China has offered the European Union assurances that it would seek peace in Ukraine on its own terms, deflecting pressure for a tougher stance on Russia over its unprovoked war on Ukraine.
Premier Li Keqiang told EU leaders on April 1 that Beijing would push for peace in “its own way”, while President Xi Jinping said he hoped the EU would treat China “independently,” in a nod to Europe’s close ties with the United States.
The EU told Beijing during the virtual summit with Li and Xi not to allow Moscow to circumvent Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We called on China to help end the war in Ukraine. China cannot turn a blind eye to Russia’s violation of international law,” European Council President Charles Michel told a news briefing with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“Any attempts to circumvent sanctions or provide aid to Russia would prolong the war,” he said.
Li told the EU leaders that China has always sought peace and promoted negotiations and is willing to continue to play a constructive role with the international community, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Michel said the two sides agreed that the war was threatening global security and the global economy.
Von der Leyen said leaders from both sides “exchanged very clearly opposing views” on many topics but expressed hopes that China would use its influence as a major power and permanent member of the UN Security Council to convince Russia it should put an end to the war.
Von der Leyen insisted that any support given to Russia’s ability to wage its war would lead to “major reputational damage for China” in Europe.
China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, criticizing punishing economic sanctions brought by the West against Moscow while parroting Russian disinformation about the war.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian earlier warned at a daily briefing that his country “disapproves of solving problems through sanctions, and we are even more opposed to unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction that have no basis in international law.”
A Chinese Foreign Ministry official said on April 2 that China would continue to support talks on a cease-fire, but noted that China’s role should “not be overestimated.”
China has come under increasing international criticism over abuses committed against Uyghurs and other mainly Muslim groups in northwestern Xinjiang Province through mass internment, forced labor, population control, and the elimination of the minorities’ religious beliefs and culture.
Beijing denies abuses, saying it “reeducating” Uyghurs to prevent radical Islam and terrorism.
The United States and many rights groups have alleged that Beijing is carrying out genocide.
Almost 14 percent of China’s total trade is done with the EU, and 12 percent with the United States, compared to just 2.4 percent with Russia.