China's claim of neutrality in the Ukraine war wanes after its visit to Moscow

both putin and wang yi

A very long table is Vladimir Putin's favorite. His meetings are often depicted in images where the Russian leader is at one end and the other person is so far away that you wonder if it is difficult for them to hear one another.

When he met Wang Yi, China's top diplomat, it wasn't like that.

There they were with an oval-shaped table in the middle, within grasping distance.

The effect would still be the same if the Chinese delegation had been seated across from one another in the middle of a previously-used table rather than at the long ends.

When the video was made public, it seemed to be a purposeful symbolic act to demonstrate that he felt secure enough to be that close to the representative of such a significant friend.

Obviously, things haven't always been this way. Beijing's system of underground fallout shelters was created decades ago to shield the people of the Chinese capital from a nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union.

However, the Xi Jinping administration now sees Russia as a direct rival to US influence. a country that, like North Korea, may be seen as an international pariah but has important geopolitical implications.

After President Putin declared a new "no limits" relationship with China and, within weeks, began the invasion of Ukraine, the Chinese government didn't even seem that embarrassed when he returned from attending the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

When Mr. Xi sat next to his Russian counterpart, who must have been thinking about almost nothing else at the time, many have questioned whether Mr. Xi was informed about the impending war.

When dealing with Russia over Ukraine, China is treading very carefully. While Mr. Xi may feel as though he is confidently moving forward, some believe that Beijing's claim to neutrality is becoming more and more difficult to defend.

Wang Yi leaves meetings saying that China and Russia are working together to promote "peace and stability.".

Using phrases like "peace and stability" while visiting Russia will be seen as absurd in other parts of the world almost a year before that nation's invasion of Ukraine marks its first anniversary.

Beijing is aware of this, but has chosen to move forward despite the risk to its reputation because it believes that at this point, it is more crucial to provide Vladimir Putin with strong moral support.

Sergei Lavrov was greeted by Wang Yi, who said, "I look forward to reaching new agreements with you, my dear friend. I am ready to exchange views with you on matters of mutual interest.".

As if this turbulence were something floating in the ether rather than chaos created by his own government, Russia's foreign minister claimed that the two were demonstrating solidarity and defending each other's interests despite "high turbulence on the world stage.".

China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang issued a warning earlier this week in Beijing that the conflict in Ukraine might get out of hand if some nations keep adding fuel to the fire.

He was making reference to the US, a nation that openly provides military support to the Ukrainian army while cautioning China not to arm and supply Russia.

Analysts are now asking what options China might consider if it looks like President Putin is facing a humiliating battlefield defeat.

Chinese dual-use technology, which can appear to be civilian but can also, for example, be used to repair jet fighters, is reportedly already being supplied to Russia, according to American researchers.

Furthermore, it hasn't made an effort to hide the fact that it is acquiring Russian oil and gas to replace the markets that its neighbor lost as a result of the sanctions that followed the invasion.

The upcoming visit to Moscow by Xi Jinping, the president of China, was also confirmed by Vladimir Putin during his meeting with Wang Yi. This is anticipated to occur in the near future.

In a sense, China's dirty work is being done by the Kremlin. If Russia's economy collapses as a result, does Beijing really care? It will only need more Chinese products for the recovery afterwards. It is depleting Western military resources and placing pressure on Nato.

The issue is that the Western world has been relatively united, Russia doesn't seem to have much chance of winning, and China is increasingly being seen standing alongside a bully who forced a bloody, protracted war on Europe.

China must be careful not to take on more than it can handle, but the rest of the world will also not want Asia's giant to become even more involved in this conflict than it already is.

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