China avoids direct political support to Russia, calls for restraint & diplomacy

In its first reaction after the Russian multi-pronged invasion of Ukraine, China has refused to extend direct political support to Russia. Instead, the Chinese foreign ministry expressed the hope that the Ukrainian crisis would be resolved through diplomatic dialogue.
“I would like to say that China is closely following the situation in Ukraine,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Thursday, adding, “We call on all parties to exercise restraint and prevent the situation from getting out of control”. China is Russia’s only major friend and the only permanent member of the UN Security Council which has not criticised Moscow over the Ukrainian issue. This is why Beijing’s refusal to publicly come out in Moscow’s favour over Ukraine, and thus be bracketed with Russia at a time when it is facing isolation by the West, is extremely significant.
Hua disagreed with the idea of calling the Russian strike an invasion. “Regarding the definition of an invasion, I think we should go back to how to view the current situation in Ukraine. The Ukrainian issue has other very complicated historical background that have continued to today. It may not be what everyone wants to see,” she said.
Observers said that the least that Beijing could have done is assure Russia that it was going ahead with the recent deal for purchase of Russian gas despite the new developments. This would have boosted morale in Moscow, which suffered a setback after Germany said it was stalling the Nord-2 pipeline for supplying Russian gas.
At the same time, China opened the doors for the supply of Russian wheat in an attempt to ease the economic pressures that Moscow is facing following the intensification of sanctions by the United States and European countries. It announced it will be buying Russian wheat but didn’t specify the quantity and duration of the deal.
The two countries had announced a trade deal for sale of Russian wheat and barley to China on February 8. The Chinese customs issued an order on Wednesday clearing the import of Russian wheat.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who signed a friendship deal with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, during a visit to Beijing on February 4, may be disappointed about Beijing’s reluctance to stand by his country publicly. But he may have to be content with economic support from China, which he badly needs.
“I believe Russia’s military operation is a reaction of Moscow toward Western countries exerting pressure on Russia for a long time, showing that Moscow can’t tolerate anymore,” Yang Jin, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the state-run Global Times on Thursday.
China wants to be seen as a country that stands by its friends. But it does not want to publicly take sides with Russia as Western countries are completely opposed to it at this stage. At stake is China’s close trade and political relationships with several Western nations.

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