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China maintains its professed neutrality in Russia-Ukraine war: Report

Washington [US], April 16 (ANI): Public opinion in Ukraine toward China is souring as Beijing is maintaining its professed neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, reported The New York Times (NYT).

China had been Ukraine’s top trade partner, importing barley, corn and arms. Now, Russia’s war raises the question: Is there still a relationship? asked Vivian Wang in an NYT article.

Notably, last time in January 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, spoke, when they celebrated 30 years of diplomatic ties, hailing their “deepening political mutual trust” and their people’s “profound friendship.”

However, since the start of the war on February 24, Xi has not spoken to Zelenskyy, despite the latter’s repeated requests. And the “sound and stable” relationship they touted seems like a distant memory, reported NYT.

The question of when and whether Xi will speak with Zelenskyy — which Western leaders have also urged him to do — reflects their countries’ uncertain relations amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Before the war, trade and cultural exchanges had been growing. Now both sides are juggling goals, reported NYT.

Ukraine is wooing China for its potential to rein in Russian aggression. But it is keenly aware of Beijing’s demonstrated reluctance to do so and China, in turn, wants to maintain its professed neutrality in the conflict, said Vivian Wang.

Talks with Zelenskyy could bolster China’s desired image as a responsible global power, but, it has cast doubt over the future world order, with the United States on one side and China and Russia on the other and Kyiv’s embrace of the West puts it on the wrong side of that divide, reported NYT.

Moreover, Ukraine, as a country under attack, does not hold the same economic appeal for China as before.

“Today’s Ukraine is still at war, China’s investments there have been bombed, and we don’t know what Ukraine will look like in the future,” said Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Nanjing University. “Is there still a China-Ukraine relationship?”

Between 2017 and 2021, exports from Ukraine to China quadrupled. By 2019, China was Ukraine’s largest trading partner and the top importer of its barley and iron ore, according to a report by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ukraine was also China’s largest corn supplier and its second-largest arms supplier. China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was a discarded Soviet vessel bought from Ukraine that the Chinese Navy refurbished, reported NYT.

Ukraine’s then-prime minister declared 2019 the “year of China.” Chinese companies were tapped to build a new subway line in Kyiv. Ukraine’s free trade agreement with the European Union made it an attractive entry point for Chinese goods to flow into the lucrative market, said Vivian Wang.

Ukraine also faced pressure from the United States to distance itself from China, leading it in 2021 to scrap the USD 3.6 billion sale of a Ukrainian aerospace manufacturer to Chinese investors, reported NYT.

But after the war began, China adopted many of the Kremlin’s talking points and disinformation, accusing NATO of instigating the conflict and refusing to call it an invasion.

Popular videos celebrate Russian drone strikes on China’s heavily censored internet, and nationalist influencers taunt Ukraine’s turn toward the West.

The frustration with China has grown in Ukraine, in the government and among ordinary people. An October poll by a Ukrainian research group found that unfavourable views of China had doubled since 2021, to 18 per cent, reported NYT. (ANI)

This report is auto-generated from ANI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

Source: The Print

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