring offensive into the country.