Russia is increasingly playing a junior role to China in a relationship that’s largely about Beijing’s desire for resources, Ukraine’s ambassador to Beijing said.
(Bloomberg) — Russia is increasingly playing a junior role to China in a relationship that’s largely about Beijing’s desire for resources, Ukraine’s ambassador to Beijing said.
“For China, Russia is both a political partner and a source of resources,” Pavlo Riabikin said in an interview Tuesday with the RBC Ukraine news agency.
“Moscow’s relations with Beijing are a marriage of convenience in which the Russian Federation turns into a raw material appendage for China,” he said.
China’s Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Riabikin’s remarks on Wednesday.
The comments come as China’s imports of key energy commodities from Russia surge to all-time highs and Western buyers shun such shipments due to the war in Ukraine. Oil flows from Russia hit 10.5 million tons in June, up more than 40% on-year.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reaffirmed that the two nations are “good partners” in a phone call Monday with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. The discussion came just after Beijing scolded Moscow over an incident involving Chinese citizens who were denied entry from Kazakhstan into Russia.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to a “no limits” friendship with Vladimir Putin just before his invasion, and has sought to portray Beijing as a neutral broker on Ukraine. China released a 12-point blueprint for bringing peace to Ukraine in February that included calls to respect sovereignty, facilitate grain exports and halt all hostilities.
The roadmap has been widely panned by the US and its allies but it has bought Xi credibility among the so-called Global South and won China a seat at Ukraine talks hosted by Saudi Arabia over the weekend. China sent a delegation led by veteran diplomat Li Hui to Jeddah to join more than 40 countries including the US and European nations to discuss the fighting.
Analysts at Eurasia Group wrote in a note Tuesday that “China’s participation in Jeddah marks a milestone for European and US efforts to enlist Beijing’s support in pressuring Moscow to end the war.”
See: China’s Rare Russia Rebuke Doesn’t Mean Xi Is Ditching Putin
Beijing’s ties with Kyiv have been less fulsome than those with Moscow since the war started but last month Ukraine’s deputy economy minister, Taras Kachka, met Vice Commerce Minister Ling Ji in Beijing. The Chinese side pledged to step up imports during the first trip by a senior Ukrainian official to the world’s No. 2 economy since January 2019.
Riabikin reiterated in the RBC Ukraine interview that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was open to more discussions with Xi. The two leaders talked over the phone in April — their first call since the invasion in February 2022.
“I am convinced that Zelenskiy will be happy to meet with Xi Jinping,” he said.
–With assistance from Kateryna Choursina.
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