China Tech Assistance for Russia’s Ukraine War, Intel Reports

Despite refutations by the Chinese government, a U.S. intelligence report recently alleged China is helping the Russian military by providing valuable technology for its war in Ukraine. The review comes from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Records show that China is sending “navigation equipment, jamming technology, and fighter jet parts” to Russian defense companies, according to Reuters. On top of this, an article from CNN found that “semiconductor exports from China to Russia have jumped considerably since 2021” even though much of this tech is U.S.-made. This would mean that China could be helping Russia circumvent harsh sanctions from the West. However, the report makes it clear this latter point cannot be confirmed without a doubt because it is “difficult to ascertain” the level of help Russia is truly receiving in evading the West’s export controls. 

In the same Reuters article, a quote is shared from the French President’s chief diplomatic advisor claiming “China was delivering items that could be used as military equipment to Russia” albeit not on a “massive scale.” This statement corroborates the findings in the ODNI report. On the other hand, a spokesperson from the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC recently claimed China “actively promotes talks for peace” and clearly stated that “China does not sell weapons to parties involved in the Ukraine crisis.” This claim found in an NBC News article was intended to refute the detailed findings of the report.

When there are distinct parties claiming two different statements of fact, one must look at credibility. The ODNI report was published by the “U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence” with detailed evidence that China was selling some sort of technology to Russia. This clearly separates truth from falsehood, with the latter (in this case) being China’s largely unsupported claims that they are not helping Russia in any way against peace. However, it is highly likely that this technology will be used for violent means, to build weapons for use against Ukranians. Also, if countries are able to find other solutions to achieve their goals without being hurt by Western sanctions, the U.S. would lose a valuable bargaining tool which otherwise could save lives by shortening the war. Sanctions are a peaceful method of punishing a country, without resorting to more violent measures. Lessening the impact of sanctions could create a precedent which could enable violence in other conflicts as well. 

This is not the first time Russia and China have shared close relations. Many times, the positive relations came from shared ideology. In 1949, a young People’s Republic of China was very poor and war-torn, leading Communist leader Mao-Zedong to ask for help from the leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin. An article from AP News states that early newspapers in China said “The Soviet Union’s today is our tomorrow.” With the rise of China and increased border disputes, relations soured for some time. But, as modern times came, a new shared ideology was formed. The same article claimed that the new leaders of both countries “see Western attempts to spread democracy as an attempt to de-legitimize themselves, and they believe that authoritarian regimes are better for confronting the challenges of the modern world.” Such shared sentiments have allowed these powerful countries to once again form a friendly bond, helping each other in many ways, one of which may be selling each other powerful new tech. 

Overall, if the ODNI report is accurate that China is sending technology helping Russian war efforts, such a policy is an impediment to overall world peace. An invasion like this has not been seen in many years, and other powerful countries providing aid to the invader will only lead to more turmoil. States that once felt the international community would unilaterally condemn their actions may now feel more emboldened to brash action due to a belief of possible support. And weakening the effects of sanctions could lead nations to opt for military intervention – and more violence – when export controls would have sufficed in the past.