China is concerned it could be hit by western sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and will retaliate if necessary, the Chinese foreign minister has said.
“China is not a party to the crisis, nor does it want sanctions to affect China,” Wang Yi told his Spanish counterpart, José Manuel Albares, in remarks published by the Chinese foreign ministry on Tuesday.
“China has a right to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests,” he added.
The comments come a day after Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, met with Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy official, in Rome for what one US official described as an “intense” seven-hour exchange that included discussion of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine .
During the meeting on Monday, the US state department said the US would have “great concern” if China provided any support to Russia to help sustain the invasion of Ukraine.
“We have communicated very clearly to Beijing that. . . we will not allow any country to compensate Russia for its losses, ”said Ned Price, state department spokesperson.
Western sanctions on Russia have hit equity markets around the world and sent the cost of some commodities, such as oil and wheat, soaring. China is a big importer of Russian energy and agricultural commodities.
The recent spate of Covid-19 lockdowns has hit Chinese equities particularly hard, with Chinese stocks on Tuesday posting their second day of sharp declines. The Hang Seng China Enterprises index of large liquid Chinese stocks on Tuesday dropped to its lowest level since the global financial crisis in 2008. The CSI 300 index of Shanghai and Shenzhen-listed stocks fell 4.6 per cent, hitting its lowest level since 2020.
Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng index dropped 5.7 per cent to its lowest level since 2012.
The sell-off has gathered pace following a report in the Financial Times that the US believes China responded positively to Russian requests for weapons. Beijing has hit back at what it said were US efforts to spread disinformation and “distort and smear” its position on the Ukraine war.
On Tuesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on China to “clearly condemn” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and not extend any form of support to Moscow. “China should join the rest of the world in condemning, strongly, the brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russia,” he said.
“China has an obligation as a member of the UN Security Council to actually support and uphold international law, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a blatant violation of international law,” Stoltenberg added.
President Xi Jinping and other senior Chinese officials have insisted that Beijing is a neutral party, but they and state media continue to repeat and bolster Russian justifications for its invasion.
In a further reflection of the Chinese government’s de facto support for President Vladimir Putin, who met Xi in Beijing a few weeks before the invasion, a US organization that published a Chinese scholar’s criticism of the war said on Tuesday that one of its websites had been blocked in China.
The article by Hu Wei, a Shanghai-based political scientist affiliated with the State Council’s research office in Beijing, was first published on March 12 by the Carter Center in Atlanta.
Russia’s ‘special military operation’ against Ukraine has caused great controversy in China, with its supporters and opponents being divided into two implacably opposing sides, “Hu wrote, while also urging China to disassociate itself from Putin’s” irreversible mistake “.
“The bottom line is to prevent the US and the west from imposing joint sanctions on China,” he said.
The Carter Center’s China program said its Chinese-language websites had been blocked but that it did not regret publishing the article.
Additional reporting by Kate Duguid