Ukraine war: Chinese ambassador to US defends close Russia ties, criticises sanctions

·3-min read

China’s ambassador to the United States defended Beijing’s close ties with Moscow on Monday, adding that US-China-Russia relations were not a zero-sum game.

Ambassador Qin Gang’s comments come as China is under growing pressure from the West to exert pressure on Russian leader Vladimir Putin over the war on Ukraine.

“If the China-US relationship is messed up, that doesn’t augur well for Russia-US relations or the world,” Qin said in an opinion piece in The National Interest, a conservative international relations magazine based in Washington.

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“A worse Russia-US relationship doesn’t mean a better China-US relationship,” he added. “Likewise, a worse China-Russia relationship doesn’t mean a better US-Russia relationship.”

Qin suggested that China’s foreign policy was based on principles lacking in the US approach, namely “non-alliance, non-confrontation and non-targeting of third countries”.

“The China-Russia relationship has made great progress,” he said. “Had similar conflicts happened in other places or between other countries, China’s position would be no different.”

Beijing has tried to walk a delicate line since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 by standing with Russia where it can without inordinately offending major European and US markets on which its increasingly wobbly economy depends.

China has cited the sovereignty of nations, including Ukraine, and given humanitarian aid to Kyiv, however negligible. Yet it has also refused to label Moscow’s military action an invasion, has supported Russia repeatedly in the United Nations and has echoed Russia in blaming the US and Nato for all but causing the invasion.

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In his commentary, Qin criticised the sanctions on banking, trade and individuals marshalled by Washington and its allies against Russia – and the implicit threat of secondary penalties against China if it tries to break those sanctions – without naming specific countries.

“Some people are wielding the stick of sanctions against China to coerce renunciation of its independent foreign policy of peace,” he said. “Some are clamoring about a ‘Beijing-Moscow axis’ in a dangerous misinterpretation of China-Russia relations, asking China to bear responsibility.”

China has struggled to shape arguments that resonate with the West. “Many Americans are understandably trying to understand where China stands as the crisis in Ukraine unfolds,” Qin wrote last month in an opinion piece in The Washington Post, adding that he hoped to “dispel any misunderstandings and rumors”.

As Russia claimed to have launched 300 missile and artillery strikes around Ukraine overnight, apparently in preparation for an onslaught in the eastern part of the country, Qin called for Washington and Beijing to find common ground.

“The current international system is not perfect. It needs to make progress with the times,” he said. “Differences in perception of the crisis do not justify groundless accusations or pressure and should not hinder our joint efforts to end the crisis.”

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