Weeks before he launched his invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin travelled to Beijing, where he and Chinese President Xi Jinping touted the “no limits” partnership between their two countries.
In the year since then, as the disastrous effects of the war have been felt around the world, many in the West hoped China would abandon its erstwhile partner, or at least pressure Russia to end the conflict. But while Beijing has repeatedly called for peace and proclaimed its supposed neutrality, it has continued to support Russia economically and diplomatically and even – according to Washington – considered covert military aid.
As the anniversary of the invasion approaches this week, China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, is in Moscow, part of what Beijing has portrayed as continuing efforts to end the war. Mr. Putin, meanwhile, has framed the visit as a show of solidarity from his most important ally.
“Everything is progressing, developing,” Mr. Putin said in a meeting with Mr. Wang on Wednesday, adding that relations between the two sides were “reaching new frontiers.” He also said he looked forward to a planned visit by Mr. Xi to Russia later this year.
According to the Kremlin readout, Mr. Wang said Sino-Russian relations had “withstood pressure from the international community and are developing very steadily.” In a separate televised meeting with his Russian counterpart, the Chinese diplomat described the ties as “rock solid” and capable of “withstanding any test.”
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This apparent show of support for the Kremlin comes after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week that China was “considering providing lethal support” for Russia’s war in Ukraine, something European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said would be a “red line” for the bloc. Beijing has sought to build stronger ties with the EU, even as the war has made this increasingly difficult.
China has hotly denied it ever planned to provide weapons to Russia, with Foreign Minister Qin Gang saying Tuesday that Washington was “pouring oil on the fire.” Mr. Qin, a former ambassador to the U.S., was speaking at an event in Beijing where he presented a paper on the Global Security Initiative, a concept put forward by Mr. Xi.
In the paper, China says it supports “political settlement of hot spot issues such as the Ukraine crisis through dialogue and negotiation.” But despite calling for such talks for a year now, Beijing has used little of its considerable influence over Moscow to force it to the table, and Mr. Xi has yet to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, despite multiple calls and meetings with Mr. Putin.
The paper notes the importance of “respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries,” a sentiment Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba said should prompt Beijing to push for a Russian retreat. Asked about this Wednesday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman dodged the question, reiterating that Beijing “stands firmly on the side of dialogue and peace.”
This is in stark contrast, from China’s perspective, to the U.S. and NATO, which Beijing has consistently blamed for prolonging the conflict by providing military support to Ukraine.
Also published by China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry this week, and circulated to journalists, was a long paper on “U.S. hegemony and its perils,” which accused Washington of interfering in the “internal affairs of other countries,” willfully waging wars and “bringing harm to the international community.”
“Clinging to the Cold War mentality, the United States has ramped up bloc politics and stoked conflict and confrontation,” the paper said. “Today, in Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen, the United States is repeating its old tactics of waging proxy, low-intensity, and drone wars.”
With a file from Reuters.
President Vladimir Putin said on Feb. 21 that Russia was suspending its participation in the New START treaty with the United States that limits the two sides' strategic nuclear arsenals. Putin made the comments in his annual televised address.