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China Balances Position on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine


A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard a the entrance to the Russian Embassy in Beijing on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
China Balances Position on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
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Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China has attempted to balance its position on the conflict.

President Xi Jinping’s government has tried to distance itself from the Russian offensive. But it has also avoided direct criticism of Russia.

In addition, China has offered to act as a negotiator in the conflict. But, it has denounced trade and financial restrictions put on Russia by Western nations.

Public support in China for the government’s position has appeared in comments published on social media, The Associated Press reported.

The ruling Communist Party’s control of all Chinese media and heavy internet censorship make it hard to know the public’s opinion. But the things the government permits media to report and the online material it chooses not to censor suggest what it might want the public to think.

A resident watches a TV screen showing news about conflict between Russia and Ukraine at a shopping mall in Hangzhou, in China's eastern Zhejiang province on February 25, 2022. (Photo by AFP)
A resident watches a TV screen showing news about conflict between Russia and Ukraine at a shopping mall in Hangzhou, in China's eastern Zhejiang province on February 25, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Expressions of sympathy for Ukraine appear in Chinese websites and on social media, along with support for Russia. But direct criticism of Russia or its activities in Ukraine is not easily found.

One message published by a user of China’s Weibo social media service expressed an opinion about the victims of war. “When a war begins, is it not the children of ordinary people who serve as cannon fodder?” the message said. The statement was published under the name Da Ke Ming Yi. “Those who died were the children of ordinary people,” the user added.

Recently, a letter signed by five university professors criticized Russia for attacking a weaker neighbor, the AP reported. “We stand against unjust wars,” said the letter, which appeared briefly on social media before it was removed. The group included professors at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, where many ruling party leaders studied.

Critics published comments on social media denouncing the professors for failing to represent the ruling party’s official position of neutrality.

A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard along the fences around the Russian Embassy in Beijing on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard along the fences around the Russian Embassy in Beijing on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

The ruling party has spent many years using its school system and the state-controlled media to present a sense of national grievance. In other words, to support the feeling that one nation is mistreating another. The government efforts center on accusations that the United States has tried to block China’s rise as a world leader.

Chinese state media repeat the ruling party’s position that the U.S. and its European allies are responsible for the war in Ukraine. China has argued that the West did not react favorably to Russia’s demand that Ukraine be barred from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

China has also long accused the U.S. and its allies of interfering in its national affairs. This includes issues such as China’s claim over Taiwan and territorial disputes in the South China Sea. U.S. officials have also criticized Chinese government policies in the far western area of Xinjiang. That is where China is accused of detaining over a million ethnic Uyghurs.

Zheng Bowen, a 38-year-old Chinese engineer, told the AP that Russia’s attack, as a historical event “is not a good one.” But, the engineer added, “People think the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is because the United States stirred up trouble.”

A resident walks her dog near a plainclothes security person standing watch outside the Russian Embassy in Beijing on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A resident walks her dog near a plainclothes security person standing watch outside the Russian Embassy in Beijing on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

The state-run newspaper Capital News urged the public to back the ruling party’s positions on the Ukraine conflict. “The nation’s attitude is our attitude,” it said.

However, the newspaper appeared to support the position of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It states that Ukraine should become a neutral territory between Russia and Europe and should give up the possibility of joining NATO. It said “Ukraine should be a bridge between East and West, rather than a frontier of confrontation between major powers.”

Some online comments have urged China to support Russia by buying its exports of oil, gas and other goods. “Let the Russian Embassy sell their goods on livestream. Let’s show them China’s buying power,” said a comment signed Bao Zou Guang Xiao Pang on Weibo. It received 42,000 likes.

A separate comment called on China’s leaders to continue normal trade with Russia. That would be an indirect rejection of economic restrictions placed on Russia by Western nations. That comment received nearly 80,000 likes.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English.

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Words in This Story

censorship – n. the system or practice of censoring books, movies, letters, etc.

ordinary – adj. not special, different or unusual in any way

cannon fodder – n. when soldiers are described as cannon fodder, it means military officers do not consider them important when they are sent into war

grievance – n. a complaint or strong feeling that a person or group has been treated unfairly

stir up – phrasal v. to cause an unpleasant emotion or problem to begin or grow

attitude – n. a feeling or opinion about something or someone

frontier – n. a border between two countries

confrontation – n. a fight or argument

livestream – n. a broadcast of video and sound of an event over the internet as it happens

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