China denied that Russia’s actions in Ukraine amounted to an “invasion” and urged all parties to exercise restraint, even as it advised its citizens to stay at home or at least take the precaution of displaying a Chinese flag if they needed to go out.
According to Reuters, Russian forces on Thursday, Feb. 24, fired missiles at several cities in Ukraine and landed troops on its coast after President Putin ordered what he called a special military operation in the east.
During a press conference in Beijing, Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, bridled at reporters’ description of Russia’s moves as an “invasion.” She refused to call the military action an “invasion,” labeling the term “prejudiced” and avoiding questions on whether China was in contact with Russian and Ukrainian leaders.
She said, “You are using a typical Western media question method of using the word invasion. This is perhaps a difference between China and you Westerners. We won’t go rushing to a conclusion.”
She continued, “Regarding the definition of an invasion, I think we should go back to how to view the current situation in Ukraine. The Ukrainian issue has other very complicated historical background that has continued to today. It may not be what everyone wants to see.”
Russia’s attack on Ukraine comes weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Feb.4, just before the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. The two sides declared a strategic partnership aimed at countering U.S. influence, claiming that they would have “no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.”
Reuters said Russia’s activities in Ukraine had left China in a delicate situation, given China’s often-stated foreign policy principle of non-interference and Xi and Putin’s recent announcement of strengthening ties.
Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, China had been expected to support Russia diplomatically and even economically, but not militarily. On Thursday, Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, also said that China would not provide weapons in the conflict.