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Editorial: China still the odd man out in refusing to denounce Russia

  • March 8, 2022
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 2:02 p.m.
  • English Press

By taking an ambiguous stance toward Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China cannot hope to win the trust of the international community. Beijing should fall in step with the rest of the world and denounce Russia’s outrageous behavior through steps to try and stop the war.

China’s National People’s Congress, the country’s parliament, opened its annual session in Beijing on March 5. A key question in the minds of many observers is what Chinese leaders will do with regard to the situation.

 

To date, Chinese policymakers have given disappointingly vague and equivocal answers to this issue of grave urgency.

 

In a March 7 news conference, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi suggested the possibility of Beijing working with the international community to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. But he also said, “No matter how perilous the international landscape, we will maintain our strategic focus and promote the development of a comprehensive China-Russia partnership in the new era.”

 

Wang’s deliberately ambiguous remark was clearly designed to avoid alienating Ukraine while showing it had taken Russian President Vladimir Putin’s arguments for the invasion into account.

 

Wang offered lucid arguments in criticizing the United States, but that in no way can justify Russia’s aggression against its sovereign neighbor.

 

If Chinese President Xi Jinping really meant it when he pledged to “protect the international system centered on the United Nations,” Beijing would contradict itself by not taking steps to show its refusal to tolerate Moscow’s military aggression. China has a clear duty to take an unmistakable stand against Russia’s blatant trampling of the U.N. Charter.

 

By not doing so, Beijing clearly wants to maintain a close relationship with Russia in light of increasingly antagonistic rivalry with Washington. China and Russia are bound by mutual support to their authoritarian governments, which have exhibited callous disregard for human rights. Beijing has signaled it wants to maintain its solidarity with Moscow.

 

But China should not forget that it was able to soar to superpower status in terms of development and economic success within the framework of the existing world order based on the rule of law. It must not be allowed to simply sit on the sidelines when Russia is bent on destroying this order.

 

If China continues to turn a blind eye to Russia’s acts of barbarity, the international community will inevitably start to suspect that China is also planning to change the status quo by force, just as Russia is trying to do.

 

The current situation calls into question China’s sense of responsibility as a leading power and its world view. It should offer an unequivocal answer to the question of what kind of world order it is seeking to build.

 

The country’s defense budget for this year, which was disclosed at the National People’s Congress session, served only to fuel international concerns about its military ambitions.

 

China projected its defense spending in 2022 to grow by 7.1 percent from the previous year to 1,450.5 billion yuan (about 26.3 trillion yen, or $227.8 billion), nearly five times larger than Japan’s defense budget. Despite lowering its economic growth target from last year, the Chinese government is bolstering its defense spending at a faster rate for the second consecutive year.

 

In a recent meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s ambassador the United Nations, quoted Albert Einstein in saying, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” We pray that Chinese leaders will ruminate on these wise words.

 

China needs to take unambiguous action to stop the war. If China really is intent on playing a responsible role to promote global peace, now is the time for it to demonstrate its commitment by taking action.

 

–The Asahi Shimbun, March 8

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