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Will China help Russia? Local experts weigh in

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NECN, March 2022

China could provide a major buffer for the Russian economy, which has been hit with sanctions in response to its invasion of Ukraine. But local experts are hopeful that they will remain neutral. Sanctions, asset freezes and withdrawals of international companies are hammering the Russian economy and U.S. officials have warned that China would face similar measures should they step in. Harvard scholar Oleh Kotsyuba and Northeastern University professor Mai’a Cross explained Wednesday why they think China will remain neutral on NBC10 Boston’s weekly series, “Russia-Ukraine Q&A.”

Russia asks China for help

Before the invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping announced a “no limits” strategic partnership they said was intended to counter U.S. influence. China’s position has been to ultimately blame the U.S. and NATO’s eastward expansion for the conflict. “As we all know, 20 days before the invasion, Xi and Putin were in talks and at the end of those talks, they declared that their friendship had no limits,” Cross said. “So now those limits are very much being tested.”

While China’s government has expressed “concern” over the conflict in Ukraine, it has refused to call it an invasion or condemn Russia, largely pushing Moscow’s narrative of the war on its state news outlets. “If China does help Russia, China is looking at similar types of sanctions. Not necessarily immediate, but a ratcheting up of these types of sanctions, and Russia, for its part, would then benefit from this China buffer, it would buy some time and some resources,” Cross said. “So it’s a critical point right now for Russia and China.”

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