Thursday, July 4, 2024

kraine and China: Why is there silence about the mutual assistance agreement between the two countries?

Berliner Zeitung Ukraine and China: Why is there silence about the mutual assistance agreement between the two countries? Frank Sieren • 2 hours • 4 minutes reading time It is no secret and yet it is deliberately ignored: the "PRC-Ukraine Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation" (PRC: People's Republic of China). With it, more than ten years ago, the People's Republic of China committed itself to assisting Ukraine in the event of an attack on its sovereignty. The document was signed on December 5, 2013 by Xi Jinping and the then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. But nobody is talking about it today. Not Beijing. Not Kiev. The rivals in Washington are not putting their finger on the sore spot either. And when Washington is silent, Brussels is silent too. Yanukovych fled to Russia via Crimea a few weeks later, in February 2014, because of the unrest in Kiev. Immediately afterwards, he was deposed by the Ukrainian parliament, although such a possibility was not provided for in the Ukrainian constitution. The agreement with China remains in force until 2038. It was signed for 25 years and forces Beijing to support Ukraine without any ifs or buts. "The Chinese side supports the efforts of Ukrainian policy to protect the unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine and related issues," the text says. At the time, Beijing was obviously more concerned with protecting Yanukovych from the West than from Putin. A few days before the signing of the Sino-Ukrainian agreement, on November 21, 2013, the government in Kiev had stopped the conclusion of the association agreement with the EU. This was done in the interests of Vladimir Putin, who had put pressure on Ukraine with sanctions. On the other hand, Beijing had no interest in Ukraine coming under too close Russian influence. Kiev supplied military equipment that China did not get from Putin, such as an old aircraft carrier and the largest military hovercraft in the world. The aircraft carrier has been in service for the Chinese Navy since 2012 under the name Liaoning, and the first LCAC hovercraft of the Zubr class, weighing over 550 tons, have been in service since May 2013. Yanukovych and Xi signed an agreement on bilateral cooperation in 2013. Kiev was also supposed to supply more grain to reduce China's dependence on the USA. In 2013, the USA covered over 90 percent of China's grain imports - a value of 1.25 billion US dollars. In 2021, the year before the Russian attack, Ukraine supplied around a third of its corn to China, slightly more than to the EU and with a total value of almost two billion dollars. At the same time, the treaty between Kiev and Beijing served to cement the Taiwan question in Beijing's interests: "Ukraine supports the policy of the People's Republic of China on issues of unification and territorial integrity." Ukraine recognized "that there is only one China in the world and that the People's Republic of China is the only legitimate government representing China; Taiwan is an inseparable part of China." In return, China agreed to protect the sovereignty of the Ukrainians. A security guarantee from President Xi personally, signed a year before Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should actually remind Xi of his commitment every day. But Zelensky sees Beijing more as a mediator with great influence on Putin than as a protective power. Zelensky also wants to bind himself more closely to Europe and NATO. For him, the recently started accession talks with the EU are an important step. China's security guarantee does not fit into the concept. However, Kiev does not want to terminate the treaty with China either. That, in turn, would snub Beijing, and Zelensky needs Xi as a mediator. China is the only large country that is recognized as a mediator by both Kiev and Moscow. Beijing, with the BRICS states behind it, will probably play a central role in peace negotiations. At least the Americans could put pressure on Beijing with the treaty. However, the document does not fit into their power tactics concept either. The narrative of the two powerful, authoritarian states, Russia and China, conspire against the free West is the stronger, more convincing story. The reference to the treaty is more of a nuisance. It is difficult enough to maintain the narrative as it is not only China that supports Russia, but also democracies such as India and Brazil and the BRICS+ members as a whole. The narrative still works in the West. But it no longer works in the Global South. Brussels is also guided by this narrative. So is Berlin. Does Berlin even know about the treaty, which is still on the official Ukrainian list of treaties with China?