China rocked as Xi torn with key decision – panic over economic fallout of Putin ties

Ukraine: Xi Jinping 'feels misled' over Russian invasion

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It comes as US media outlets, citing Washington sources, are reporting that Russia has in recent days asked China for military assistance, including equipment and drones. China has previously said it “regrets” the war in Ukraine, and has abstained from international votes in recent weeks.

In recent years, Russia and China have enjoyed close relations, with the two leaders declaring a “no-limits” friendship just a month ago.

Russia is expected to increasingly look to China for trade as harsh Western economic sanctions begin to bite the Russian economy.

But now, that friendship is under intense pressure as Chinese President Xi Jinping seeks to toe a diplomatic line between China’s ally and its Western trade partners.

A fortnight ago, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba that China “deeply regrets” that conflict had broken out between the two nations.

According to state broadcaster CCTV, he said China was “paying extreme attention to the harm suffered by civilians”.

China has so far refrained from condemning Russia for the invasion on the world stage.

It has said Putin had “legitimate security concerns” when it came to Ukraine, which should be taken seriously.

When the UN voted to condemn Russia for the invasion, China was one of 35 nations which abstained.

However, it did not veto the motion, as Russia did. And Beijing has also expressed “unwavering support” for Ukraine’s sovereignty.

China has so far touted itself as a mediator, seeking a peaceful end to the fighting – and Western nations have listened.

Last week, the European Union’s top foreign spokesperson said that China “must” be responsible for mediating peace negotiations.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, told a Spanish paper that diplomatic efforts must involve China.

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He said: “There is no alternative […] It must be China, I am sure of that.

“Diplomacy cannot only be European or American. Chinese diplomacy has a role to play here.”

Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute, told the Telegraph: “If there was anybody that could [reach Putin], that’s Xi.”

He said: “We’ve got two problems here: One is that Xi won’t do it, and the second problem is, we don’t know whether Putin would listen if Xi tries. But if anybody can, it is Xi.”

Mr Xi will also be concerned with the international economic sanctions levelled at Russia, which will have a knock-on effect on the Chinese economy at a tough time, experts say.

But China could yet side with Russia, stoking fears of the outbreak of a global conflict.

Today (Monday), US sources warned that China has suggested it was open to the idea of providing Russia with military and economic support.

US officials told multiple news sources that Russia had asked for China’s support – a claim Russia denied.

It comes as Western military chiefs believe that Russia’s military has been depleted by an astonishing Ukrainian defence, with Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, chief of the defence staff, saying Putin’s forces had been “decimated”.

The officials said that China may be open to assist Russia economically and militarily.

The Chinese foreign ministry accused the US of spreading disinformation.

Today, Jake Sullivan, a US national security adviser, met Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, in Rome where they had a “substantial” discussion of the war in Ukraine.

A readout said: “They also underscored the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between the United States and China.”

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