Beijing takes up this argument a day after supporting the negotiations between Moscow and Kiev in a conversation between President Xi with Scholz and Macron
One lime and one sand. A day after the three-way conversation between the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, the French head of state, Emmanuel Macron, and the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, took place with apparently reasonable cordiality, and all agreed to support the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has resumed its 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.
Beijing, which has adopted a position of biased neutrality towards Russia, has not condemned the 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 started 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.
“Sanctions have never been an effective way to solve problems. China firmly opposes any form of unilateral sanctions,” Zhao said. The day before, Xi had explained to Macron and Scholtz that these types of measures endanger the global economic recovery after the pandemic and could have consequences on global supply chains, energy, transportation, 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 the foreign minister of the Asian country, Wang Yi, indicated at a press conference on Monday Beijing’s willingness to play a mediating role “if necessary” and “together with the international community”, all eyes have turned to China 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, the Chinese authorities have sent the first shipment of humanitarian aid from its Red Cross to Ukraine. According to Zhao, the shipment, worth five million yuan (about 712,000 euros), includes food and necessities.
While having good relations with Kiev, China can 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 building for the past decade and that rose to a level never seen before during the February 4 meeting in Beijing between Putin and Xi on the occasion of the inauguration of the Winter Olympics.
Then, both leaders signed a joint statement in which they described 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 containment,” in his most direct public comments on the war to date.