The main purpose of Beijing's strategic partnership with Russia is to counter Western political hegemony in the world. On the economic side, however, the long-term development of China still depends on its trade and investments deals with the West. Nonetheless, Russia has become by now China's top supplier of oil.
With the war in Ukraine, China is facing a trilemma because of the need to hold at the same time the following objectives:
• Display an international commitment to sovereignty and territorial integrity because of its own problems in the Muslim separatist region of Xinjiang and Taiwan.
• Increase the political partnership with Russia to break the US dominance in the world.
• Keep very good economic ties with the West, as it is trade with rich countries that enables China to achieve prosperity.
Because of this situation, China has avoided describing the Russian invasion as such, expressed its desire that hostilities should end "as soon as possible", and blamed NATO, with Washington like the main responsable, as the real culprit in the crisis for not having taken into account Moscow's "legitimate security concerns".
Among growing demands, specially from African and Asian countries, that China should take a more active role in resolving the war in Ukraine to honor its status of world superpower, Beijing presented this week its own peace deal:
• The sovereignty of all countries must be respected.
• Abandon the Cold War mentality.
• Cease of hostilities.
• Resume peace talks like in the first stages of the war.
• Resolve the humanitarian crisis with more UN supplies.
• Protect civilians and prisoners of war by creating "safe corridors".
• Keep nuclear power plants safe.
• Reduce strategic risks.
• Facilitate grain exports.
• Stop unilateral sanctions against Russia.
• Keep industrial and supply chains stable.
• Promote post-conflict reconstruction with a global fund.
This peace deal has been described by analysts as "purposely vague, simplistic, and a public relations move for its tacit support to Putin in the war". In particular, Western leaders have stated that this is not a peace proposal because it did not mention an aggressor. But Zelensky noted that China talking about Ukraine is "already a good thing". However, his advisors expressed that a deal which includes only a ceasefire and allows Russia to continue occupying any part of Ukraine “isn’t about peace, but about freezing the war, Ukraine's defeat, next stages of Russian genocide.”
Finally, the Biden administration reported recently that there is indication that China could start supplying Russia with lethal weapons, and becoming an active player in the war. To this accusation, Chinese officials responded aggressively saying that "it is the US, not China, that has been pouring weapons into the battlefield in Ukraine. The US is in no position to tell China what to do. China will never accept US finger-pointing or coercion on China-Russia relations".
The bitterness of the Chinese statement suggests strongly that the suspicions of the US could become true anytime soon, which provoked Biden saying this week that "the US will respond if China sends weapons to Russia". This means clearly that we are moving steadily closer to WW3.