China bars Russian planes, may spoil diplomatic ties

China has barred Russia’s airlines from flying foreign-owned jetliners into its airspace, a move that can spoil relations between the two countries. China has repeatedly shown its reluctance to provide more support to Moscow amid the war with Ukraine, in order to protect its own interests in trade, economic and other areas. With Beijing’s latest move, Russia appears to have lost confidence in China now.


The latest report in the Washington Post is an evidence of  a growing frustration among Russian officials towards China. The report stated that Russian officials are becoming “increasingly frustrated” with China’s apparent refusal to provide more support to Moscow amid the war with Ukraine. The daily quoted a Chinese official describing Beijing’s discussions with Russia as “tense”.  The development is significant in the wake of the fact that China and Russia had proclaimed that their bilateral ties had “no limits” before Kremlin announced its military operation in Ukraine in February.

Experts say that China chose to distance itself from Russia’s war and avoid steps that might invite penalties for its companies. European Union had imposed the ban on the sale or lease of aircrafts to Russian carriers in February, as part of punishment for invading Ukraine.  US based Boeing and  European multinational aerospace  Airbus had stopped the sale of parts and services to Russian aviation companies which needed genuine parts supplies for its Western-made commercial planes. European leasing firms sought to repossess jets leased by Russian carriers by revoking their airworthiness certifications. In an unprecedented move, Vladimir Putin allowed Russian aviation companies to steal those leased aircraft and re-register them in Russia, violating decades-old international standards and causing European companies to lose an estimated 10 billion US dollars in airplanes. Fearing that Putin’s move can create troubles for it, China quickly announced that it won’t allow keep itself away from that theft. The Chinese Civil Aviation Authority recently announced that those stolen planes are no longer allowed in its airspace, closing off even more of the globe to most Russian air traffic.

Russian news outlet RBK reported China’s air regulator asked all foreign carriers last month to update ownership information and other details, RBK said, citing two unidentified sources. It said Russian airlines that couldn’t provide documents showing their aircraft were “de-registered abroad” were barred from Chinese airspace. In fact, China has tried to distance itself from Putin’s war in one way or the other. On one hand, Beijing has criticized Western sanctions and on the other hand it has avoided steps that might be seen as helping Moscow for fear of possible penalties against Chinese companies.

After Russian invasion of Ukraine, China had refused to supply parts to Russia and now barred Russian aircrafts from using Chinese airspace. This can be a sign of crack in support for Putin in Beijing. China had earlier stated that the invasion was ‘deeply worrying’ and that it would take a lead in negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. China has strategically avoided taking a side due to diplomatic ties with Russia and has not condemned the invasion. On the contrary, it has blamed the NATO and the US for pushing Russia to `breaking point’. China’s seesaw continues over Putin’s invasion of Ukrain. It is deeply concerned about the impact of sanctions against Russia on its economy and its economic interests all over the world.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijan had stated that China’s position on the war is ‘consistent and clear cut’. He had also stated that the US needs to take China’s concerns about sanctions seriously, warning they ‘will never bring peace and security’. He had also stated that West should avoid undermining China’s rights or interests by imposing severe financial penalties on Russia.

China shares nearly 150billion US dollars in trade with Russia and anti-Kremlin sanctions could be damaging for its own economy.

Meanwhile, Washington Post report quoted a top US diplomat who said that Washington had not seen any “systematic effort” by China to help Russia nor any significant military support from Beijing to Moscow.

Russian diplomats had long been claiming that the relationship between China and Russia was better than an alliance and has withstood the pressure triggered by the ongoing Ukraine war. Russia’s ambassador to China AndreyDenisov and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier said that the Ukraine crisis has pushed Moscow and Beijing closer together. After China barred Russian airlines from flying foreign owned jetliners into its airspace, Russian diplomats are likely to revise their views on China and its actions.

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