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Clara Ferreira Marques

China’s Ukrainian Juggling Act Isn’t Over

Xi Jinping may be forced to recalibrate his support for Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But that moment hasn’t yet come.

This bromance isn’t over.

This bromance isn’t over.

Photographer: Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

As Russia’s devastation of Ukraine drags on —  forcing roughly a quarter of the country’s population from their homes and fueling calls for even tougher sanctions — is China’s support for President Vladimir Putin wavering? The West should be wary of hearing the answer it wants to hear.

China’s already-impossible juggling act is becoming harder as Russia razes the very Ukrainian cities it supposedly set out to defend. The war was no doubt sold to Zhongnanhai by the Kremlin as a quick regime-change operation, but the current bloody stalemate has left Beijing pinballing uncomfortably from its alignment with Moscow against U.S. foreign policy to its continued defense of territorial integrity, sovereignty and non-interference and its economic interests with the U.S. and Europe. China may be a key export market for Russia, but Russia makes up a mere 2% of China’s shipments.