Xi Jinping Addresses China's Role in Ukraine During Europe Visit

During a crucial six-day visit to Europe, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been actively addressing concerns regarding China's alleged support for Russia in the ongoing war in Ukraine.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Xi Jinping Addresses China's Role in Ukraine During Europe Visit
© Getty Images/Kiran Ridley

During a crucial six-day visit to Europe, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been actively addressing concerns regarding China's alleged support for Russia in the ongoing war in Ukraine. This visit, Xi's first to Europe in five years, comes at a time when China's relationship with both European nations and Moscow is under intense scrutiny. At a press conference in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron, Xi emphasized China's stance, stating, “China is neither the creator of the crisis, nor a party to it or a participant. But we are also not a bystander, we have always been actively contributing to reaching peace.”

Xi's statements reflect a delicate balancing act. While distancing China from the creation and direct involvement in the Ukraine crisis, he also rebuked the idea of using the situation to shift blame or malign a third party, indirectly criticizing the U.S. for its allegations. Washington has accused China of supporting Russia’s defense industry by exporting dual-use technologies, such as machine tools and microelectronics, which could potentially be used in military applications.

The timing of Xi’s tour is strategic, positioned as an opportunity for China to present its narrative directly to European leaders, potentially creating a wedge between European perspectives and those of Washington.

Strengthening Ties Amid Historical Contexts

The visit also includes stops in Serbia and Hungary, where Xi's itinerary aligns with significant historical anniversaries, such as the 25th anniversary of NATO’s bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. This event, which the U.S. claimed was accidental, has long fueled Beijing's resentment towards NATO and driven its closer ties with Russia.

In Serbia, Xi wrote, “The Chinese people cherish peace, but will never allow a repeat of historical tragedy. The friendship of people of both countries forged by blood has become a shared memory and will encourage both sides to make strides forward.” This statement not only underscores China's historical grievances but also its current diplomatic priorities in strengthening bilateral relationships influenced by shared historical narratives.

Xi’s Role in Global Peace Efforts

Amid these complex diplomatic maneuvers, Xi and Macron have called for a global Olympic truce, advocating for a ceasefire in all conflicts during the upcoming Summer Games in Paris. Furthermore, the Chinese leader has extended his peacemaking efforts to the Israel-Hamas conflict, advocating for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire.

The broader context of Xi’s discussions with European leaders like Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also highlights his role in mitigating broader threats, such as Russia's nuclear posturing. Von der Leyen acknowledged Xi’s efforts in de-escalating the situation, expressing confidence in his continued influence over Russia.

Despite these efforts, there remains skepticism about China's neutrality and its effectiveness in leveraging its relationship with Russia towards a peaceful resolution. The ongoing delivery of dual-use goods to Russia, despite Beijing's assurances of non-lethal aid, continues to be a point of contention.

President Macron Welcomes President Xi Jinping Of China
President Macron Welcomes President Xi Jinping Of China© Getty Images/Kiran Ridley
 

The Geopolitical Chessboard: Xi's European Visit and Its Implications

Europe's Strategic Calculus

European leaders are increasingly cautious about Beijing's close relationship with Moscow, especially considering the ongoing war and China's refusal to condemn Russia's actions openly. This visit serves as a crucial platform for Xi to articulate China's stance directly to European leaders, potentially easing tensions or recalibrating alliances.

The visit also offers a window into China’s broader strategy to mitigate its international isolation by the West, particularly the U.S., which has been vocal about its suspicions regarding China’s technological exports to Russia. By strengthening ties with individual European countries, Xi might be aiming to create fissures within the collective Western approach to China and Russia. This tactic could be seen in his stops in countries like Serbia and Hungary, nations that have historically had more contentious relationships with broader European Union policies and U.S. global strategies.

The Response from Europe

European reactions to Xi’s visit and statements have been mixed. On one hand, leaders like Macron appreciate the direct engagement, hoping to influence China's stance on the Ukraine conflict. Macron's discussions with Xi were described as lengthy and reassuring, indicating a possible opening for deeper dialogue on contentious issues like trade and security.

However, there remains a palpable level of skepticism among other European leaders and analysts who question the sincerity and effectiveness of China's proposed role as a peacemaker. While Xi calls for dialogues and truces, the continued flow of dual-use technologies to Russia paints a contradictory picture. This duality puts European leaders in a difficult position as they navigate their own economic and security interests with China against their defensive posture towards Russia.

Technological Tensions and Trade Dynamics

The allegations of China supplying dual-use technology to Russia highlight another layer of complexity in international relations. These technologies, while civilian in nature, have potential military applications that could enhance Russia’s military capabilities significantly. This situation has led to a broader debate on the nature of international trade in the modern world, where global supply chains are deeply intertwined with national security concerns.

The U.S. has been particularly vocal, with senior Biden administration officials highlighting the types of technologies being sent to Russia and the potential implications for the conflict in Ukraine. This has led to calls for stricter controls and monitoring of international trade, particularly concerning high-technology exports.

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