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What ‘Zhong Sheng’ Says About China’s Perceptions of the Ukraine Conflict

2 6 21
23.06.2022

Pundits have gone to great lengths to project their interpretations of Chinese perceptions of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sadly, few examine exactly what China communicates about the conflict. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) focuses mainly on placing the blame for the conflict squarely on the West while also offering tepid support for Russia. These views represent an evolution of cooperation between Russia and China, with a recent communique vowing that the “friendship between the two States has no limits.”

But of course, there are limits. In analyzing the specific language offered by representatives of the PRC through the state run Zhong Sheng pen name in the People’s Daily newspaper, three key themes emerge: emphasizing NATO is a threat; pointing to the Cold War mentality of the United States as a source of discord; and asserting that by leveraging massive sanctions, the United States is waging “financial terrorism.” At the same time, the PRC has not asserted that Russia’s territorial ambitions are legitimate.

Zhong Sheng was notably silent on the Russian invasion of Ukraine for the first three weeks. It seems that only when the failures of the Russian army became evident by mid-March did Zhong Sheng start to comment, mainly to push for peace talks. According to commentaries from Zhong Sheng, the U.S. projects a vision of being the guardian of the peace while at the same time encouraging the Ukraine conflict.

Seeking to offer a constructive path forward, China frequently asserts that both sides in the conflict need to go to the bargaining table and “settle their differences.” Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine has long since moved past the time where a win-win situation (a common theme in other Zhong Sheng articles) can be extracted from the conflict, with constant death and destruction raining down on Ukrainian villages.

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Being a bit more realistic about the conflict, its origins, and potential solutions would help stabilize the situation and position China as a mediator. Sadly, such a view is also unrealistic given the historic alignment between Russia and China.

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Chinese Perceptions of the Ukraine Invasion

While both sides traffic in mistruths and disinformation, China supports the Russian talking point that........

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