A Russian invasion of Ukraine would be a diplomatic dilemma for Beijing and do nothing to further the reunification of Taiwan with the mainland, according to Chinese experts. “Of course we don’t want [an invasion]. We have a close relationship with Russia and maintain a good one with Ukraine,” said Zhang Tuosheng, a former strategic issues researcher with the PLA National Defence University. The trouble for China in staying friends with 2 foes, Ukraine and Russia An invasion, while unlikely, would do Beijing no good in terms of the economic and diplomatic pressure it would face from the US and Europe, he said, adding that China wanted to see agreement reached through negotiation. Zhang, who is now with the Beijing-based think tank Grandview Institution, said China regarded the maintaining of national territorial integrity as an important diplomatic principle. As the crisis on the Ukrainian border has intensified, Beijing has stuck to its line that all parties involved should be “rational” and solve their problems through negotiation. But China has also shown empathy and support for Russia’s security concerns in Europe. On Tuesday, the Chinese foreign ministry hit back at a G7 pledge to sanction Russia if it goes to war. Two weeks ago, Beijing signed a joint statement with Moscow to “oppose further enlargement of Nato”, building on its previous support for Russia against the US and its allies. In exchange, Moscow reiterated support for Beijing’s claim to the self-ruled island of Taiwan. In a war scenario, Beijing would find it difficult to respond to international pressure over its reaction, Zhang said. “It will be more difficult for us to deal with the relationship with the United States, and China-EU relations would also be very troublesome as they are all watching what stance China will take.” China would also pay the price of a war in Ukraine, because of the effects on the global economy, he added. Some Western officials have suggested Beijing could take advantage of the crisis to invade Taiwan, but the observers said mainland China was under no illusions its reunification plans for the island would be helped by a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Taiwan keeps eye on strait as tensions mount on Ukraine-Russia border While some analysts have drawn a parallel between Ukraine and Taiwan – which Beijing sees as a breakaway province to be reunited with the mainland by force, if necessary – others disagree with the linkage of the two issues. Taiwan has said it is monitoring the situation in Ukraine in case Beijing forces take advantage of a distracted West to attack the island. According to Zhang, a war in Ukraine would not shift the longer term US strategic focus on the Indo-Pacific, regardless of any short-term distraction. Shi Yinhong, an international affairs professor at Renmin University, agreed. “If a war breaks out in Ukraine, the United States will realistically have to reduce its attention and resources to China in the Indo-Pacific,” he said. “But on the other hand, the war [would be] a huge step down the path of radicalisation in world politics, and doomed to inflict great pressure on China for an arms race, as well as Taiwan and the South China Sea.” Shi added that it was difficult to conclude how the challenges of a more complicated international environment would affect Beijing’s calculations on Taiwan. The experts were also clear-eyed about the differences between Taiwan and Ukraine in terms of the strategic priorities of the US, saying they were not necessarily linked. Was it Beijing testing Taiwan defences with Matsu island flyover? “Taiwan is not Ukraine,” said Wang Jianmin, an expert in Taiwanese affairs at Minnan University in Fujian. But he added that China was closely watching US involvement in the Ukraine crisis – “including the degree and how its allies are involved and the weapons mobilised, which will all be references for us to study”. “But it is not the same as the case of Taiwan, the two are totally different.” Moscow said on Tuesday that it was withdrawing some of its troops from the border with Ukraine, but the US continued to warn that an invasion could happen “any day”. Russia says it has no such plan, despite the massive build-up of its forces on the border with Ukraine.