China is changing its tune on the Ukraine conflict after months of refusing to condemn Russian military buildup and even going so far as to leak U.S. intelligence to the Kremlin.
China initially bolstered Russia’s claims ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, suggesting that the U.S. was to blame for “stirring up” conflict between Russia and Ukraine. U.S. officials met at least six times with Chinese counterparts in recent months to share intelligence about Russia’s military buildup around Ukraine and urge their government to dissuade Putin from invading. Not only did the Chinese reject these pleas, they went so far as to leak the intelligence to the Russian government. (RELATED: Russia And China Buddy Up During Ukraine Invasion)
China has proven more willing to criticize Russia as Putin’s invasion has slowed, however. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin offered the first shift away from solidarity with Putin Monday, urging Russia and Ukraine to end the conflict through diplomacy.
No country can “recklessly harm the sovereignty and security of other countries out of seeking its own absolute military superiority and absolute security,” Wang stated.
#China‘s position on Ukraine conflict gets sharper. MOFA spokesperson Wang Wenbing sent a message to Russia: no actor should “recklessly harm the sovereignty and security of other countries out of seeking its own absolute military superiority and absolute security.”
— Maximilian Mayer (@mayer_iras) February 28, 2022
Media representatives pressed Wang to clarify China’s stance on the Ukrainian government during a Monday event.
“Does China consider the Ukrainian government to be a legitimate government? If so, does China call on Russia to respect the democratically elected government of Ukraine?” a reporter asked.
“The sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected and safeguarded, and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be jointly upheld,” Wang responded.
“At the same time, China has always believed that the security of one country cannot be built on the basis of undermining the security of other countries, let alone wantonly undermine the sovereignty and security of other countries in pursuit of its own absolute military advantage,” he added.
While the criticism did not mention Russia directly, some observers argue China’s stance is shifting as world governments unite to condemn and punish Putin’s invasion.
Seriously. The Chinese aren’t about to back a losing horse, and it has become clear Putin is pulling up lame. All the camaraderie between Putin and Xi was superficial. The Chinese are realists and can see that Putin is becoming a millstone instead of an asset.
— streetwiseprof (@streetwiseprof) February 28, 2022
President Joe Biden announced a suite of sanctions against both Russia and Putin personally last week. NATO countries and other U.S. allies also announced sanctions, threatening to turn Putin’s Russia into an economic pariah.