China has refused to join the chorus of Western countries condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, which came just after Beijing declared “unlimited friendship” with the Kremlin. However, Beijing said it was “not a party” to the war as it sought to dodge the fallout of the invasion in March.
Professor Tsang, who heads up SOAS, University of London’s China Institute, told Express.co.uk that the Ukraine war has not “fundamentally changed the relationship” between Western countries and Beijing, partly because “there never really was much love, from the Chinese side, anyway”.
He added that the Chinese president “still” held “no love” for the likes of the UK and the US, and he firmly holds on to the idea that Beijing always “needs to be prepared and pre-empt”.
However, the Chinese government does fear the ramifications of Western sanctions leveled at Moscow over the war, which sparked “huge alarm” in Beijing.
Among the roster of sanctions applied to Moscow from various different countries is the freezing of around $300 billion of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves.
Professor Tsang argued that Beijing was caught “completely by surprise” by the “unity” of Western countries.
He told Express.co.uk: “The use of economic sanctions, in particular, the freedom of the Russians’ foreign exchange reserve – that really caused huge alarm in Beijing.”
But the danger that such a fate could in any way head towards Beijing makes Chinese lawmakers “really uncomfortable”.
Professor Tsang posed the question: “Who happens to have the biggest foreign exchange reserve in the world, the bulk of which is in US Treasury bills?
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“They never thought the weakened West could actually respond in a robust way, a united way, on something like a ‘special military operation’ by the Russians in Ukraine.”
But Xi Jinping “miscalculated” in throwing China’s weight behind its friendship with Moscow earlier this year at the Winter Olympics, partly because “Putin made a mess” of the invasion.
Professor Tsang said: “The Chinese miscalculated when Xi Jinping gave his support the unlimited friendship, the unlimited friendship support, when Putin went to China at the start of the Olympics.”
Moscow and Beijing said in a joint statement: “Friendship between the two States has no limits, there are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.”
But as the war rumbled on, the G7 group of wealthy economies called on China to “resolutely” advise the Kremlin to halt their invasion.
The countries said a statement: “We encourage China to support, in line with international law, the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and the integrity of its internationally recognized borders and to resolutely urge Russia to stop its military aggression against Ukraine.”
China also admitted on Wednesday that its economy is already suffering under the toll of its zero-Covid policy.
China’s Premier, Li Keqiang, said that “economic indicators in China have fallen significantly, and difficulties in some aspects and to a certain extent are greater than when the epidemic hit us severely in 2020”.