‘Taiwan Is for Sure Not Ukraine’: China Refuses to Back Russia Against Kyiv

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

The Communist Party of China has refused to recognize Russian proxy fighters in eastern Ukraine as sovereign “states” and urged the world to give the two countries “space” on Wednesday, failing to take a hard line in defense of its nominal ally Russia.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry also appeared to go out of its way to reject Russian strongman Vladimir Putin’s declaration on Monday that two regions of Ukraine’s Donbas region – Donetsk and Luhansk – were sovereign “states,” emphasizing on Wednesday, “Taiwan for sure is not Ukraine.”

Taiwan is a legitimate sovereign state that has never been governed by any regime in Beijing. The Chinese Communist Party insists, however, that Taiwan is a rogue “province” and that its democratically elected government is a ragtag group of “separatists” like those of Donetsk and Luhansk. In refusing to equate the two, Chinese officials have rejected Putin’s insistence that all of Ukraine itself is a rogue Russian oblast – a point he made repeatedly in a speech on Monday.

Putin’s recognition of the two Donbas regions as “states” allows Russia to claim that its leadership – organized Russian proxies that have been fighting the Ukrainian military for eight years – want Russia to formally intervene in the conflict, replacing Russian military aid to the proxies with the official presence of the Russian military. Much of the Western world, including the administration of President Joe Biden, responded to Russian troops overtly crossing the Ukrainian border with sanctions targeting Russian oligarchs and halting the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a natural gas project that would allow Russia to transport gas directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine and greatly enriching Moscow.

Biden’s decision to lift already existing sanctions on Nord Stream 2 last summer resulted in a windfall for Putin that has facilitated the current military operations in Donbas.

TOPSHOT - Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) reviews a military honour guard with Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 8, 2018. - Putin arrived on June 8 for a state visit to China and will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Leaders Summit in the eastern port city of Qingdao on June 9-10. (Photo by Greg BAKER / POOL / AFP) (Photo by GREG BAKER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (C) reviews a military honour guard with Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 8, 2018. (GREG BAKER/POOL/AFP via Getty)

While China has enthusiastically rejected the sanctions, the Communist Party has failed to support Putin’s claims over Ukraine.

Asked directly to comment on the comparisons between China’s claims over Taiwan and Russia’s claims over Ukraine, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying emphasized during a regular ministry press briefing on Wednesday, “Taiwan is for sure not Ukraine.”

“Taiwan has always been an inalienable part of China’s territory. This is an indisputable historical and legal fact,” Hua insisted, against ample historical evidence. “The one-China principle [the idea that Taiwan is a province of China] is a universally recognized norm governing international relations. The Taiwan region’s peace hinges on the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, rather than brownnosing foreign forces for arms sales and military support.”

Hua went on to lecture reporters about President Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, insisting that the Nixon administration never challenged “that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.” Hua’s answer barely addressed Ukraine despite the sovereignty of that country being at the core of the question she was responding to, implying that China’s stance is that Ukraine is a sovereign state with no similar shared history with Russia – a rejection of Putin’s claims.

“I would like to emphasize again that Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space,” Putin said in remarks on Monday, according to a translation by the Kremlin. “Since time immemorial, the people living in the south-west of what has historically been Russian land have called themselves Russians and Orthodox Christians.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, right on the screen, via videoconference in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have held a video call to discuss bilateral relations and international affairs. The summit Wednesday comes amid heightened tensions between Moscow and the West over a Russian troop buildup near Ukrainian borders that is stoking fears of a possible invasion. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, right on the screen, via videoconference in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021.  (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Putin went on to insist that brutal communist tyrant Vladimir Lenin was the “creator and architect” of Ukraine and that Ukraine “actually never had stable traditions of real statehood.” He claimed that modern Ukraine – whose president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish – is fraught with “neo-Nazism.”

Chinese officials and state propaganda has largely ignored Putin’s claims. Both state media and transcripts of government comments have used scare quotes to identify the two “countries” Putin recognized within Ukraine, the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic.” While insisting that America is the actor exacerbating tensions in Ukraine, not Putin, Chinese messaging has nonetheless urged the world to stop following the situation, rather than accept Putin’s claims to all of Ukraine.

In an editorial on Wednesday, the belligerent Chinese state propaganda newspaper Global Times went as far as to classify Putin’s actions towards Ukraine as an “outburst” that stems from Western disrespect for alleged Russian “security concerns.”

“It should be noted that it is very regrettable that the Ukrainian issue has evolved so far. The US has continued its intensive containment on Russia, which finally forced Russia to try to realize its security demands in such a way,” the editorial surmised, superficially defending Russia while failing to accept the core demands out of the Kremlin.

“At a time when the situation is uncertain, all sides should leave some space for Russia and Ukraine to solve the problems. Confrontation, sanctions, or even a direct battle will not help ease tensions,” the Global Times advised.

China has a long history of aggressively rejecting all separatist claims anywhere in the world, an attempt to give itself cover over its own false demands to rule Taiwan. The Communist Party still does not recognize Kosovo as a nation, for example, because Serbia insists that it is a separatist region that it should rightfully rule.

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