China may yet be able to hold back the European Union from taking a much harder line against Beijing.
China and the European Union are each other’s biggest trading partners, and Beijing could lean on countries that depend heavily on Chinese consumers, particularly Europe’s largest economy, Germany. It could lobby countries like Hungary and Greece, which have previously stymied proposed E.U. statements critical of Beijing.
Russia-Ukraine War: Key Developments
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A blow to Russian forces. The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet suffered catastrophic damage that forced the crew to abandon it. Russia said that a fire had caused the damage, though Ukraine claimed to have struck the vessel with missiles. The ship subsequently sank while being towed to port.
A boost to NATO. Finland and Sweden are considering applying for membership in the alliance. Dmitri A. Medvedev, Russia’s former president and prime minister, said Moscow would be forced to “seriously strengthen” its defenses in the Baltics if the two countries were to join.
Mr. Wang, the academic, said that the sanctions on Russia will also hurt European countries. That is likely to discourage measures that could antagonize China with its enormous market, because that would risk further economic damage and political turbulence across Europe.
“The most important thing is not how China balances things out with them. What’s most important is that when their own sanctions hurt themselves, they will fracture internally,” he said. “Europe will slowly come to understand China’s stance.”
So far, though, Chinese diplomacy is not winning friends in Europe.
Since the invasion, Chinese diplomats have told European counterparts that Europe is acting as a puppet of the Biden administration by lining up so firmly against Russia, said four European officials with knowledge of the discussions. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private talks.
Official Chinese media have echoed the criticism.
“The United States has forced Europe into dangerous straits,” said a commentary last month about Europe’s response to the war in Ukraine from China’s main official news agency, Xinhua.
“Europe needs to watch out against being stabbed in the back again by America,” said another commentary issued by China’s main television broadcaster, CCTV.