China takes a strong stance in the Ukraine war, declaring it will not sell military equipment to both Ukraine and Russia. The Asian superpower has declared neutrality in the continued conflict between Russia and Ukraine, as their Foreign Minister Qin Gang stated in a news briefing last Friday.
This is amidst growing concern from Western nations over possible military assistance provided by China to Russia and punishing sanctions they have imposed on Moscow for invading Ukraine. Gang also stated in the said news briefing that any exports related to dual civilian-military use would be regulated strictly according to relevant laws and regulations established by international organizations like United Nations Security Council or European Union (EU).
“Regarding the export of military items, China adopts a prudent and responsible attitude,” Qin said in a news briefing in Beijing last weekend, alongside visiting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during their China-Germany diplomatic talks in Beijing last April 14.
“China will not provide weapons to relevant parties of the conflict and manage and control the exports of dual-use items per laws and regulations,” he stressed.
In his statements, he declared that Beijing would remain neutral and not provide weaponry of any kind – regulated or otherwise – to either party,
This, while China backs Russia politically and economically with Western sanctions imposed against Moscow for their invasion of Ukraine.
China’s announcement of withholding military assistance to Russia and Ukraine and choosing to restrict exports of items with both civilian and military use marks its commitment to remain to underscore part of the Asian country’s efforts towards neutrality in the Ukrainian war.
China’s Conflicting Statements
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press statement on the press briefing, expressing optimism on China’s “position and propositions.”
“Qin Gang elaborated in depth on China’s position and propositions, emphasizing that the only way to resolve the Ukraine crisis is to promote talks for peace. The territory is indivisible, and so is security. Turning a blind eye to other countries’ legitimate security concerns will inevitably lead to crises and conflicts. China always stands on the side of peace and will continue to play a constructive role in facilitating the resumption of talks to end the conflict and promoting a political settlement. The Ukraine crisis has given people a profound lesson and deserves deep reflection.”
However, international media quoted Baerbock reminding Qin of China’s role as a UN Security Council member and the country’s responsibility in helping end the Ukraine conflict.
“But I have to wonder why the Chinese positioning so far does not include a call for the aggressor, Russia, to stop the war,” Baerbock stated. We all know that President (Vladimir) Putin would have the opportunity to do so at any time, and the people in Ukraine would like nothing more than to finally be able to live in peace again.”
The German foreign minister also pointed out that it would be a “global disaster” should a conflict break out in the Taiwan Strait, with its strategic location hosting the world’s international trade within its territory.
“We, therefore, view the increasing tensions in the Taiwan Strait with great concern. Conflicts must be resolved peacefully. A unilateral change of the status quo would not be acceptable to us as Europeans,” Baerbock stated.
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Qin, however, rejected Baerbock’s concern, saying that “Taiwan independence and peace cannot co-exist” and that Taiwan is “China’s internal affair.”
China’s Troubles With US, Taiwan, and the European Union
Responding to Qin’s statements, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson welcomed the Chinese pledge yet expressed caution.
“As we’ve said, we don’t believe it’s in China’s best interest to move in that direction. We will continue to monitor closely,” Watson said in a statement.
At the same news conference, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin blamed Taiwan’s government for creating heightened regional tensions due to Beijing’s recent large-scale military drills targeting the island they consider part of their territory.
Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that China providing arms and munitions to Russia would be classified as “a serious problem.”
At Blinken’s “Face The Nation” CBS interview last February, he underscored US’ concerns about “serious consequences” that may have strained US-China relations, pointing out US views that China was “considering providing lethal support to Russia,” which is considered a red line for Washington. “You’ll remember that President Xi and President Putin had a meeting in which they just talked about a partnership with no limits. And we were concerned that among the lack of limits would be Chinese support for Russia in the war,” Blinken told “Face The Nation” anchor Margaret Brennan.
“We’ve been watching this very closely. We have seen (China) provide non-lethal support to Russia for use in Ukraine. The concern that we have now is based on information we have that they’re considering providing lethal support, and we’ve made very clear to them that that would cause a serious problem for us and in our relationship. It’s “diplo-speak” for saying it was very important to speak very clearly, very directly, about the deep concerns we have. The concerns that we have about this surveillance balloon and the entire program, the concerns we have about the possibility that China will provide lethal material support to Russia and its war effort against Ukraine.”
European leaders followed suit, expressing concerns about China’s alliance with Russia while visiting Beijing recently. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell went as far as calling out this Chinese support during Russia’s invasion tactics in Ukraine – deeming it “a blatant violation” of its United Nations (UN) commitments.
Strained US-China Relations
Last February, US President Joe Biden drew unusually harsh words from Beijing after he stated that his Chinese counterpart had “enormous problems” at home and that, as a result of personal warnings to Xi about the likely economic consequences, China was “not all in” with Russia’s war in Ukraine.
In an interview with Newsweek, Center for a New American Security Senior Fellow Jacob Stokes discussed Beijing’s concerns about Russia’s devastating defeat.
“Beijing worries about a total defeat of Moscow, which would leave China without its most powerful and committed partner in global affairs. Total defeat could also threaten Vladimir Putin’s rule. And Xi Jinping cannot be certain that the next Russian leader would prioritize relations with China to the degree Putin has. At the same time, China wants to avoid becoming the target of additional sanctions and technology controls from democratic countries for its support to Russia. Beijing also appears to genuinely want to avoid the use of nuclear weapons.”
In a separate Newsweek interview with University of Hongkong professor Xu Guoqi, he pointed out that the root of China’s Russia policy is in Washington.
“Since 2017, when the US started to treat Beijing as a major challenger and opponent by launching a trade war, chip war, and other hostile policies, Beijing naturally chose to have closer relations with the US’s opponent, Russia,” Guoqi explained. In its national interest, Beijing still prefers to have a stable relationship with Washington. But if the US treats China as an enemy, it will definitely get an enemy,” the Chinese professor told Newsweek.
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