Brussels (AFP) – China on Friday renewed its criticism of Western sanctions against Russia, as top European Union officials sought assurances from Beijing that it would not help Moscow circumvent economic measures imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has also blamed the war in Ukraine at least in part on the United States for pushing to expand the NATO military alliance close to Russia’s borders. Twenty-one of the 27 European Union countries are members of NATO.
In a virtual summit, European Council President Charles Michel, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell sought cues from Chinese President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang that Beijing would help end the war in Ukraine.
Von der Leyen said leaders on both sides “exchanged very clearly opposing views” on many topics, but hoped that China would use its influence as a major power and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to convince Russia that the war must end. .
She added that she expects at least China not to interfere with Western sanctions targeting Russia, even if Beijing does not support them.
Earlier in a daily briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warned that his country “does not agree to solve problems through sanctions, and we are more opposed to unilateral sanctions and long-term jurisdiction that has no basis in international law.”
When it comes to Ukraine, Zhao said, Beijing will not have to “choose a side or adopt a simplistic approach of friend or foe. We must, in particular, resist Cold War thinking and confront the bloc.”
“As the main culprit and instigator of the Ukraine crisis, the United States led NATO to engage in five rounds of eastward expansion in the last two decades after 1999,” he said, adding that NATO membership nearly doubled from 16 to 30 countries, pushing “Russia into the wall a step.” step by step”.
China says it does not take sides in the conflict, but has declared a “borderless” partnership with Russia and refuses to condemn the invasion. Beijing routinely exaggerates Russian misinformation about the conflict, not referring to it as an invasion or war in keeping with Russian practices.
Michel and von der Leyen did not say whether they had received assurances from Chinese officials that Beijing would not provide financial or military aid to Russia. Von der Leyen insisted that any support for Russia’s ability to wage its war would do “great damage to China’s reputation” in Europe.
“The business sector is watching events closely and assessing how countries are positioning themselves,” she said. “This is a matter of trust, reliability and of course decisions about long-term investments.”
In a press release following the first summit session, Li was quoted as emphasizing the importance of China-EU relations, saying he hopes the two will “remain open to each other, steadily expand market access, protect fair competition and promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation.”
“China hopes that the EU will also provide a sound business environment for Chinese companies investing and growing in Europe,” Li was quoted as saying.
The meeting took place amid growing negative sentiment within the bloc fueled by China’s aggressive foreign policies and trade practices.
Behind the EU’s expectations for China lies the possibility of imposing sanctions on Chinese companies that undermine actions against Russia. EU officials indicate that 13.7% of China’s total trade is with the 27-nation bloc, and 12% with the United States, compared to just 2.4% with Russia.
Other topics included China’s travel ban on members of the European Parliament; Beijing’s economic boycott of EU member Lithuania due to its ties with Taiwan; the fate of the stalled investment agreement; and civil and political rights under the authoritarian Communist Party regime in China.
Beijing has dismissed European criticism as biased and motivated by an anti-China agenda pursued by the United States, its main global rival.
Beijing also imposed sanctions on some EU lawmakers last year after the European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States imposed coordinated sanctions. Against officials in China for human rights abuses in the far western region of Xinjiang.
The European Parliament responded by saying it would not ratify a long-awaited trade investment deal as long as sanctions remain in place.
Rights groups have also urged the European Union to take a more assertive stance with China over repression in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and elsewhere and the persecution of Chinese dissidents including. Ilham Tohti, winner of the Sakharov Prize and Sino-Swedish publisher Gui Minhai.
Highlighting some of the positive discussions that took place during their summit, von der Leyen said that the EU and China could cooperate constructively in the fight against climate change and COVID-19.
“The Ukraine crisis came on top of the protracted COVID-19 pandemic and a faltering global recovery,” Xi was quoted as saying.
“It is against this background that China and the European Union, as two major powers, great markets and great civilizations, should increase communication on their relations and major issues related to global peace and development, and play a constructive role in adding stabilizing factors to the turbulent turmoil,” Xi said in a statement.
Moritsugu reported from Beijing.
Follow all the Associated Press news on developments in the Russian war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.