Wang’s G20 meetings highlight China’s messages on Ukraine – The Diplomat
The meeting of G-20 foreign ministers in Bali, Indonesia, marked the first time Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in the same room as his counterparts from G-7 countries since troops Russians invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Things didn’t go particularly well. well – Lavrov walked out of the G-20 meeting altogether on Friday, complaining that Western governments were only interested in “frantic” criticism of Russia.
But he found a friendlier reception during his bilateral meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Wang was the first foreign minister to shake hands with Lavrov after the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war, welcoming his Russian counterpart to a China-hosted conference on Afghanistan in March. It was a clear signal that Beijing has no intention of changing course on its ‘limitless’ partnership with Moscow, despite the invasion of Ukraine and the resulting pariah status for Russia in the West. .
Wang met Lavrov again on July 7 in Bali. According to a reading from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, he stressed that China and Russia have “eliminated interference” and “maintained normal exchanges” despite an unstable global situation. Wang did not specify what this “interference” was, but the implication is that Beijing is proud of its commitment to maintaining ties with Moscow, despite pressure from the West.
Lavrov made a similar comment, saying “Russian-Chinese relations are not subject to outside interference.” He also mentioned that Russia would support China’s Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative, another sign that Moscow and Beijing are still determined to work together to overturn the status quo in the international order (a process that the two governments call the “democratization” of international relations). This was a major theme of the joint statement issued by Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin in early February 2022, and the invasion of Ukraine has not changed Beijing’s reckoning.
To this end, Wang said that “opposing hegemony and bullying and resisting unilateralism are the common aspirations of the vast majority of developing countries.” He described the world as facing a choice: “Truly maintain the international order with the United Nations at its core, or enforce the rules set by a few countries based on their own standards?
“I believe that over time, more and more countries will see this more clearly and make the right choice,” Wang added.
Ukraine received only a brief mention in the Chinese reading, which said Lavrov discussed the current situation and Russia’s position. Wang said China would “continue to maintain an objective and fair stance” and “focus on promoting peace talks.”
Interestingly, the most important statement of China’s position on Ukraine came not during the Lavrov-Wang talks, but during Wang’s meeting with India’s foreign minister. During the meeting, Wang outlined China’s “three concerns regarding the situation in Ukraine,” which the Chinese Foreign Ministry released separately.
First, Wang said, “China opposes exploiting the situation to incite a Cold War mentality, the exaltation of bloc confrontation, and the creation of a ‘new cold War “”.
Second, Wang denounced the “double standards” regarding sovereignty and territorial integrity. He accused unnamed countries of defending Ukraine’s sovereignty but refusing to recognize Beijing’s claim to rule Taiwan. “The Chinese side rejects any attempt to draw parallels between the Ukraine crisis and the Taiwan issue, and will firmly uphold its core interests,” Wang said.
Third and finally, Wang said, “China opposes any infringement of another country’s legitimate development rights.” In practice, this boils down to opposition to unilateral sanctions, which Wang says are “neither justified nor legal.”
“Such measures have undermined normal state-to-state exchanges, violated existing rules of international trade, and also complicated and amplified the Ukrainian crisis,” he continued.
Notably, China’s “concerns” about the “situation in Ukraine” include no mention of the unfolding humanitarian crisis on the ground, or the massive destruction wreaked on Ukraine by the Russian invasion.
The message and the setting are crucial here. By issuing this statement during a meeting with the Indian Foreign Minister, it is clear that China hopes to find common ground on this point with India and other developing countries which have been hard hit by the economic troubles resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as the economic sanctions applied to Russia. China’s narrative to the developing world is, essentially, that the West is trying to coerce them into joining a ‘bloc confrontation’, which goes against every state’s ‘legitimate development rights’.
Governments in the United States and Europe wishing to counter this message must first be aware of its resonance potential. For countries struggling to get enough grain or oil to meet the needs of their people, grand statements about international standards and principles are unlikely to be as compelling as Western leaders might think. One need only look at a map of countries that have failed to abide by UN resolutions condemning Russia for the invasion to see this pattern in action.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has worked hard to counter the message from China and Russia that Western sanctions are responsible for global economic problems. Instead, Blinken was put the nail in that “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is aggravating food insecurity”.
Wang is also due to meet with Blinken in Bali, to discuss China-US relations and important global and regional issues, including Ukraine. It will be their first face-to-face meeting since October 2021, which will also make it their first face-to-face conversation since Russia invaded Ukraine.
During a pre-trip briefing, US Undersecretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Dan Kritenbrink told reporters that the meeting “will be another opportunity, I think, to have a frank exchange on this subject and to share our expectations of what we would expect from China”. do’s and don’ts in the Ukrainian context.