Chinese President Xi Jinping has been dragged into the harsh spotlight after reports suggested Russia had asked Beijing for weapons to support their offensive in Ukraine.
President Xi has played a game of keeping China at arm’s length from the conflict in a bid to maintain his relationship with Vladimir Putin without antagonising Western countries.
During a meeting in Beijing Putin and Xi announced a “no limits” partnership; a statement made all the more ominous by the subsequent invasion of Ukraine.
But only last week, Xi played coy once more saying he was “pained to see the flames of war reignited in Europe“ and calling for “maximum restraint”, in an apparent deviation from his support of Russia against the West.
The request for weapons means Beijing may have to finally face up to a confrontation with the US. If Xi refuses, he risks losing the support of Moscow. But if he agrees then Ukraine turns into a fully-fledged proxy war with Nato and potential economic sanctions.