China does not want to be sanctioned by the West for giving military aid to Russia and is trying to find a way to push — but not break — existing limits, said Director of the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) Indrek Kannik on Monday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping confirmed their continuing friendship in Moscow on Monday.
Kannik said the relationship is beneficial for both sides as they are in need of allies.
"In the current situation, Russia desperately needs allies and China needs an ally to help change the world order. China does not want the U.S. to be the number one power in the world and for the West to be stronger than itself. And in this situation, Russia is well suited as an ally for China," he said.
The expert said the main topic of the meeting was how much China is willing to support Russia, not China's peace plan for the full-scale invasion of Ukraine as publicized.
He said opinions differ on how far China is prepared to help Russia. Kannik said China is holding back on publically supporting Russia as it wants to avoid western sanctions. Washington has already issued warnings Beijing.
"China is a country that very much depends on exports. If China loses the U.S. and European markets, it will surely create domestic political and social instability immediately," Kannik said.
"But I think China is looking for a line that would go under the so-called 'sanctions ceiling' so that there will be no sanctions," he said.
China is giving Russia multipurpose items that can also be used in the war such as drones and microchips.
"They are certainly ready to give [Russia] all these things because China certainly does not want Russia to lose this war unequivocally and visibly," the director added.
Russia does not have much to offer China in return for its support, Kannik said. It can provide cheaper oil and backing at the U.N. Security Council.
China is also careful not to become dependent on Russian energy exports.
Kannik said the West is wary about introducing sanctions on China as they would also severely impact western countries. He thinks the West can also skirt the limits.
The West's tolerance threshold will likely change if heavy weaponry or tanks are given to Russia by China, he said.
Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright