‘Partnership, not alliance’: China downplays relationship with Russia

Singapore, Jun 12 (EFE).- China’s defense minister on Sunday denied that his country’s relationship with Russia is an alliance, defining it instead as a partnership, and said that Beijing has “never provided material support” to Moscow since it invaded Ukraine in February.

“The growth of the China-Russia relationship is a partnership, not an alliance. It does not target a third party,” Wei Fenghe said during a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, the most important defense forum in Asia-Pacific.

Although firm in his friendship with Russia, Wei’s words lower the tone used between the two countries shortly before the invasion of Ukraine. At the beginning of February, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and China’s leader Xi Jinping signed in Beijing a statement that raised their relationship to the highest level in 70 years and assured it has “no limits.”

Months later, with the war entrenched in the heart of Europe, Wei on Sunday did not completely close ranks with his “important partner” and stated that nobody wanted the war.

“[It] will bring tremendous damage to Ukraine, Russia and Europe, and also affect China tremendously,” such as with the food and energy crisis, he said.

“We have to see the root cause, who should be responsible, how we can facilitate peace talks, promote the end of the war. That is the direction we should walk hard towards,” Wei responded when asked why Beijing did not do more to persuade its “partner” to stop its invasion of its neighbor.

Although he responded evasively to that question, Wei was blunt in stating that “China has never provided any material support to Russia” since the invasion, after publications in March claimed that Moscow had asked Beijing for weapons.

The war in Ukraine has been present in the sessions and speeches of the Shangri-La Dialogue, and used on occasion to establish parallels with a hypothetical Chinese invasion of Taiwan, although on Sunday Wei insisted that Beijing is committed to reunification with what it considers a rebel province.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a virtual speech in the forum on Saturday, in which he called for preventive diplomatic solutions to security tensions between China and Taiwan.

The summit, which started on Friday and ends Sunday, was attended by defense chiefs from dozens of countries, including the United States, and Ukrainian delegates, but Russia did not participate.

Some of the attendees highlighted behind the scenes the “better mood” of the Chinese side towards the Ukrainian side and, along these lines, members of the Beijing delegation closely followed Zelenskyy’s speech on Saturday, although without later participating in the round of questions. EFE


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