Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, February 2022
Evgenia Novozhenina / Reuters

The Ukraine crisis is primarily a standoff between Russia and the West, but off to the side, another player stands awkwardly: China. Beijing has tried to walk a fine line on Ukraine. On one hand, it has taken Russia’s side, blaming NATO expansion for causing the crisis and alleging that U.S. predictions of an imminent invasion are aggravating it. On the other hand, especially as the risk of military conflict has grown, it has called for diplomacy over war.

If Beijing had its way, it would maintain strong ties with Moscow, safeguard its trade relationship with Ukraine, keep

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