One of lime and one of sand. A day after the three-way conversation between Chinese President Xi Jinping, Frenchman Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz took place with apparent reasonable cordiality, and all agreed to support negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, the Chinese Foreign Ministry He has resumed his argument: that NATO, and especially the United States, are responsible for the tensions between Russia and Ukraine reaching “the limit” and the war breaking out.
“What NATO, led by the United States, has done is what has gradually pushed the conflict between Russia and Ukraine to the limit,” said spokesman Zhao Lijian at the ministry’s daily press conference in Beijing. “Ignoring its own responsibilities, the United States instead criticizes China’s position on the Ukrainian issue” and tries to “hurt China and Russia at the same time to maintain its hegemony,” he said.
China, which has adopted a biased position of neutrality towards Russia, has not condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Instead, he argues that US pressure and the prospect of future NATO enlargement left Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “legitimate security concerns” unanswered, precipitating the conflict.
Although accusations against NATO and the United States are almost daily in the statements of Chinese leaders and officials about the war, Xi chose to leave them out of the conversation with Macron and Scholz. Or, at least, they do not appear in the official statement from Beijing about the telematic meeting.
Echoing what the Chinese president had already stated the day before in his conversation with European leaders, the spokesman ―the most famous representative of the new generation of the new Chinese diplomacy known as the “wolf warriors”, more aggressive verbally defending the interests of his country – criticized the sanctions that the West has imposed on Moscow in retaliation for the attack on the neighboring country.
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“Sanctions have never been an effective way to solve problems. China is firmly opposed to any form of unilateral sanctions,” Zhao said. The day before, Xi had explained to Macron and Scholtz that this type of measure endangers the global economic recovery after the pandemic and may have consequences on global supply chains, energy, transport and financial operations.
“In dealing with the Ukraine issue and its relations with Russia, the United States should take China’s concerns seriously, and not harm China’s rights and interests in any way,” the spokesman added.
Since Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi indicated at a press conference on Monday his country’s willingness to play a mediating role “if necessary” and “together with the international community”, all eyes have turned to Beijing. as a possible intermediary in the conflict. Ukraine had already asked for his intercession, in a conversation between the foreign minister of that country and Wang himself.
In a symbolic gesture, China has sent the first shipment of humanitarian aid from its Red Cross to Ukraine. According to Zhao, the shipment, worth 5 million yuan or 790,000 dollars, includes food and essential items.
While having good relations with Kiev, China has – at least in theory – the ability to put pressure on Russia. The doubt of analysts and diplomats is whether he will want to exercise it. The two are strategic partners, in a relationship that both governments have been strengthening over the last decade and that rose to a level never seen during the meeting on February 4 in Beijing between Putin and Xi on the occasion of the inauguration of the Winter Olympics.
Then, both leaders signed a joint declaration in which they describe their cooperation as a bond “without limits”. At his press conference, Wang wanted to make it clear that the invasion has not affected that closeness. The ties between the two governments, he stressed, are “solid as a rock” and the cooperation between the two countries will continue to grow deeper and deeper “however grim the situation may be.”
In the virtual meeting on Tuesday, Xi stressed that the three governments must support the peace talks between Russia and Ukraine that are taking place on the Belarusian border and of which three rounds have already been completed, with little progress. Europe, on the one hand, and China, on the other, must promote that the two sides “maintain the momentum of the negotiations, overcome the difficulties and continue the negotiations to achieve results and achieve peace,” indicates the version of the meeting released by Xinhua.
“China deeply deplores seeing a new war in Europe,” said the Chinese president, who called for “maximum restraint” in his most direct public comments on the war to date.