Tensions are mounting throughout the world concerning the possibility of a war between Russia and Ukraine. One question that has experts on edge is what role China might play in such a conflict, and how such an event could set a dangerous precedent for China’s global ambitions—particularly in relation to Taiwan.
Russia has demanded that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO. As of this week, it has amassed 130,000 troops at the eastern border of Ukraine to intimidate Western nations into disallowing Ukraine from ever joining the alliance and to pressure the global community away from further militarizing the region.
The Chinese leadership has joined in the effort, urging cool heads while also giving cover for Russia and its history of illegal expansion.
The regime’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke about the situation during a telephone call on Jan. 27. Wang used the call to tell Blinken to “stay calm” and warned the United States to stop creating “anti-China cliques.”
The interaction could signal a much-increased role for China as a diplomatic go-between for Russia and the rest of the world.
A Different World than 2014
Despite the temptation to compare the current crisis to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, experts say that the geopolitical and economic landscape is quite different in 2022.
Perhaps the most notable difference, they say, is that China will play a prominent, if not dominant, role in any potential conflict and its eventual resolution.
This state of affairs is in stark contrast to 2014 when, given the chance to support Russia’s claims to Crimea, the Chinese regime’s leadership demurred.
“China did not recognize the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea because it did not want to get implicated,” said Sam Kessler, a geopolitical analyst at North Star Support Group, a multinational risk management firm. “They didn’t condemn it either, which is important to know.”
“The Chinese delegation abstained twice when initiatives to officially condemn the [annexation] were introduced at the United Nations,” Kessler added.