China on Friday renewed its criticism of Western sanctions against Russia, as top European Union officials sought assurances from Beijing that it would not help Moscow circumvent the economic measures imposed in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry also laid blame for the war in Ukraine at least partially on the U.S. for pushing to expand the NATO closer to Russia’s borders. Twenty-one of the EU’s 27 countries are also NATO member States.
At a virtual summit, European Council President Charles Michel, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell were seeking signs from Chinese President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang that Beijing would help to end the war.
“China 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,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing as they met.
Mr. Zhao said when it came to Ukraine, Beijing would not be forced to “choose a side or adopt a simplistic friend-or-foe approach. We should, in particular, resist the Cold War thinking and bloc confrontation”.
“As the culprit and leading instigator of the Ukraine crisis, the U.S. has led NATO to engage in five rounds of eastward expansion in the last two decades after 1999,” he said, adding that NATO membership grew from 16 to 30 countries, and pushed “Russia to the wall step by step”.
China says it is not taking sides in the conflict but it has declared a “no limits” partnership with Russia and refuses to condemn the invasion. Beijing routinely amplifies Russian disinformation about the conflict, and does not refer to it as an invasion or a war in keeping with Russian practice.