Ukraine had sold crucial military equipment and technology to China.
China had the most significant agreement with Ukraine to buy two-thirds of the Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag in the Black Sea.
According to the South China Morning Post, the deal was worth $25 million for the aircraft carrier Varyag in 1998. The Hong Kong-based businessman Xu Zengping negotiated the sale.
He said that the Chinese navy sent him to Ukraine to do so. He came to Ukraine with a cover story that he would turn the vessel into a floating casino in Macau. He finally managed to tow the hulk back to China.
The warship was eventually completed in China. It was renamed the Liaoning in 2012 and became the centerpiece of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.
According to Konstantin Khivrenko, who served in the Ukrainian defense ministry from 1993 to 2004 and is now a reserve colonel, said, “China is no longer interested in buying goods” (…) “Beijing wants technologies, and Ukraine didn’t only understand this, but also successfully cooperated in this direction.”
Ukraine also helped advance China’s military modernization by benefiting from other agreements in the decades that followed. Including the sale to China of the T-10K prototype of the Su-33 fighter jet, the UGT 25000 naval gas turbine engine technology, and the Zubr-class seaplane.
Thanks to the technology, China developed the J-15 aircraft carrier-based fighter and QC 280 gas turbines that power the navy’s most advanced stealth-guided missile destroyers, Type 055.
Ukrainian experts also help Chinese shipbuilders develop their own Zubr air-cushioned landing craft.
But when Russia invaded Ukraine, China didn’t condemn Russia’s invasion. Further, China protects Russia in international relations.
The Chinese government stated on April 14, that it would deny “any pressure or coercion” on relations between Beijing and Moscow.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, defending China’s position on the war, “We oppose unfounded accusations and suspicions against China, nor will we accept any pressure or coercion.”
According to AP, Zhao’s statement came after U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen suggested that Beijing should use its “special relationship with Russia” to persuade Moscow to end the war in Ukraine.
Earlier, the United National General Assembly voted on April 7 to suspend Russia’s membership in the Human Rights Council.
Among its 193 members, 93 voted in favor, while 58 countries abstained. China and three other communist countries voted against it.
The movement came not long after Russia was accused of committing war crimes and massacres of civilians in Ukraine.
In addition, China still trades with Russia.
Refinitiv data illustrated that China’s seaborne crude imports from Russia increased by 16% in April compared to March, to around 860,000 BPD. It was the highest level since December, before the Ukraine war.
According to calculations from customs data by the South China Morning Post, Chinese spending on Russian oil in April climbed to a new high of 8.89 billion dollars. It was a 56.5% year-on-year increase and a 13.3% rise from March.
In addition, Russian gas producer Gazprom said Russia’s gas exported to China increased by almost 60% in the first 4 months. It was sent to China via the Power of Siberia gas pipeline.
According to the South China Morning Post, gas supplies from Russia to China via the Far East could reach 48 billion cubic meters per year.
Gazprom is also planning a new pipeline, the Soyuz Vostok. That new pipeline will travel from Russia to China via Mongolia. This would allow China to get an additional 50 billion cubic meters of gas per year.
The international community is still putting pressure on China
As CNN reported, the G7 foreign ministers held a meeting in Germany on May 14. The group called 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.” (Show the article while narrator read this quote)
The G7 also urged China not to justify Russian action in Ukraine. In addition, they asked Beijing to stop engaging in information manipulation, disinformation, and other means of legitimizing Russia’s war.
Earlier, at the plenary session of the European Parliament on April 5, China received criticism for its silence on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Bloomberg cited Josep Borrell, the Vice-President of the European Commission, saying that China wanted to set aside their differences on Ukraine. He described the dialogue with China like a dialogue of the deaf. He said that China didn’t want to talk about Ukraine. China didn’t want to talk about human rights and other issues.
China is not picking sides, it is protecting its own interests
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in mid-March that China does not want to be affected by economic sanctions implemented by the West. He added that China has the right to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests.
Then, Israeli-American cybersecurity company Check Point discovered that Chinese state-owned hackers extracted defense information from Russia. The Chinese hackers allegedly attacked some of Russia’s military research and development institutes on March 28. They sent emails with malware traps to Russian scientists and engineers.
According to the Check Point assessment, the Chinese espionage effort began in July 2021, before Russia invaded Ukraine. The emails in March showed that Chinese hackers immediately exploited narratives about the Ukraine conflict for their gain.
The emails were disguised as coming from Russia’s Ministry of Health. They carried click-bait subject lines such as information about a “list of persons under U.S. sanctions for invading Ukraine.” or “U.S. Spread of Deadly Pathogens in Belarus.”
The Chinese effort was aimed at Russian research facilities that work on airborne satellite communications, radar, and electronic warfare. Rostec Corporation, a Russian military conglomerate owns the institutes. The Corporation is one of Russia’s most influential defense companies.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin founded the corporation in 2007. It now possesses hundreds of research and manufacturing facilities for high-end defense technologies, electronic warfare equipment, and aircraft engines.
According to the New York Times, Itay Cohen is the head of cyber research at Check Point. He called it a very sophisticated attack. It is more typically dedicated to state-sponsored intelligence services.
The hackers employed tactics and codes akin to those used in earlier operations linked to Chinese state-sponsored hacking groups.
Check Point’s report observes that the campaign might serve as more evidence of the employment of espionage in a systematic way. It is a long-term attempt to attain Chinese strategic objectives in technological superiority and military might.
Check Point refers to the hacking group Twisted Panda to reflect about the sophistication of the tools observed and the attribution to China.
Meanwhile, Chinese tech companies quietly leave Russia under U.S. sanctions and supplier pressure.
According to the Wall Street Journal, those firms include PC giant Lenovo Group Ltd. and smartphone Xiaomi Corp.
The drone giant DJI Technology Co. announced the suspension of its business last month in both Russia and Ukraine.
The maker of personal computers, Lenovo, also halted shipments to Russia.