On the eve of the BRICS Summit, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi is set to chair the gathering of the five major emerging economies. These countries include India, China, Brazil, and South Africa. The meeting is expected to focus on the Ukraine crisis and US-China relations. Despite the high-profile agenda, the meeting will likely remain dominated by the Ukraine crisis and US-China relations.
While tensions between Russia and Ukraine have a long history, they share a vast border, including the recent COVID-19 pandemic. While people-to-people ties remain weak, officials distrust each other. A potential invasion by Russia in Ukraine in 2022 would be a turning point in the relationship and have significant ramifications for the international order.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s president used the video link to address the meeting. He said that the invasion of his country undermines the rules-based order and puts the entire world at risk of famine. While US-China relations are strained, he said, the United States and China will do their best to manage tensions between them. In addition to the United States, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, spoke via video link from Kyiv. He said that the world must preserve the rules-based order and support peace talks.
China abstains from voting on the UN Human Rights Council resolution on the Ukraine crisis. It argues that the Council has a responsibility to defuse such crises. It fails, however, with a veto from Russia. There are 11 votes in favor and three abstentions. China opposes elements of the resolution that go beyond the humanitarian context and reiterates its support for a competing resolution by South Africa that does not mention Russia.
China has intensified cooperation with Russia since the Crimea annexation. The two countries are pursuing joint military exercises and are building strategic trust. In addition, Chinese officials say they will use local currency settlements to supplement trade and will work with Russia on space issues. These joint efforts reflect the two countries’ core interests. So far, it is possible to anticipate the emergence of new rivalries in the world.
While China and Russia are not formal allies, their relationship has grown closer over the past few years. They recently held a summit and pledged to deepen their partnership in various fields. Their relations are also highly personal. The two leaders have met over forty times since 2012.
While there are no guarantees that Russia won’t attack Ukrainian territory, the conflict in the east of the country is certainly complicating the US-China relationship. A resumption of tensions in the region could lead to the emergence of conflict with China in the Pacific. In the meantime, U.S.-China relations will continue to dominate the Asian security meeting next month.
The two sides are already in talks on crude oil purchases. The talks will take place at government level and not at oil company level. Kpler says China needs to replenish its strategic petroleum reserves, especially as the price of Russian crude oil has fallen significantly. Meanwhile, Xi and Abe met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. Wang said China maintains good communication with relevant parties.