Russia’s military occupation and impending annexation of the Crimea in Ukraine has put Beijing in a difficult spot, confronting Chinese leaders with numerous competing priorities and principles. Having cultivated good relations with both Russia and Ukraine, they would prefer to avoid antagonizing one party by siding too closely with the other. Yet, China’s recent approach shows how Beijing is now more willing to dilute longstanding foreign policy principles to align with Moscow.
Throughout the months of unrest in Ukraine, Chinese media commentary has generally echoed Russia’s line that Western machinations were contributing to the instability in Kiev, which finally led to the change of regime that triggered Russia’s military intervention in the Crimean Peninsula. Beijing can hardly have welcomed the specter of another mass movement overthrowing a government. In addition to recalling earlier “color revolutions” in which pro-Western factions toppled longstanding pro-Moscow rulers in some of the former Soviet republics, Chinese analysts have warned that these same forces were seeking to overturn China’s communist system.