| 14 April 2024, Sunday |

Wagner mutiny exposes risks for China’s deep Russian ties

As word spread on Saturday that mercenary Wagner forces were charging towards Moscow in a brief insurrection, numerous merchants in southern China began hurriedly phoning companies to prevent shipments of items bound for Russia.

While the mutiny – Russia’s strongest test of President Vladimir Putin’s authority since his February 2022 invasion of Ukraine – rapidly dissipated, several of these exporters are now doubting their future reliance on Beijing’s closest friend.

“We thought there was going to be a big problem,” Shen Muhui, the head of the trade body for the firms in China’s southern Fujian province said, recalling the scramble among its members exporting auto parts, machinery and garments to Russia.

Though the crisis has eased, “some people remain on the sidelines, as they’re not sure what will happen later,” he added, declining to name the companies pausing shipments.

China has sought to play down the weekend’s events and voiced support for Moscow, with which it struck a “no limits” partnership shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine in what Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

But a top U.S. official on Monday said the weekend uprising had unsettled Beijing’s cloistered leadership, and some analysts inside and outside China have started to question whether Beijing needs to ease off its political and economic ties to Moscow.

“It has put a fly in the ointment of that ‘no-limits’ relationship,” said Singapore-based security analyst Alexander Neill.

China’s foreign ministry, which described the aborted mutiny as Russia’s “internal affairs” and expressed support for Moscow’s efforts to stabilise the situation, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

  • Reuters