China says it does not want to get caught up in the diplomatic and economic blowback Russia is facing from Western nations over its invasion of Ukraine.
State media said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed his government’s wishes during a lengthy phone conversation Monday with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares.
According to a transcript of the phone call published Monday by the Chinese foreign ministry, Wang told Albares that Beijing is “not a party to the crisis” and does not want to be “affected” by the mounting economic sanctions imposed on Moscow over the nearly 3-week-old invasion.
The conversation took place as U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and officials from the National Security Council and State Department met in Rome with China’s top foreign policy adviser, Yang Jiechi. The Biden administration has warned that Beijing would face severe “consequences” if it helps Moscow avoid sanctions.
Media reports emerged Sunday that Moscow has requested military and economic assistance from China for its war in Ukraine.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian Tuesday repeated an accusation leveled by Beijing that the United States is spreading “disinformation” over reports that China has responded positively to Moscow’s request.
Zhao calls the reports “not only unprofessional, but also immoral and irresponsible.”
He told reporters China’s position is “completely objective, impartial and constructive.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Monday that the United States is watching very closely the extent to which China, or any other country, provides any form of support to Russia.
“We have communicated very clearly to Beijing that we won’t stand by, we will not allow any country to compensate Russia for its losses,” he said.
CNN reported late Monday that the United States told European and Asian allies in a diplomatic cable that China had indicated a willingness to help Russia in the war against Ukraine. CNN said the cable did not state definitively that assistance had been provided and that it warned that China would likely deny any such offer.
Chinese arms sales to Russia would have “a devastating impact on the U.S.-China relationship, because it would clearly align the Chinese with the Russians, against the United States, Europe in a war,” Robert Ross, a political science professor at Boston College, told VOA.
China is in a unique position because of its partnership agreement with Russia, according to Stephen Roach, a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. He told VOA that China has “considerably greater” leverage over Russia than even Western countries that have implemented “unprecedented sanctions” on Russia.
“China has something that the West does not have, and that is the partnership,” with Russia, he said.