Business Maverick

Business Maverick

China joins Russia in refusing to agree to G20 statement on war

China joins Russia in refusing to agree to G20 statement on war
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference on January 30, 2023 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

China and Russia refused to join other Group20 nations in a statement in which most members condemned Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, showing divisions remain entrenched on how to end a conflict that has roiled the global economy. 

“Given the state of polarisation around Ukraine, a consensus could not be reached,” India’s top diplomat Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told reporters after a meeting of the G20 foreign ministers in New Delhi on Thursday. “There are occasions when you don’t have an agreement among G20 countries.”

India later issued a chairman’s statement that confirmed Russia and China didn’t agree to language that G20 leaders had negotiated in Bali, Indonesia, only four months ago. It said “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine, and stressed it is causing immense human suffering” through inflation, food security and other risks. 

A similar meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank heads over the weekend also failed to reach a consensus on wording, forcing India as host to issue a chair’s summary instead of a joint communique. The lack of consensus raises questions over whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi can bridge the divide in time for a leaders’ summit in September. 

Much depends on the state of US-China relations, which have spiralled in the wake of a positive meeting between leaders Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in November. The US downing of an alleged Chinese spy balloon led to the postponement of a trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing, which sparked a new round of tit-for-tat recriminations by the world’s biggest economies. 

In India on Thursday, Blinken pressed Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to end the invasion during a brief and unexpected encounter on the sidelines of the meeting, their first in-person encounter since the war began a year ago.

“I told the foreign minister what I and so many others said last week at the United Nations, and what so many G20 foreign ministers said today: End this war of aggression, engage in meaningful diplomacy that can produce a just and durable peace,” Blinken told reporters, referring to a UN vote condemning Russia’s invasion.

The circumstances of the meeting were unclear. During a stop in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on Wednesday, Blinken said he had “no plans” to meet Lavrov or China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, at the G20. Yet Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, claimed Blinken approached Lavrov and “we didn’t push him away”.

Lavrov “disregarded in his usual manner” what Blinken told him, Zakharova said in dismissive comments on state television. “It doesn’t deserve our attention. There was nothing interesting.”

The Kremlin and Russian media outlets have adhered to the official euphemism “special military operation” to describe the yearlong invasion of Ukraine. Calling the conflict a “war” has been made a criminal offence in Russia. China has also avoided using the word “war”.

Earlier on Thursday, China had emphasised the need for G20 diplomats to build off a consensus at the November summit in Bali, signalling an effort to move past divisions over the conflict.

“We should build on our good work in Bali and press ahead for greater progress,” Qin said.

Qin also met Jaishankar on Thursday, according to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry. Qin called for efforts “to promote normalised management of the border situation at an early date”, the ministry said. 

The two countries’ troops clashed on their long-disputed border in 2020, leading to at least 20 deaths on the Indian side. Tensions between the countries over border issues linger, and the incident sent anti-China business sentiment soaring in India.

Since then, India has banned the apps of Alibaba Group Holding, Tencent and ByteDance, and raided, probed and penalised a raft of other Chinese tech companies from phone makers to fintech service providers.

China’s No 2 diplomat also met Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, according to the Foreign Ministry in Beijing. He called accusations that Beijing interfered in Canada’s elections “nonsense”. BM/DM

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