Xi makes fatal ‘miscalculation’ on Putin after offering ‘unlimited friendship’ to Russia

Russia ‘stumbling’ in Ukraine may influence China says Green

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The Chinese government declared renewed and “no limits” ties with the Kremlin, shortly before Vladimir Putin ordered his forces over the Ukrainian border. Ever since, China has maintained a careful stance on the war, refusing to condemn Moscow – something which has attracted the anger of the European Union.

European Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen, has previously warned that Chinese support for Russia’s war “would lead to a major reputational damage for China here in Europe”.

But Xi is missing a key trick in how he is navigating China’s alliance with Russia, according to Professor Steve Tsang.

Professor Tsang, who is the director of SOAS, University of London’s China Institute, told Express.co.uk that Xi Jinping “couldn’t see” and therefore “couldn’t take advantage” of the foreign policy opening that Putin’s war offered for China.

He said: “The foreign policy objective that Xi Jinping had was to make China great again, meaning that he wanted China to be respected, and admired, and play a leading role in global affairs.

“When Putin messed up the war, it actually created an opportunity for Xi Jinping and China, except that they couldn’t see it and they couldn’t take advantage of it.”

A successful seizing of an opportunity to be a vital go-between with the ear of the Kremlin could have made Xi the “darling boy of the world”, Professor Tsang explained.

He argued: “The opportunity was quite simply that if Xi Jinping had very quickly tried to play a constructive role through some kind of shuttle diplomacy between Kyiv and Moscow, and if he could get Putin to ease off, he would have been the darling boy of the world.

“He would have achieved that foreign policy objective that he craved.”

Professor Tsang explained that Xi Jinping “miscalculated” throwing his weight behind a war that he likely believed Putin would easily win.

He 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.”

He added: “Now, that clearly turned out to be a miscalculation when Putin made a mess of it.”

Just before Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, the Chinese government publicised their “no limits” friendship with Moscow at the Winter Olympics.

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At the time, Beijing backed the rhetoric touted by Russia that Ukraine should not be admitted into NATO.

Moscow and Beijing said in a joint statement: “Friendship between the two States has no limits, there are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.”

Over the weekend, the G7 countries called on Xi to “resolutely” counsel Russia to pull back from its war in Ukraine, after China was silent on a “ceasefire” goal mentioned by French President, Emmanuel Macron.

The group of wealthy economies said in 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.”

The statement continued: “We call on China not to assist Russia in its war of aggression against Ukraine, not to undermine sanctions imposed on Russia for its attack against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, not to justify Russian action in Ukraine, and to desist from engaging in information manipulation, disinformation and other means to legitimize Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.”

Mr Macron’s office said the two leaders discussed the Ukraine conflict in a phone call, agreeing on the need for an immediate ceasefire.

A statement from Mr Macron’s office said: “The two heads of state reiterated their commitment to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.”

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