China insists Russia is still its ‘most important strategic partner’ and refuses to condemn Ukraine invasion

Friendship between China and Russia remains ‘ironclad’, says foreign minister Wang Yi

Stuti Mishra
Monday 07 March 2022 12:24 GMT
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Watch live as soldiers patrol streets in Kyiv after Russia attacks civilians fleeing Ukraine

China has once again refused to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling Moscow its “most important strategic partner”.

Foreign minister Wang Yi was asked about Russia during a briefing on the annual meeting of China’s ceremonial parliament on Monday, when he said that Moscow constituted “one of the most crucial bilateral relationships [for China] in the world”.

“No matter how perilous the international landscape, we will maintain our strategic focus and promote the development of comprehensive China-Russia partnership in the new era,” Mr Wang said on the sidelines of the annual meeting.

“The friendship between the two peoples is ironclad,” he added.

This isn’t the first time China has refused to censure Russia. At the emergency meeting called by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last week to pass a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China and India were among the most notable abstainers.

Beijing has maintained that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations should be respected but imposing sanctions create new issues and disrupt the process of a political settlement.

During an hour-long phone conversation with US secretary of state Antony Blinken on Saturday, Mr Wang said China opposed any moves that “add fuel to the flames” in Ukraine.

Much attention has been paid to a meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian president Vladimir Putin in Beijing on 4 February in the backdrop of the Olympics Games, after which the sides issued a joint statement affirming “their strong mutual support for the protection of their core interests”.

Russia endorsed China’s view of Taiwan as an “inalienable part of China, and opposes any forms of independence of Taiwan”, while China backed Russia in opposing the expansion of Nato in former Soviet republics.

Though Mr Xi’s government has refused to criticise the attack, it has also tried to distance itself from Mr Putin’s war by calling for dialogue and the respect for sovereignty.

United States officials had earlier claimed that China had asked Russia to delay the invasion of Ukraine until after the Winter Olympics in Beijing finished, but the Chinese embassy denied it.

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