Putin launched its ‘special military operation’ against Ukraine on February 24, with the Russian president claiming his goal was to “demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine”. Since then, Moscow has claimed it had “generally accomplished” the aims of the invasion’s first phase.
However, Russia has failed to take control of Kyiv, and has lost previously held towns to Ukrainian forces in the weeks since the ‘operation’ began.
Now, experts have said the prolonged conflict between Russia and the West-backed Ukraine is a warning to China about a potential conflict.
Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Yuan Wang military science and technology think tank in Beijing, said: “It’s very difficult for Russia to totally defeat the thousands-strong Ukrainian military, especially when Ukraine is helped by lots of weapons from Western countries, which is the key reason why Kyiv has not been defeated easily.”
“The biggest lesson for Beijing is, we shall never [decide to] wage war lightly.”
An international relations specialist from China’s top-ranked Peking University, speaking to the South China Morning Post, echoed Mr Chenming’s comments.
The expert added: “Russia’s economy and technology are not advanced, and its strategic calculation was wrong.
“Moscow believed they had an overwhelming advantage over Ukraine and could score a victory in a short time before the West intervened.
“However, the hi-tech weapons and intelligence support offset Russia’s advantage substantially.”
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It comes after CIA Director William Burns said earlier in April the Chinese President is “a silent partner” in Putin’s “aggression” in Ukraine.
Mr Burns, speaking at the Georgia Institute of Technology in his first public speech as CIA director, said: “It’s a more complicated and contested world, featuring the rise of an increasingly adversarial China and a pugnacious and revisionist Russia.”
He pointed to the “immediate threat posed by renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine,” and to the “longer-term problem posed by China’s ambitious leadership,” calling it “the single most important geopolitical challenge” of the 21st century.
Mr Burns added: “A silent partner in Putin’s aggression, Xi Jinping’s China is our greatest challenge, in many ways the most profound test the CIA has ever faced.”
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Beijing has so far refused to condemn Moscow for its military aggression and reaffirmed its commitment to a solid bilateral relationship.
At an EU-China summit earlier in April, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stressed the events in Ukraine “is not only a defining moment for our continent, but it is also a defining moment for our relationship with the rest of the world”.
She added as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China “has a very special responsibility” and that any support to Russia’s ability to wage war “would lead to a major reputational damage for China here in Europe.”
Mareike Ohlberg, a senior fellow in the Asia programme at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told Euronews China “siding with Russia and blaming NATO is absolutely unacceptable for most of Central and Eastern Europe”.
She added: “The Chinese government doesn’t seem to understand, or doesn’t want to understand, that Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is seen as an existential issue for most countries in the region.”
Ms Ohlberg then said “there’s a small chance that China can limit the damage at least superficially by promising investment or access to China, but I think most of the relationships with countries in the region will continue to deteriorate”.
She continued: “Short of decisively changing its position on the war in Ukraine, there is little that China can do to make up for the loss of trust in the long run.”