China's decision to abstain on Friday night at the end of the UN security council vote condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine may be a source of deep frustration in the west, but it will also send a nervous tremor through the Russian ministry of foreign affairs that China's protection is not unconditional, The Guardian reported.
But there are tentative signs that China is uneasy at being seen to defend Putin's methods, and the potential disruption to the world economy, The Guardian reported.
Putin may have shown his respect for China by delaying the invasion until after the Winter Olympics, but China was not consulted about the invasion. Chinese diplomats ridiculed forecasts of an invasion, and left many citizens in situ, the report said.
The deeper partnership agreement signed with Russia on February 4, the opening day of the Beijing Winter Olympics, was predicated on no invasion. China benefits from the existing world order, and finds the instability unsettling. The prospect of Russia being cut out of the Swift payment system may benefit Chinese efforts to build an alternative, but the short-term disruption is worrying, The Guardian reported.
Also Read | Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine is not quite going as per plan
It was noticeable, for instance, on Friday that Russia offered high-level talks with Ukraine in Minsk, albeit on unacceptable terms, after a conversation between Putin and President Xi Jinping.
But even if China contorts itself by stubbornly refusing to describe Putin's actions as an invasion, it has edged closer to including Russia in its criticism, the report said.
China on Friday emphasised that "it is absolutely imperative that all parties exercise necessary restraint in order to prevent the situation in Ukraine from deteriorating or even getting out of control. The safety of ordinary people's lives and properties should be effectively safeguarded, and in particular, large-scale humanitarian crises have to be prevented."
Ukraine, it said, should be a bridge of communication between the east and west, not the frontline of confrontations between major countries. That, by implication, suggests China would favour Ukraine being a neutral state, the report said.
Also Read | 'Kiev still controlled by Ukrainian army'
The risk for Russia is that if it descends into pariah status, it will be left as a supplicant rather than a future partner with China. Within 10 years, Europe will have freed itself from dependence on Russian gas and oil – that has become a matter of urgent imperative in Rome and Berlin. Russia will be reliant on China as a customer, The Guardian reported.
There is a further danger for Russia. China prides itself on its influence in Africa. All the African representatives on the security council voted against Russia.