At first glance, the network is tightening around Russia: Last week, the EU states passed what is now the twelfth package of sanctions against Vladimir Putin. It's about a ban on the import of Russian diamonds, new hurdles for oil exports to third countries and penalties for companies and people who directly support Putin's war of aggression against Ukraine. However, if you look at the actual effect of the ever-longer sanctions list, you will see that it is increasingly failing in what is probably the most important point. And that has a lot to do with the People's Republic of China.
From the outset, the sanctions were primarily intended to hit the Russian defense industry in order to weaken Putin's war machine. That's why the G7 countries agreed immediately after the attack on Ukraine to stop the export of dual-use goods. It is primarily about electronic parts and components that can be used for both civil and military purposes. In the beginning, the export ban worked relatively well. Newspaper reports circulated that the Russians had to convert the semiconductors used to control their rockets from washing machines.
is a Capital columnist. The business journalist was editor-in-chief of the Handelsblatt from 2002 to 2010. He was then managing director of the corporate publishing division of the Hoffmann and Campe publishing house until 2014. Ziesemer's column appears regularly on Capital.de. You can follow him on Twitter here.
However, production in the Russian arms industry is now running at full speed again. Putin's rockets contain computer chips and cable connectors from the USA and Europe. They do not enter the country directly, but via the People's Republic of China. Hong Kong in particular has become a hub for the illegal trade in dual-use goods. Most recently, Chinese companies delivered mechanical engineering and electronics goods worth $3.6 billion to Russia every month, as Berlin-based Eastern Europe researcher Janis Kluge calculated. Without these exports from China, Putin's defense industry would hardly be able to function.
One can easily study the duplicity of the Chinese leaders in the whole complex. On the one hand, according to current Western findings, China does not supply weapons and grenades to Russia, as North Korea and Iran do. Xi Jinping wants to prevent his country from being subjected to severe sanctions. On the other hand, China is indirectly supporting Putin's war more and more. There can no longer be any talk of “neutrality,” even though it is still being invoked over and over again in Beijing.
The Europeans have so far only targeted a few Chinese companies directly. They repeatedly sent lists of Chinese sanctions violations to Beijing without anything being done. But if the EU countries and the Americans want to hit Putin's war machine, they will not be able to avoid getting more involved with the People's Republic of China in the future. So far they are still shying away from this in order not to endanger their own economic interests in the Middle Kingdom. But ultimately the same applies to Xi Jinping as to Putin: both understand only clear statements and a policy of strength.
This article first appeared here in the business magazine "Capital", which, like stern, appears on RTL Deutschland.