China’s Xi says talks, not sanctions, should resolve disputes

Remarks seen as confirmation that China will stick to stance of not criticising Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivering keynote speech at opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia via video link, at a media centre in Boao, Hainan province.
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers speech at the Boao Forum for Asia via video link on April 21, 2022 [Kevin Yao/Reuters]

Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken indirect aim at some countries punitive actions against Russia, saying that the world should oppose “the wanton use of unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction.”

While Xi did not specifically mention Russia, Ukraine, or any other country during his keynote speech delivered on Thursday by video link at the annual Boao Forum for Asia, his words echoed Beijing’s position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He said tactics like “de-coupling, supply disruption, and maximum pressure” – such as the sanctions imposed by the US and other democracies including Japan and South Korea – would fail.

China has so far resisted international pressure to impose punitive measures on its close ally or refer to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine as an “invasion,” and has instead said it would push for peace in its “own way.”

China’s state-controlled media has sought to portray the US as the villain, and also amplified Russian disinformation about the war.

Xi also told the forum that Beijing remains committed to “respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries” as well as the principle of non-interference in their internal affairs. China has long faced criticism over its controversial policies towards its far western region of Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and in Tibet, which it annexed in 1949.

The Chinese leader went on to make thinly-veiled references to US-led security blocs like NATO, and the more recent Quad and AUKUS, saying that “attempts to forge small circles or to stir conflict and confrontation along ideological lines” are “doomed to fail”.

Xi appears to have forged a close bond with Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent years with the two men meeting in Beijing less than a month before Russia began its February 24 invasion.

At the same time, tensions between Beijing and Washington have risen, over alleged human rights abuses, the coronavirus pandemic and Taiwan, the self-ruled democratic island that China claims as its own.

Xi sought to draw a contrast with the US, portraying China as a champion of multilateralism and cooperation, and saying that countries should work together to build a “balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture” that does not prioritise one country or region over another.

He likened the world to a ship of passengers working together and said that “the thought of throwing anyone overboard is simply not acceptable”.

The Chinese leader also addressed the COVID-19 pandemic, saying more “strenuous efforts” were needed to combat the virus and highlighted the large number of vaccines donated by China to other countries.

He did not mention China’s resurgent outbreak or any plans to change its controversial “Zero COVID” strategy amid a weeks-long lockdown in the city of Shanghai, as well as other parts of the country.

The IMF this week slashed its growth outlook for China from 4.8 percent to 4.4 percent due to the impact of nationwide lockdowns on its economy and factory production.

Source: Al Jazeera