Opinion: China should avoid picking sides

Kyle Sheaffer, Staff writer & Podcast Host

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, people around the world have been obsessed over new updates in the ever expanding situation. 

One of the biggest concerns floating about the conflict isare further military escalation and the threat of world war, which seems increasingly likely with Russia requesting economic and military aid from China due to overwhelming economic sanctions from key players in the global community. While some may think China will assist their Russian ally, when viewing the facts of the matter, it becomes clear how China would likely distance themselves from Russia rather than giving assistance.

Part of this comes from recent U.S. comments about the possibility of Chinese aid being given to Russia. Jake Sullivan, the White House National Security Advisor, told CNN that “we are communicating directly, privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them.”

More than likely, these consequences would be sanctions on Chinese goods, as that is the U.S’s current weapon of choice for resolving conflicts through diplomatic channels.

While this may appear underwhelming, these sanctions would have a huge impact on some of China’s largest companies.

According to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimando in an interview with the New York Times, “We could essentially shut [the company] down, because we prevent them from using our equipment and our software.”

Additionally, Russia is viewed as the villain of the global community. They have been cast to the level of totalitarian states such as North Korea or Iran. This current perception will not be going away anytime soon, which will negatively affect how other countries view them in the long run.

Helping Russia in this situation will make it much harder for China to find friends in other countries, and could also trigger many of the same countries around the world that are currently imposing sanctions on Russia to place similar barriers on Chinese goods. 

Sanctions on Russia have already been devastating for the Russian economy, with the Ruble being valued around $0.0099 almost a month after the invasion.

Imagine the effects that sanctions would have on China’s largely mercantile economy. Their economy would largely be in ruins.

For the time being, China will do whatever it can to avoid such sanctions, but that does not mean that they will break off their longtime ally. Rather, they will more than likely try and find other ways to assist without breaking the sanctions already set on Russia.