Chinese Ambassador Suggests Ex-Soviet States Aren’t Real Countries, Sparking Fury In Europe

April 24, 2023   |   Tags:
Chinese Ambassador Suggests Ex-Soviet States Aren't Real Countries, Sparking Fury In Europe

China is quickly trying to backtrack, calling statements of one of its ambassadors merely personal views after a firestorm was set off in Europe, resulting in outrage and tit-for-tat response, including the summoning of ambassadors.

China’s ambassador to France Lu Shaye sparked anger in Europe during a French television interview by questioning the sovereignty of former Soviet republics. He was asked during the segment on broadcaster TFI whether Crimea is part of Ukraine under international law. 

His controversial response was that Crimea belongs to Russia historically and that it had been handed over to Ukraine, but that "Even these countries of the former Soviet Union do not have an effective status in international law, since there is no international agreement that would specify their status as sovereign countries."

Chinese ambassador to France Lu Shaye, source: EPA-EFE

Given this in effect posed doubts over the very sovereignty of the former Soviet satellite states (including Ukraine itself), European countries are now demanding answers, with Baltic countries Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia reportedly summoning their Chinese ambassadors for an explanation. Statements of denunciation are expected from other European officials as well.

The comments also sparked confusion over China's policy, also awkwardly at a moment Beijing is holding itself out as a powerful third party which can mediate peace in Ukraine, as the NY Times reviews

Fu Cong, China’s ambassador to the European Union, by contrast, told The New York Times in an interview this month that China did not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea or of parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, instead recognizing Ukraine within its internationally accepted borders, in line with Ms. Mao’s remarks on Monday.

But Mr. Fu also said that Beijing had not condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine because it understood Russia’s claims about its being a defensive war against NATO encroachment, and because his government believes "the root causes are more complicated" than Western leaders say.

Certainly at the very least this latter statement has been consistently presented by Chinese leaders (refusing a wholesale condemnation of Russia, instead criticizing NATO expansion). 

But Ambassador Lu in the interview went further than any other Chinese official since the invasion began in offering a deeply pro-Moscow historical and political viewpoint on the crisis. According to his precise words in full: 

"Even these ex-Soviet countries don’t have an effective status in international law because there was no international agreement to materialize their status as sovereign countries," Lu said, after first noting that the question of Crimea "depends on how the problem is perceived" as the region was "at the beginning Russian" and then "offered to Ukraine during the Soviet era."

European officials have taken this as a disavowal of those sovereign nations which became independent with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and which entered the United Nations as members. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs then issued the following clarification Monday:

"China respects the sovereign status of the former soviet countries after the dissolution of the Soviet Union," said foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning. Mao said Beijing’s position is "consistent and clear" but gave no indication whether Lu’s comment was considered incorrect.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell issued swift condemnation of the Chinese ambassador's words...

He also expressed deep concern over the futures of Georgia and Moldova, both tiny ex-Soviet republics which have felt under threat in the wake of the Ukraine invasion.  Borrell said those countries "see the war (in Ukraine) very close, they feel the threat" and the matter will be taken up by European ministers in the coming days. "For us Georgia is a very important country and remember that it has specific security issues because its territory is partially occupied by Russia," Borrell said Monday.

In the wake of the weekend interview with the Chinese ambassador, France was also quick to express "full solidarity" with all the allied countries affected and urged China to explain its position unequivocally. Germany too said it has "taken note of the Chinese ambassador’s statement on French television with great astonishment, especially since the statements are not in line with the Chinese position known to us so far."

Again, so far Beijing has merely painted the statements as the personal views of a lone ambassador, and not the official position of the government of China, while affirming the sovereignty of the affected countries.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/24/2023 - 09:25