China declined to condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine on Thursday, instead repeating calls for parties to “show restraint” and accusing the United States of “fueling the fire” in tensions.
In a Foreign Ministry briefing that lasted more than 90 minutes, Spokesperson and Deputy Foreign Minister Hua Chunying dodged more than 11 questions regarding Russia’s actions in Ukraine. They included repeated demands as to whether Beijing would view Russia’s actions as an invasion and whether they violated Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Hua added that China would start importing Russian wheat, a move that could lessen the impact of Western sanctions on Russia.
“The issue of Ukraine has a very complicated historical background. It has evolved to the current situation due to the joint action of various factors…security should be a matter of joint cooperation and lasting security, and the legitimate security concerns of all parties should be respected and addressed,” Hua said, sticking closely to comments made the day before.
China is “closely following the latest situation” and calling on the parties to “exercise restraint to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control”, Ms. Hua said on several occasions.
After questions from several media about whether China considered Russia’s moves an invasion, Hua asked reporters, “Why are you obsessed with this issue?
“You can ask the US side. They keep fueling the fires…You can ask them if they have any plans to put out the fire.”
On Thursday, the Chinese customs administration also announced that it would start allowing imports of wheat from February 24 from Russia. The two countries had announced an agreement earlier this month for China to import Russian wheat during Putin’s visit to Beijing to meet President Xi and attend the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Sino-Russian friendship: Beijing navigates a complex position as it tries to balance deepening ties with Moscow with its practiced foreign policy of firmly defending state sovereignty.
Although not military allies, China and Russia have presented an increasingly united front against what they see as Western interference in their respective affairs and regions.