03/26/2022, 13.16
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Ukraine crisis: Beijing halts energy deal with Moscow

Sinopec stops a US$ 500 million project with a Russian petrochemical company. China fears secondary sanctions from the US and its allies if it helps the Kremlin. Nothing indicates that Beijing is backing Putin in his Ukrainian campaign.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – China’s state giant Sinopec has put on hold negotiations for an important investment in Russia’s petrochemical industry and a gas marketing venture in its northern neighbour.

The move by Asia's largest refining company to halt a US$ 500 million project appears to be motivated by China’s fears of possible retaliation by the United States and its allies against countries that help Russia mitigate the impact of the sanctions imposed following its invasion of Ukraine.

Beijing has not openly condemned Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and has repeatedly said that sanctions are not useful in resolving the crisis.

Chinese state media have continued to relay Russian propaganda, which refers to the attack as a “special military operation” to “denazify” Ukraine.

On a practical level however, the Chinese are moving with caution. Last week in a virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, US President Joe Biden said that there would be consequences for China if it tries to rescue the Kremlin with economic and military aid.

According to US authorities, nothing suggests that Beijing is helping Moscow in its Ukrainian campaign. For example, the Chinese central bank has not taken steps to shore up the ruble, which is in free fall after the launch of Western punitive measures.

The China-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has also suspended lending to Russian entities.

Sinopec's decision to stop teaming up with Sibur, Russia’s main petrochemical producer, is a clear signal that Beijing is in a pause phase with respect to the conflict in Ukraine, whose outcome has yet to be determined.

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