Sanctions, drones, and bombings in Moldova: A China-Russia update

Foreign Affairs

Both state-owned and private Chinese companies are generally complying with Western sanctions on Russia. Meanwhile, China’s embassy in Moldova appears unfazed by a series of bombings in the former Soviet state, which has its own problems with Moscow.

Illustration by Derek Zheng

On Wednesday, Chinese drone maker DJI suspended its Russian operations, dealing another blow to Moscow. Shenzhen-based DJI, which is the biggest consumer drone company in the world, deftly avoided taking sides by also ceasing operations in Ukraine.

And although Beijing continues to amplify Moscow’s disinformation and blame NATO for the conflict, China is, so far at least, largely complying with the substance of Kremlin-targeted sanctions.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Friday that it was “worth considering” lowering tariffs on Chinese goods. While Yellen’s comments were likely motivated by several factors, China’s overall compliance with the sanctions regime may be viewed favorably by Washington.

Still, some are skeptical that U.S.-China trade tensions will be reduced in the near term. In SupChina’s interview with Anna Ashton of the Asia Society Policy Institute, the trade expert said she is not aware of any substantial trade policies that the Biden administration will issue in the near term.

Beijing is not bugged by bombs in Moldova

A series of explosions rocked Moldova this week, sparking fears that Russia could expand the war beyond Ukraine. Moldova, a landlocked country bordering Ukraine and Romania, has a fraught relationship with Transnistria, a pro-Russian breakaway province. Transnistria currently hosts about 1,500 Russian soldiers, and a mid-ranking Russian general threatened last week to “improve Russian access” to the breakaway region.

The general was likely bluffing and Moscow probably has no intent to move on Moldova. Most experts are highly skeptical that Russian forces have the capability to establish a land corridor to Transnistria when they are already hard-pressed to hold Kherson, a city about 300 kilometers east of the Moldovan border.

The Chinese embassy in Moldova appears unworried, at least outwardly. The embassy in Chisinau hasn’t issued any public alerts on its consular affairs page since March 29, while Chinese Ambassador to Moldova Yàn Wénbīn 闫文滨 met on April 27 with a Moldovan songwriter.

Kazakhstan’s CPC pipeline exports fully resume

The Caspian Pipeline Consortium, or CPC, said on April 25 that it had fully restored capacity at Russia’s Novorossiysk terminal along the Black Sea. Moscow shut down westbound CPC volumes last month on what appeared to be a very flimsy pretext, in a move that was seen by critics as an intentional constriction of supply to spike oil prices.

One result of the price spike: Central Asian countries and China may expand their natural gas and crude oil pipeline connectivity in the years ahead.

China and Europe tensions over Ukraine

Further west, in last week’s Sinica Podcast, Marina Rudyak, an assistant professor at the Institute of Chinese Studies at Heidelberg University, discussed tensions between China and Europe arising from the war in Ukraine.

According to Rudyak, “I think the biggest part China probably got wrong is to believe that for Europe, economics and trade will go above everything forever…This is something the Chinese believe that Europe will swallow certain things to keep the trade relations going.”