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China provides geospatial intel and other military support to Russia, US says

China has reportedly stepped up its support for Moscow in the Russia-Ukraine war, including providing geospatial intelligence, microelectronics, and other military components, raising concerns from the US.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese leader Xi Jinping (R) pose for a photograph during their meeting in Beijing in February 2022. Image: Sputnik
China provides geospatial intel and other military support to Russia, US says

The US has warned its European allies that China has escalated its support for Russia in the ongoing Ukraine war, providing geospatial intelligence, microelectronics, and other key military components to aid Moscow’s war efforts, further straining relations between Washington and Beijing, Bloomberg reports.

Beijing’s self-portrayal as neutral in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine contrasts with its deep alliance with Moscow, termed by Russia’s Putin as a “no limits” friendship before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Also, China has been criticized for refusing to condemn Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

The US has warned its European allies that China has significantly increased its military support for Russia in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war. Amid signs of ongoing military integration between China and Russia, Bloomberg sources reveal that China has supplied Russia with satellite imagery for military use, as well as microelectronics and machine tools for tanks. Additionally, China’s support extends to optics, propellants for missiles, and enhanced space cooperation, according to one source.

In July 2023, Russian customs returns revealed a significant increase in imports of “computer numerical control” (CNC) machine tools from China, amounting to $68 million, up from $6.5 million in February 2022. Financial Times reported that since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Chinese shipments of advanced CNC tools to Russia have increased tenfold. With the European Union tightening import restrictions, China has become the main supplier of these crucial tools for metal milling with extreme precision. Consequently, Chinese-origin CNC devices constituted 57% of Russia’s imports by value in July, a stark rise from 12% before the war.

Biden and Blinken are concerned

During their call this week, US President Joe Biden expressed concerns to Xi Jinping about China’s support for the Russian defense industrial base, including the provision of machine tools, optics, nitrocellulose, microelectronics, and turbojet engines, according to Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken briefed European allies on the scope and significance of China’s support this week, urging them to take action against Chinese entities and companies enabling these transfers, as per Bloomberg.

The US and its allies are concerned about the growing China-Russia alliance, with trade hitting a record $240 billion in 2023, Bloomberg says. China and Hong Kong are key routes for Moscow to access restricted weapons technologies. While there’s no evidence of China supplying weapons to Russia, the US is intensifying efforts to curb China’s support for Russia’s defense industry and the conflict in Ukraine.

Chinese FM assures Ukraine that Beijing does not sell lethal weapons to Russia

US Treasury warns China

During meetings in China’s Guangzhou on 5 and 6 April, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned China of “significant consequences” if its companies support Russia’s war in Ukraine, emphasizing that firms must not provide material support for the conflict, according to Financial Times. This warning follows Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s concerns about Beijing assisting Moscow with “tools, inputs, and technical expertise” at a concerning scale.

US delivers warning to China over support for Russia’s war against Ukraine

Yellen “emphasized that companies, including those in the PRC [People’s Republic of China], must not provide material support for Russia’s war against Ukraine, including support to the Russian defense industrial base, and the significant consequences if they do so,” AFP reported.

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