Chinese-Ukrainian relations will continue to strengthen in spite of those like Head of the Committee on Foreign Policy and Interparliamentary Cooperation in the Ukrainian Parliament Oleksandr Merezhko who either don’t properly understand them or might even have an interest in deliberately worsening them.
Oleksandr Merezhko, who serves as the Head of the Committee on Foreign Policy and Interparliamentary Cooperation in the Ukrainian Parliament (Rada), recently gave a scandalous interview to the US outlet Axios. He claimed that China is “more dangerous” than the Soviet Union ever was, is committing “genocide”, and “is not our friend.” By contrast, Merezhko said that China’s Taiwan region is a “true friend” because of the material and political support that it’s given to Ukraine.
It's unclear why this influential policymaker has suddenly taken up such a hostile attitude towards China, but it curiously coincides with two of his country’s parliamentarians joining the so-called “Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China” (IPAC), which was mentioned in Axios’ article. That platform is regarded as fiercely anti-Chinese according to most observers. Coupled with Merezhko’s scandalous interview, these developments suggest that some in Ukraine want to worsen ties with China.
That would be detrimental to its objective national interests, however, and should thus be avoided at all costs. China is Ukraine’s top trade partner, accounting for 15% of that country’s foreign trade. Imports from there have also quadrupled over the past four years. Last year, Ukraine introduced a temporary visa-free regime for Chinese tourists and even withdrew its signature from a joint statement condemning its partner for allegedly carrying out a “genocide” in Xinjiang as proof of their close ties.
Chinese President Xi Jinping also congratulated his counterpart Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in early January on the 30th anniversary of their countries’ relations. He wrote that “The Chinese side is ready to work with the Ukrainian side to make the 30th anniversary of China–Ukraine diplomatic relations a good opportunity to strengthen China–Ukraine relations and achieve even greater success in all areas of cooperation for the benefit of the two countries and their peoples.”
Additionally, Chinese Ambassador to Ukraine Fan Xianrong published a detailed article at the time about their mutually beneficial relations over the past three decades. What was most impressive about his piece was that he calculated that their trade surged by over sixty times since the establishment of bilateral relations in 1992, jumping 32.2% in the last year alone. Ambassador Xianrong also took the opportunity to share his vision for comprehensively expanding relations even further.
The Russian-Ukrainian Conflict, which Kiev insists has actually been ongoing since early 2014 but which Moscow regards as having begun only on 24 February, poses unexpected challenges to his plans but they aren’t insurmountable. Bilateral trade will clearly be affected considering how much the fighting has already devastated that country, but there’s no reason for their political ties to weaken. To the contrary, they should actually strengthen after China proved what a true friend it is to Ukraine.
Unlike what Merezhko incorrectly claimed in his scandalous interview, China doesn’t “amplify Russian propaganda” nor has it “done nothing at all” to encourage a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Chinese media remains committed to world-class journalistic standards by reporting all facts related to the conflict. It’s also consistently called for an immediate end to the fighting and the strictest respect for international law, including impartial investigations into alleged war crimes to bring culprits to justice.
China is therefore a responsible member of the international community that believes in mutually beneficial cooperation with all countries, and it’s absolutely against the concept of any of its bilateral relations with anyone being at the detriment of any third parties’ interests. That’s why Merezhko was wrong to claim that “It’s an ally of our enemy. And [China] is a very cynical force, which absolutely doesn’t care about anything except for its own interests.”
Even US President Joe Biden, who can’t be considered sympathetic to the People’s Republic by any stretch of the imagination and actually presides over a country that regularly spreads fake news about it, confirmed in a recent interview that China hasn’t provided military aid to Russia for use against Ukraine. In his own words, “Thus far, there’s no indication they’ve put forward weapons or other things that Russia has wanted.” Considering this, Merezhko shouldn’t regard China as “an ally of our enemy”.
In fact, his own Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba disagrees with this characterization as evidenced by his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in late September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. The top Ukrainian diplomat said that “The Ukrainian side is always committed to the one-China policy, supports the Chinese side in safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and expects to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with the Chinese side in various fields.”
As for his Chinese counterpart, Mr. Wang said that “The Chinese side stands ready to take it as an opportunity to plan the next-stage development of bilateral relations, carry forward traditional friendship, and better benefit the two peoples.” Their meeting was therefore mutually beneficial, marked by the enthusiastic expectation of further developing their bilateral relations, and importantly discredits everything that Merezhko claimed about China in his scandalous interview.
Looking forward, Chinese-Ukrainian relations will continue to strengthen in spite of those like Merezhko who either don’t properly understand them or might even have an interest in deliberately worsening them. It’s hoped that he and those like him learn to appreciate their country’s official policy towards the People’s Republic that was just proudly reaffirmed by its Foreign Minister. China remains Ukraine’s close friend and would never do anything to harm its interests. Any claims to the contrary are flat-out false.
Russia will be nobody's friend soon.