Top China Diplomat Set to Lay Out Stances on Ukraine, Taiwan

  • Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosts annual news briefing in Beijing
  • China has sought talks, but refused to condemn Russian action

China was expected to weigh in on the war in Ukraine, Taiwan tensions and other issues, as the country’s foreign minister meets the foreign press on the sidelines of parliament sessions in Beijing.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi was slated to field questions on a range of topics at his annual news briefing at 3 p.m. Monday, a tightly orchestrated event that China has used to articulate new positions on geopolitical matters. Wang has been at the forefront of Beijing’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in recent days, a war that’s engulfed two key Chinese trading partners and shaken global markets.

Russia launched the action weeks after President Xi Jinping hosted Vladimir Putin in Beijing and publicly declared that their friendship had “no limits.” China has sought to avoid taking a position in the conflict, as it attempts to balance support for Russian efforts to challenge U.S. dominance with its interest of being regarded as a responsible major power.

Wang’s briefing comes as Russian forces escalate their bombardment of Ukrainian cities, raising fears of mass casualties and a broader humanitarian crisis. While Wang urged peace talks and the protection of civilians in a call with his Ukrainian counterpart last week, he stopped short of calling for a ceasefire or describing the war as an “invasion.”

“China’s strategic alignment with Russia is based on shared world views and the special personal ties between the two countries’ paramount leaders,” said Zhao Tong, a senior fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It is hard to imagine China imposing sanctions or taking a strong position against Russia.”

Besides Ukraine, Wang is also likely to expand on China’s position toward the U.S. and its increasing support for Taiwan, which Beijing views as part of its territory. Russia’s attack on Ukraine has undermined confidence that world powers would be able to prevent a crisis from similarly erupting over the democratically governed island of more than 23 million people.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has played down those worries, saying the two situations were “fundamentally different.” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang recommitted Beijing to its “overall policy for resolving the Taiwan question in the new era” at the start the NPC on Saturday, saying that the country would “advance the peaceful growth of relations across the Taiwan Strait and the reunification of China.”

Last year, Wang’s briefing took a combative tone, as he urged Washington to stop “crossing lines and playing with fire” on Taiwan. This year, the ruling Communist Party is focused on stability ahead of a twice-a-decade leadership congress, where Xi is expected to seal a precedent-defying third term in office.

China’s support for Russia “is shaping up to be an extraordinary blunder,” according to Jude Blanchette, Freeman chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“The consensus here in Washington, D.C., is that something very profound has occurred, even if the implications are going to take a while to actuate,” Blanchette said. “All of the incentives and drivers of a tough U.S. policy on China have just been force magnified.”

Source: Bloomberg

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