How Ukraine is Changing its Policy towards China

Interview with NGRN’s expert Yurii Poita, originally appeared on the Japanese newspaper The Sankei Shimbun.

History of strategic partnership between Ukraine and China

A series of agreements signed in 2011 and 2013 form a strategic partnership between Ukraine and China. Trade ties have grown rapidly, with China becoming the largest trading partner in 2019. In 2021, China accounted for 15% of Ukraine’s imports and exports.

Militarily, China has gained important technology from Ukraine in the areas of missile manufacturing and naval and air forces. China’s first aircraft carrier (Liaoning’s hull) was once sold to Ukraine, and the aircraft engine was also sold to Ukraine.

Since Ukraine is an economy that exports raw materials, they expected China to become a source of investment. But that didn’t happen, with China making up less than 1% of all investment.

In other words, China bought cheap raw materials and military technology from Ukraine and provided usury loans through corrupt channels. There was no qualitative development of bilateral relations.

Emergence of risks from China

In the midst of this (since around 2017), a problem arose in which a company affiliated with the Chinese intelligence service attempted to acquire the Ukrainian engine company “Motor Sich” through an unofficial route. If the takeover had not been blocked, it would have posed enormous risks to Ukraine’s missile manufacturing and aviation industries.

China has become not only an (economic) opportunity, but also a security risk or threat.

Around 2021, strategic competition between the United States and China intensified. China has become a “challenge” for the United States. The European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have come to regard China as such.

By this time, even in Ukrainian politics, China had come to be seen as an important partner, not a friend, somewhere in between. There are limits to partnerships with China. Good to trade with, but restricted China’s access to sensitive technology. It can be said that it is similar to the EU’s approach to China.

I have advocated for the government to review its relationship with China to some extent. The government is already discussing with experts, parliament and the media what its new relationship with China should look like. This process continues.

China’s position on the Russian war in Ukraine

China’s stance on Russia’s war of aggression, which should be called “pro-Russian neutrality,” is not very good for Ukraine. However, at present, China has not provided large-scale assistance to Russia, such as supplying weapons. It is the Ukrainian government’s desire to keep China from going in a worse direction.

Ukrainian arms companies cannot afford to export to China now, and doing so would irrevocably damage their relationship with the United States and NATO. I don’t think there is any military-technical cooperation between Ukraine and China at this point, and I don’t think there will be any in the future.

China’s foreign ministry released a 12-point document on February 24 stating its position on the war of aggression and calling for a ceasefire. However, this does not help solve the problem.

The document does not make a clear distinction between the alleged aggressor and the alleged aggressor. This does not hold the Russian leadership accountable for violations of international law and war crimes. According to the peace section of the document, Russia could consolidate its control over the occupied territories, rebuild its armaments, and invade again.

Ukraine seeks “just peace”, not “peace on Russian terms”. The latter effectively means the surrender of Ukraine. The Zelenskyi government will try to implement a 10-point peace proposal (announced last November).

Ukraine is building the strongest military in Europe and is trying to become the cornerstone of European security. However, this requires economic strength, and the current economy based on the export of raw materials will not work. I believe that cooperation with Japan is important because we must improve our technological capabilities and enter the world economy.

Yurii Poita

Head of the Asian Section

He has been working as a Head of the Asia-Pacific Section at the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies (Kyiv, Ukraine). Yurii also is a sinologist and member of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine.

He studied at the Institute of International Relations of the Kyiv International University, the Wuhan Research Institute of Postal and Telecommunications (China), Zhytomyr Military Institute (Ukraine). At the moment Yurii is a PhD candidate at the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University.

He has experience in defense, international journalism, analytics and research.

Research interests: China’s influence in the post-Soviet space, “hybrid” threats to national security, Ukrainian-Chinese relations, the development of the situation in the Asia-Pacific and the Central Asian region.

He took part in a number of expert and scientific discussions in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Israel, China and other countries. He has participated in research projects on the consequences of educational migration to China, interethnic conflicts and the protest potential of Kazakhstan, creation of a new Asian strategy of the MFA of Ukraine, study of Ukraine’s relations with the countries of Central and East Asia.

Speaks Ukrainian, Russian, English and Chinese.

Contact Us
April 2023
Translate »