While Xi Jinping does not wish to see Russia significantly strong to counter China, he also does not want Moscow to face defeat either, as this could embolden the West and destabilize a key ally and neighbor, according to political analysts.
What Happened: China’s relationship with Russia, characterized by mutual interests in challenging Western dominance, has grown stronger over the years. However, the dynamics are more intricate than they appear, especially since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
China seeks a balanced relationship with Russia, neither wanting it to be too powerful to challenge Beijing nor too weak to leave China isolated against the West, Etienne Soula, a research analyst at the Alliance for Securing Democracy within the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., told CNBC.
“China needs to strike a balance between keeping Russia as weak as possible to ensure that it doesn’t pose a threat to China while also ensuring that Russia can still be an irritant to their common rivals, Western democracies led by the United States,” Soula said.
Why It Matters: While China has refrained from criticizing Russia’s war, it has leveraged its relationship with Moscow, especially given Russia’s reliance on China for commodity exports crucial for its economy and the war effort.
Political analysts emphasize that China’s primary concern is not to see Russia weakened to a point where it affects China’s own global standing.
“China, like many Europeans, will also want to avoid a total collapse of Russia, with the nuclear proliferation risks that might pose. In addition, and unlike Europeans, China might also want to avoid the impression that Western democracies have ‘defeated’ Russia.”
Another expert Yurii Poita, who leads the Asia division at the New Geopolitics Research Network in Kyiv, agreed with the “Goldilocks” hypothesis. “There is no way actually for China to make Russia stronger without jeopardizing Chinese interests,” he said.
China and Russia have historically maintained a strong alliance, but Beijing’s recent actions, such as its attendance at peace talks in Saudi Arabia concerning the Ukraine conflict, hint at a potential recalibration of its stance.
However, according to experts, the mutual benefits derived from their relationship, especially in countering Western influence, ensure that their alliance remains intact.
Produced in association with Benzinga