China rejects sanctions as Ukraine war tops summit agenda

BRUSSELS (AP) — China on Friday renewed its criticism of Western sanctions against Russia, as senior European Union officials sought assurances from Beijing that it would not help Moscow circumvent economic measures imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

China’s Foreign Ministry also blamed the war in Ukraine, at least partially, on the United States for pushing to expand the NATO military alliance closer to Russia’s borders. Twenty-one of the 27 EU countries are also NATO member states.

In a virtual summit, European Council President Charles Michel, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell sought signs from Chinese President and Communist Party leader Xi. Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang that Beijing would help end the war in Ukraine.

“China disapproves of solving problems through sanctions, and we are even more opposed to unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction that have no basis in international law,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a statement. a daily briefing while they met.

Zhao said that when it comes to Ukraine, Beijing will not be forced to “choose sides or take a simplistic friend-or-foe approach.” We should, in particular, resist Cold War thinking and bloc confrontation.”

“As the culprit and main instigator of the Ukraine crisis, the United States has led NATO to participate in five rounds of eastward expansion in the last two decades after 1999,” he said, adding that NATO membership almost doubled from 16 to 30 countries, and pushed “Russia against the wall step by step”.

China says it is not taking sides in the conflict but has declared an “unlimited” partnership with Russia and refuses to condemn the invasion. Beijing routinely amplifies Russian disinformation about the conflict and does not refer to it as an invasion or a war in accordance with Russian practice.

In a press release after the first session of the summit, Li was quoted as affirming the importance of China-EU ties, saying he hoped the two would “stay open to each other, steadily expand access to the market, protect fair competition and promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation.”

“China hopes that the EU will also provide a sound business environment for Chinese companies that invest and develop in Europe,” Li said.

Before the summit, EU officials said they would look for signs that Beijing is willing to cooperate to end the war. The meeting comes amid growing negative sentiment within the bloc fueled by China’s aggressive foreign policies and trade practices.

“The international community, in particular China and the EU, have a mutual responsibility to use their joint influence and diplomacy to end Russia’s war in Ukraine and the associated humanitarian crisis,” Michel tweeted.

Behind the EU’s expectations for China is the possibility of sanctions against Chinese companies that undermine the measures taken against Russia. EU officials point out that 13.7% of China’s total trade is with the 27-nation bloc and 12% with the United States, compared to just 2.4% with Russia.

Officials said they also want to emphasize the impact the war is having on fertilizer availability and global energy and food prices, which are affecting Africa’s poorest countries. and the middle east more difficult

Other issues include China’s travel ban on members of the European Parliament; Beijing’s economic boycott of Lithuania, a member of the EU, for its relations with Taiwan; the fate of a stalled investment deal; and civil and political rights under the authoritarian rule of the Communist Party of China.

Beijing has dismissed European criticism as biased and driven by an anti-China agenda being pursued by its main global rival, the United States.

Beijing also sanctioned some European Union lawmakers last year after the EU, Britain, Canada and the United States launched coordinated sanctions. against officials in China for human rights abuses in the western Xinjiang region.

The European Parliament responded by saying it will not ratify a long-awaited business investment deal while sanctions remain in place.

Rights groups have also urged the EU to take a stronger stance with China on the crackdown in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and elsewhere and the persecution of Chinese dissidents, including Ilham Tohti, winner of the Sakharov Prize and Chinese-Swedish editor Gui Minhai.

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Moritsugu reported from Beijing.

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Follow all AP stories on developments in Russia’s war against Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.

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