Many countries have slapped Moscow with sets of sanctions since February, including freezing about $300 billion of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves. The Chinese government was “concerned” by Western sanctions but taken “completely by surprise” by the “unity” of Western countries, Professor Steve Tsang said.
Professor Tsang, who heads SOAS, the Chinese Institute at the University of London, told Express.co.uk: “The use of economic sanctions, in particular the freedom of the Russians’ foreign exchange reserve – which really caused huge concern in Beijing.”
But the danger that such a fate could somehow head towards Beijing makes Chinese lawmakers “really uneasy”.
Professor Tsang posed the question: “Who happens to have the largest foreign exchange reserves in the world, most of which is in US Treasury bonds?
“You can see how the Chinese government could be really uncomfortable that something like this could be done to them.”
But neither the war in Ukraine nor the sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion have changed Beijing’s dynamic with the EU, the UK or the US, Professor Tsang added.
That’s because there was “never really” any “love, on the Chinese side, anyway,” to lose through sanctions, he explained.
He added: “There is still no love.”
According to Professor Tsang, what Western sanctions have done is change the way the Chinese government views Western unity and the impact of such decisive collective action.
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All three carriers are being barred from selling valuable landing slots at UK airports, which are no longer in use after previous bans on Russian flights landing on UK soil.
Estimates put their value at around £50million and are part of the UK’s bid to cripple Vladimir Putin’s ability to wage war in Ukraine, alongside similar moves by other countries like the US .
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “As long as Putin continues his barbaric assault on Ukraine, we will continue to target the Russian economy.”
She added that although the UK has ‘already closed our airspace to Russian airlines’, this would ensure ‘they cannot cash in on their lucrative landing slots at our airports’.
But as the economic screws tighten on Putin, Russia’s key ally China will worry about the fate of its renewed and “limitless” ties with the Kremlin.
Xi declared his solidarity with Vladimir Putin shortly before the start of the invasion of Ukraine, but as the war effort continues, the Chinese government has been careful not to condemn Russia or become the target of Western economic sanctions.
Professor Tsang added: “The Chinese miscalculated when Xi Jinping gave unlimited friendship support, unlimited friendship support when Putin went to China at the start of the Olympics.”
He added: “Now it clearly turned out to be a miscalculation when Putin made a mess of it.”