China denied that Russia’s actions in Ukraine amounted to a “invasion” and urged all parties to maintain patience, while also advising its citizens to stay at home or, if they must travel, to raise a Chinese flag.
Officials and media said that Russian forces fired missiles at numerous Ukrainian cities and landed troops on the country’s coast on Thursday, after President Vladimir Putin authorised a “special military operation” in the east.
“China is keeping a close eye on the current scenario. “We urge all parties to maintain moderation so that the situation does not spiral out of control,” said Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson.
Hua snarled at journalists’ characterizations of Russia’s conduct at a crowded daily media briefing in Beijing.
“Perhaps this is where China and you Westerners disagree. “We’re not going to rush to a conclusion,” she stated.
“In terms of defining an invasion, I believe we should return to how we see the current situation in Ukraine. The Ukrainian problem has a long and intricate history that continues to this day. It’s possible that it’s not what everyone wants to see.”
Later, the ministry announced that senior diplomat Wang Yi, who is also China’s foreign minister, had spoken with Russian colleague Sergei Lavrov.
According to a statement from China’s foreign ministry, Wang said the Ukraine issue has a “complicated” history and that China recognises Russia’s “legitimate security concerns.”
Russia’s action comes just weeks after Putin met with Xi Jinping, his Chinese counterpart, just before the Beijing Winter Olympics. The two countries launched a strategic collaboration geared at opposing US influence, with “no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation,” according to the statement.
The Games ended on Sunday.
Xi and Putin have developed a close partnership over the years, but Russia’s actions in Ukraine put China, which has an oft-stated foreign policy principle of non-interference, in an awkward position, experts say.
‘Fanning the flame’
Asked if Putin had told China that he was planning to invade Ukraine, Hua said Russia, as an independent power, did not need to seek the consent of China.
“It makes and conducts its own diplomacy and strategy based on its own strategic judgement and objectives,” she explained.
“I’d also like to point out that whenever heads of state meet, they would, of course, exchange opinions on subjects of common concern.”
In the event of an invasion of Ukraine, China is likely to support Russia diplomatically and even economically, but not militarily. In answer to a question, Hua stated that China has not supplied any military assistance to Russia.
In response to Russia’s attack, US President Joe Biden threatened “serious measures” and said he would meet with other Group of Seven leaders to discuss the subject.
“Some countries have been stoking the flame in the same way that the United States has,” Hua added. “We oppose any activity that promotes conflict.”
She also urged Europe to consider how it may better safeguard its peace.
“At this point,” Hua remarked, referring to Europe, “we should examine if we’ve done enough in mediation.”
The situation in Ukraine has deteriorated dramatically, according to China’s embassy in Kyiv, and security dangers have increased, with social order potentially devolving into disorder.
“The Chinese flag can be mounted to a conspicuous area on the body of the vehicle,” the embassy advised any people planning a trip.
During Lebanon’s 2006 military war with Israel, Chinese diplomats and their families fleeing the embassy in Beirut wrapped their vehicles in the Chinese flag to avoid being attacked at random.
China has so far refrained from advising its 6,000 residents in Ukraine to leave. The embassy issued a security advice earlier this week, advising Chinese nationals to stock up on everyday needs.