China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi (杨洁篪), met yesterday with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Rome. Image from Munich Security Conference 2019, available at Flickr.com under CC license.
Meeting in Rome yesterday, China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi (杨洁篪), and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had a “substantial discussion of Russia’s war against Ukraine,” according to a readout posted by the White House. One key focus of the talks was the possibility of China providing military or other support for Russia, after the US leaked intelligence suggesting that Russia had approached China for its assistance. China has denied that it received such a request, dismissing the news as “disinformation” spread by the US.
In the Chinese Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper today there is not a whiff of news about Sullivan or yesterday’s exchange in Rome. But the “disinformation” angle plays strongly in the paper, trumpeted in a page 17 column that heaps the blame for “the Ukraine crisis” (乌克兰危机) – also downplayed as “the Ukraine issue” (乌克兰问题) – on the United States.
The piece is written by “Zhong Sheng” (钟声), an official pen name used routinely for important pieces on international affairs on which the leadership wishes to register its view. It accuses US media and “certain US politicians” of “[using] the Ukraine issue to fabricate and spread false information in a way that recalls the dishonorable history of the US side and the way it has used rumors to wage wars.” Soon after this statement comes reference, for example, to the infamous vial of white powder held up on February 5, 2003, by then US Secretary of State Colin Powell on the dais of the United Nations Security Council, offered as proof that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The basic point of the “Zhong Sheng” column is that the US, and the US alone, has created the “Ukraine crisis,” and that it is now, rather than acting as a responsible power, attempting to cloak its guilt in a veil of disinformation. By contrast, “China’s approach is responsible and truly reflects the role of a great power.”
Taken as a reflection of thinking at the top of the CCP, the “Zhong Sheng” piece would suggest an extreme rift in views on the disaster in Ukraine, which most of the world has seen plainly as stemming from Russian aggression and the personal ambitions of Vladimir Putin.
Further, the column suggests that the US has worsened the situation by wielding the “stick of sanctions” (制裁大棒). One point of bewildering obtuseness comes as it outlines its case against sanctions as a tool of US “coercion,” noting their impact on economies, and therefore people’s lives: “Sanctions are never an effective way to solve problems and will only bring serious difficulties to the economies and livelihoods of the countries concerned, further aggravating division and confrontation.”
The economy of Ukraine, and the livelihoods of its people, have so plainly been destroyed by incessant Russian bombardments, with nearly three million people now having fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations. In light of the devastation on the ground in Ukraine, the People’s Daily focus on sanctions seem to show an incredible level of tone deafness. But the point here may be that China’s leaders see themselves as having a vested interest in perpetuating the anti-American narrative, the same interest that has kept Chinese media pumping out Russian propaganda.
A full translation of today’s “Zhong Sheng” column follows:
Disseminating false information cannot cover up the responsibility of the US side People’s Daily March 15, 2022, p. 17
The US side should reflect on its role in the Ukraine crisis, stop lying and deceiving and confusing the public, and should uphold its responsibility, taking practical steps to de-escalate the situation and solve the problem, doing something beneficial for peace.
Recently, certain US politicians and media have repeatedly fabricated and disseminated false information, using the Ukraine issue to smear China. In the face of the facts, this practice of creating rumors to shirk one’s responsibility is despicable and ineffective. Not only does it fail to cover up the responsibility of the US side in the Ukraine crisis, but it further exposes the sinister intention of the US side in trying to ensure that all under heaven is in chaos.
To see the situation in Ukraine develop to this point is not something China has wanted to see. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has always made its judgments and claims independently and impartially on the basis of the merits of the matter itself. The Ukrainian issue has its own complex historical background, and its resolution requires calmness and rationality. China believes that in order to resolve the current crisis, we must adhere to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, respecting and guaranteeing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries; we must adhere to the principle of indivisible security and accommodate the legitimate security concerns of the parties; we must adhere to dialogue and negotiation to resolve disputes by peaceful means; and we must focus on the long-term stability of the region and build a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism. China’s position is open and honest, and its ideas are positive and constructive.
To promote the resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, it is imperative to urge peace and promote talks, rather than pouring oil on the fire. China has always stood on the side of peace and cooperation, justice and righteousness, and supports any efforts to help de-escalate the situation and reach a political solution, while opposing any actions that are not conducive to promoting a diplomatic solution and lead to an escalation of the situation. China has been in close communication with all parties and has worked to persuade and encourage talks. It is willing to continue to play a constructive role in promoting talks, and to work with the international community to carry out the necessary mediation whenever necessary. China’s approach is responsible and truly reflects the role of a great power. For individual countries to create crises and to pass on crises, and even to derive profit from them, is detrimental to others and to themselves.
China is not in favor of using sanctions to solve the Ukrainian problem, and is even more opposed to unilateral sanctions that have no basis in international law. Sanctions are never an effective way to solve problems and will only bring serious difficulties to the economies and livelihoods of the countries concerned, further aggravating division and confrontation. Sanctions not only create a “lose-lose” or “multi-lose” economic situation, but also interfere with the process of political settlement. According to data released by the US Treasury Department, the number of sanctions imposed by the US has increased tenfold in the past 20 years. The number of sanctions imposed during the last US presidency reached 3,800, which is equivalent to waving the “sanctions stick” on average three times a day. The unilateral sanctions imposed by the US have caused much chaos in the world, resulting in continuous and systematic violations of human rights. The US side must stop imposing sanctions indiscriminately and give up the delusion of coercing other countries to do what they oppose.
Certain US politicians and media have used the Ukraine issue to fabricate and spread false information in a way that recalls the dishonorable history of the US side and the way it has used rumors to wage wars. In less than 250 years of its existence, there has been no 20-year period in which the US has not launched a military operation, and some of the many rationalizations used to carry out these military interventions were even fabricated disinformation. The United States used a vial of white powder as evidence of so-called weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to launch military strikes against Iraq, causing a serious calamity for the Iraqi people; in Syria, the United States has used the “White Helmets” organization funded by Western intelligence services to pose for video as “evidence” to justify air strikes. . . . . The lessons are near, and the US side should reflect deeply rather than continue repeating the same mistakes.
Former US Ambassador to the Soviet Union George Kennan advised the US government in the 1990s that NATO’s continued expansion against Russia would be the most fatal mistake in US policy. As the originator of the Ukraine crisis, the US side should reflect on its role in the Ukraine crisis, stop lying and deceiving and confusing the public, and should uphold its responsibility, taking practical steps to de-escalate the situation and solve the problem, doing something beneficial for peace.