Ukraine war: can Putin count on help from Beijing?
Citing government officials, the New York Times, the Financial Times and other US newspapers have reported that Moscow has asked Beijing for military aid in the Ukraine war. Zhao Lijian, deputy director of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has said this is misinformation. Europe's press discusses the potential consequences if Beijing steps in to support Moscow.
Danger of a real axis of evil
Chinese arms supplies to Russia would trigger the worst-case scenario, Ilta-Sanomat fears:
“If Putin's alleged request for military assistance from China is fulfilled it would be a big step in a very dangerous direction, at the end of which could be the worst of all possible scenarios: a world war. Military aid would weld China and Russia into an unpredictable coalition abandoned by the rest of the world and equipped with nuclear weapons. The US-led West would have an adversary that, in its hunger for expansion and power, would not hesitate to impose its policies by force of arms - Ukraine war style. That would be a real axis of evil.”
China has other goals than saving Russia, observes Válasz Online:
“Western analysts agree that China's life belt can postpone but not prevent the collapse of the Russian economy because the Western reaction [to the Ukraine war] is more drastic than expected, and it is getting harsher by the day. The most important lesson is that China's goal is not to save Russia, but to improve its own position. ... Any help China gives Russia increases the economic asymmetry that already exists between the two countries and reinforces Russia's dependence on China.”
Beijing sitting pretty
China is observing the war from a position of strength, the Kurier adds:
“The axis of evil between Beijing and Moscow so frequently invoked in recent weeks is probably not as firmly forged as many think. In reality, China is sitting comfortably in the front row and waiting. ... Watching as the West cuts its teeth on a nuclear-armed aggressor - and drawing conclusions about its own plans for Taiwan. And: China has already tackled Covid far better than the rest of the world, not to say actually profited from it. When the time comes for Europe and the US to deal with the destruction of the economy and prosperity wrought by Vladimir Putin, there will be no stopping China on the fast track to becoming the world's number one.”
Economic interests as leverage
Xi Jinping could stop the bloodshed, Dagens Nyheter stresses:
“The fact is that China still needs the free world more than the free world needs it. The United States and Europe are the world's largest economies and can trade with each other. Meanwhile, Russia accounts for two percent of China's trade flows. And two-thirds of that trade is conducted in dollars. ... Backing from Beijing is crucial for Putin. Without it, the Russian war machine would lose momentum very quickly. Few have as good a chance of stopping the killing as Xi Jinping. The West must exert pressure.”
Use China to rein in Russia
El Periódico de Catalunya describes the position of former EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana:
“How to end the war? Solana believes that China could influence Russia, mediate and reinforce its international role. What will it do? It has not condemned the invasion, but it has not supported it either. ... When Nixon broke the ice with China in 1972, there was a certain triangulation in which the US and China put the brakes on the USSR. Could the triangle change now, 50 years later? The US fears this could happen and has therefore sent Jake Sullivan, Biden's Kissinger, to Rome for no less than seven hours of talks with Yang Jiechi, Beijing's key diplomat. China counts.”