China blames US as Russia war erupts in Europe

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As Russian missiles streaked across Ukrainian skies on Thursday and world leaders denounced an invasion spreading across the country, China declined to condemn Russia’s move outright, while appearing to blame the United States and its allies.

Beijing finds itself in a complex position as Russia’s invasion of its neighbor intensifies, having to balance a close strategic partnership with Moscow with its seemingly contradictory policy of supporting state sovereignty.

A Chinese government official on Thursday dodged questions about whether he would condemn Russia’s actions or consider them an “invasion.”

Instead, China’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hua Chunying – who repeated stiff lines about seeking peace through dialogue and said the situation was ‘not what we hoped to see’ – was quick to point the finger at the United States, implying that Washington was a “culprit”. to “fan the flames,” referring to US warnings in recent weeks of an impending invasion.

“China has taken a responsible stance and persuaded all parties not to escalate tensions or incite war…Those who follow the United States’ lead in fanning the flames and then blaming the others are really irresponsible,” she said.

The comments echoed those made a day earlier, before the invasion, when Hua blamed the crisis on “NATO’s eastward expansion to Russia’s doorstep”.

“Has he ever thought about the consequences of pushing a great country to the wall?” she says.

Hua’s presence at the briefing on both days was in itself unusual, as the veteran spokeswoman had not stood on the podium at those briefings since being promoted to deputy foreign minister in October.

His comments were widely shared on Chinese state media and social media platforms, where discussions about Ukraine dominated coverage and conversations.

But while state media mirrored the official government line, top news stories on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, included a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin with more than 360 million views. , as well as others examining the reaction of Ukrainian citizens, such as a post about people queuing to donate blood with 62 million views. The topic “Ukrainian President Says Western Countries Give Up Ukraine Completely” topped the morning list with over a billion views throughout the day and tens of thousands of comments.

Many of these comments on the highly moderate platform mocked Ukraine and its President Volodymyr Zelensky for being “pro-Western” and encouraged Russia and Putin.

But others pushed back: “War is no fun at all,” wrote one user, whose post has been liked more than 60,000 times. “It makes me physically sick to see all the jokes about the war.”

Elsewhere online, the homepages of major Chinese state media took a measured approach, citing statements and news from the Ukrainian and Russian side, while emphasizing sanctions imposed by other countries against Russia.

Communist Party spokesman People’s Daily pointed to Chinese Foreign Ministry comments highlighting how the United States had “raised tensions and exaggerated the war”.

A glimpse of the kind of guidelines state media could follow emerged on Tuesday, when what appeared to be an internal memo from Chinese state media Beijing News ordering its employees not to publish stories “negative of Russia or pro-Westerns” was published in error. on the official social network account of the point of sale.

The post, which was quickly deleted, also instructed employees to “screen and post appropriate comments.” Beijing News, controlled by the Beijing government, declined CNN’s request for comment on the incident.

The Russian invasion follows a meeting earlier this month between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Putin, who showed their strong bond in a high-profile meeting ahead of the Beijing Olympics and said ‘no limits’ to their relationship.

But outright support for Russian measures would put China at odds with the West. It would also contradict China’s usual vocal support for state sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In a phone conversation between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Thursday, Wang expressed understanding of Russia’s “legitimate concerns” on security issues, but said “China respects always the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries,” a statement said. by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which did not specify what time the call took place.

China has denied being complicit in Russia’s actions, but Western leaders are paying close attention to Moscow-Beijing relations as events unfold in Ukraine.

As Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled new sanctions against Russia on Friday, he said he was “concerned by the lack of a strong response from China.”

Morrison said China’s decision to start importing Russian wheat – based on a deal reached earlier this month – was “unacceptable” as Australia, the United States, Europe, the UK and Japan acted “to cut off” Russia.

China has hit back at the West’s decision to impose a series of economic sanctions on Russia in recent days. In his comments Wednesday, Hua emphasized China’s position that sanctions are “never” effective.

“Will the Ukrainian problem be solved thanks to American sanctions against Russia? Will European security be better guaranteed thanks to American sanctions against Russia? she asked.


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