The presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics in early February was viewed as a major show of Russia-China convergence on geopolitics.
This convergence has come into focus amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. China has refused to support sanctions against Russia and abstained on UN resolutions criticising Russia.
On Wednesday, Western media outlets reported US intelligence had learned Chinese officials had requested their Russian counterparts to wait to initiate action in Ukraine until the end of the Winter Olympics. The event concluded on February 20 and Russia initiated action four days later.
“Although the request was made around the time that Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Beijing for the opening ceremony of the Olympics—where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping—it is not clear from the [intelligence] report whether Putin addressed the matter with Xi directly,” CNN reported.
The New York Times reported information on the exchange on Ukraine between Chinese and Russian officials “was collected by a Western intelligence service and considered credible by officials. Senior officials in the United States and allied governments passed it around as they discussed when Mr. Putin might attack Ukraine”.
Not surprisingly, the Chinese government denied the reports. Liu Pengyu, the Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington, was quoted by The New York Times as saying “These claims are speculation without any basis, and are intended to blame-shift and smear China.”
In August 2008, Russia invaded Georgia when Beijing was hosting the Summer Olympics. The move, reportedly, upset Chinese officials.
Republican Representative Mike Gallagher told The New York Times “Beijing’s support of Moscow was clear.” Gallagher, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said “The Chinese support all of Putin’s narrative to blame the West for provoking Russia. I see no change in the Chinese views on Russia. They remain in a de facto alliance against the West at this point.”