02/26/2022, 00.00
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Beijing sends contradictory signals on Russia’s attack against Ukraine

A senior Chinese diplomat defends his government's traditional policy of respecting national sovereignty, stressing that the principle also applies to the Ukrainian question. However, at the UN, China abstains from condemning the Russian invasion. Xi Jinping asks Putin to negotiate with Kyiv.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Contradictory signals continue to come out of China over Russian aggression against Ukraine.

As Russian troops fight in the streets of Kyiv, a senior Chinese diplomat defends China’s traditional policy of respecting national sovereignty.

According to Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese government's special representative on Korean peninsula affairs, “China firmly believes that the sovereignty & territorial integrity of all countries should be respected & protected, and the purposes and principles of (the UN Charter) abided by in real earnest”. In his view, China’s position “is consistent and clear-cut, and applies equally to the Ukraine issue”.

Such views by a Chinese diplomat are unusual since the Chinese government has refused to describe Russia’s attack on Ukraine as an “invasion”.

Yesterday it abstained from voting on a US-sponsored UN resolution that "deplores" Russian aggression.

Beijing blames instead Washington for events in Ukraine, accusing the United States of “fuelling fires”. Rather than condemning Russia’s use of tanks, it condemned Western sanctions against Russia, saying that they are not “conducive” to finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

In a telephone conversation yesterday, Xi Jinping told Putin to negotiate with the Ukrainians, which sparked speculation about a possible (but unlikely) mediation by China.

China’s regime finds itself in the uncomfortable position of having to somehow defend Russia, its strategic anti-Western partner, whilst trying to be consistent with its historical position on "non-interference" in the affairs of a sovereign state. To oblige the Russians, Beijing says that it understands Moscow's “legitimate” security needs.

Media reports indicate that Washington had warned Beijing of Russian invasion plans in December. Chinese leaders reportedly passed the information onto the Kremlin, stressing that China would not hinder Russian actions.

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