With the ever-evolving situation in Ukraine as their citizens and military work to repel the Russian attacks, there has been a sleeping giant in the background. Months ago, China and Russia had met and agreed to work together and form an alliance. This sent a message to the international community that the duo would stand together against any foe that either side might be facing.
Two months ago many were worried that China was poised to attack along with Russia, and thus far those worries have proven to be largely unfounded. US officials claim that there have been no overt signs of Chinese military or economic support. Considering how tense the US-China relationship has been over the years, it makes sense the US has been worried about the possibility of them helping Russia directly. Especially when the US and other NATO nations have been supplying Ukraine with arms to fight off the Russians.
President Biden is planning for a trip to Asia at the end of May, and given the rise of China towards a global power there is a lot for him to consider on this trip. Biden officials spoke with Reuters about China’s status concerning Russia. “We have not seen the PRC provide direct military support to Russia’s war on Ukraine or engage in systematic efforts to help Russia evade our sanctions. We continue to monitor for the PRC and any other country that might provide support to Russia or otherwise evade U.S. and partner sanctions.”
With a national security strategy coming out around the time Biden visits Asia, the report could become a big agenda item for the President. Thankfully China and other Asian nations are leaving the dirt-cheap contracts to work with Russian oil refineries. In March their state-run Sinopec Group dropped its talks about a potential petrochemical investment. This would have potentially been a trillion-dollar deal for both nations. This has kept the pressure on Russia to back off from their aggression with Ukraine, but more importantly, it sends the globe a message about how far they are willing to go to support an ally making a bad decision.
When the UN recently voted to condemn the aggression by Russia, the Chinese representative chose to abstain. While they will not publicly go against their ally, by abstaining they have sent the strongest message against their aggression that the US or anyone else could hope for. It still hasn’t prevented Beijing and their embassy here in the US from issuing more rhetoric about the conflict. They issued a report accusing the US of spreading false information about Russia and asking the Chinese to provide military help in Ukraine. While they noted that the US did clarify that they found no evidence of China providing the support that was supposedly requested.
Biden has been shockingly silent about China since his remarks on March 24th following a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, where he “made sure he understood the consequences.” While this kind of statement is incredibly ambiguous, it’s not uncommon for Biden or his administration about international relations. During his visit, there isn’t much in the way of expectations for more talks with China, but he will be having a four-way meeting that will include India and Australia while in Tokyo.
For now, Biden’s quiet thanks for China staying out of the Russian conflict is very well placed. If China were to support Russia financially or militarily, the US and NATO may be left with no choice but to support Ukraine with boots on the ground or at least a massive amount of equipment to help their forces to fight back. That is a war the US doesn’t need after 20 years in Afghanistan, and it would most likely become a nuclear conflict faster than any expert could plan for. So far in his presidency, this is the only time Biden’s inaction helps America.