China’s foreign ministry endorsed supportive remarks by its envoy to Ukraine, in which Beijing delivered some of its most supportive comments yet toward the war-torn country.
Ambassador Fan Xianrong had told Lviv Governor Maksym Kozytskyi during a meeting Monday that China was a “friendly country for the Ukrainian people” and would “never attack Ukraine,” according to a summary posted on the Lviv government’s website. He went on to praise the strength and unity demonstrated by the Ukrainian people, in an apparent reference to their efforts to resist Russia’s ongoing invasion.
Asked about Fan’s comments at a news conference Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: “China surely supports these remarks by our ambassador in Ukraine. China supports all efforts that are conducive to easing the situation and for a political settlement.”
A day earlier, Zhao had said he was “not aware” of the comments, fueling uncertainty about whether Fan was expressing the central government’s position.
China’s stance has been closely scrutinized, especially after U.S. officials warned European allies that Moscow had sought military assistance from Beijing including armed drones as it was beginning the invasion. China has struggled to balance its close diplomatic partnership with Russia, and their shared opposition to U.S. dominance, with its long-professed support for protecting the sovereignty of independent nations.
Chinese diplomats have calibrated their statements about the conflict depending on their audience, contributing to questions about which side the country would come down on. They have sometimes emphasized the U.S.’s role in the crisis and other times focused on the need for talks to prevent the situation from escalating.
‘Force for good’
“I, as an ambassador, can say with responsibility that China will always be a force for good for Ukraine in the economic and in the political sense,” Fan told the Lviv delegation, according to the Ukrainian statement. “We will always respect your state, will develop relations on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. We will respect the path chosen by Ukrainians because this is the sovereign right of every nation.”
It was unclear whether Fan’s pledge to “never attack” could be read as a guarantee China wouldn’t provide military aid to Russia. Zhao sidestepped a request for clarification Thursday, saying: “It’s illogical for you to make such connections and interpretations.”
Chinese officials have sought to portray its approach to Ukraine as peaceful in comparison with the U.S., with Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying last month that China has “never invaded other countries or engaged in proxy wars.”
China has made repeated attempts in recent days to explain its position on the Russian invasion, with top diplomat Yang Jiechi urging “all parties” to exercise restraint after talks Monday with U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. China’s ambassador to the U.S., Qin Gang, separately rejected speculation that Beijing had advance knowledge of Putin’s plan as “disinformation.”
“Had China known about the imminent crisis, we would have tried our best to prevent it,” Qin wrote in the Washington Post. – Bloomberg