Ukraine crisis: the trouble for China in staying friends with two foes – Yahoo Finance

February 7, 2022 by No Comments

In Beijing, the atmosphere is collegial. Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin met on Friday in the strongest show of China-Russia ties in seven decades, with Putin hailing “unprecedented” close ties between the two countries.

But on the Russian border with Ukraine, more than 100,000 Russian troops are in position, raising the risk of a ground war in what some say is Europe’s worst security crisis in decades.

Wedged in between is China, Ukraine’s biggest trading partner and major buyer of Ukraine’s military hardware.

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So far Beijing has managed to walk a fine diplomatic line between the two, publicly calling for the crisis to be resolved through dialogue and largely reserving its criticism for the United States.

But perceptions of China are changing among some in Ukraine and there is a risk for Beijing, observers in Kyiv say.

Beijing and Kyiv established formal ties in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union and over the decades, the two countries have forged strong economic ties.

Lying on the northern shores of the Black Sea, Ukraine has been an important trade corridor between Europe, Asia and the Middle East, making it a hub for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing’s global infrastructure and investment programme.

In 2013 Ukraine began selling corn to China and by 2019 it was its largest supplier, accounting for more than 80 per cent of China’s corn imports. Also in 2019, China overtook Russia as Ukraine’s largest trading partner and in 2020 a cargo train line was opened between China and Ukraine.

In an interview with state news agency Xinhua last month, Fan Xianrong, the Chinese ambassador in Ukraine, said Chinese companies had “expressed apparently increasing willingness” to explore investment opportunities in food processing, port construction, car parts manufacturing and vaccine production in Ukraine.

In addition, China is a big buyer of military technology from Ukraine, which inherited considerable capacity from the Soviet Union.

Ukraine has exported turbofan engines for aircraft, diesel engines for tanks, gas turbines for destroyers and air-to-air missiles for its Su-27 knock-off, known as the J-11, while the People’s Liberation Army Navy has used Ukrainian engines for its destroyers, according to a 2014 report by the Wilson Centre.

In 1998, a Chinese businessman bought an incomplete hulk of a Soviet aircraft carrier, which later became the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier that was commissioned in 2012.

The inside story of the Liaoning: how Xu Zengping sealed deal for China’s first aircraft carrier

The two countries have also had fairly consistent political ties.

Two Chinese presidents – Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao – have visited Ukraine in the last 30 years. In 2011, during his state visit in Kyiv, Hu and then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych agreed to upgrade bilateral ties to “strategic partnership”. Yanukovych said at that time that the two sides signed US$3.5 billion energy, infrastructure and agriculture deals.

In December 2013 Yanukovych left turmoil at home to meet Xi in Beijing. As pro-Europe protesters took the streets in Kyiv over Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a political association and free trade agreement with the European Union, China and Ukraine pledged “mutual …….



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