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TAIPEI — Chinese leader Xi Jinping delivered his most blunt criticism yet of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine on Friday, warning the Russian president not to use nuclear weapons and calling on visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to push for peace talks.
Xi’s warning comes just over a month later Putin threatened Ukraine with a nuclear attack, a sign of the extent to which Ukrainian forces had shaken the Kremlin with their advances against the invaders in the East.
The international community, Xi said, should “jointly oppose the use or threat to use nuclear weapons,” according to a statement carried by Xinhua, China’s state news agency. The world should also “maintain that nuclear weapons cannot be used, nuclear war cannot be waged, in order to prevent a nuclear crisis” in Europe or Asia, Xi added.
The Chinese leader, who only weeks ago won a groundbreaking third term, called on Germany and Europe to “play an important role in calling for peace and facilitating negotiations”.
Xi also called for “improving the humanitarian situation” in crisis areas, especially during winter.
Yet the Chinese leader, who before the war called Putin his best friend, notably refrained from asking Russia to step down, a key demand for Ukraine and its Western backers. He also made no mention of Putin’s refusal to honor the UN agreement on facilitating Ukrainian grain exports, with his prime minister instead advocating the export of Chinese grain to help ease the food crisis.
In September, Putin publicly acknowledged for the first time that Xi had “questions” and “concerns” about the war. Shortly after this meeting between Chinese and Russian leaders, Putin upped the ante and raised the possibility of using nuclear weapons. “To defend Russia and our people, we will undoubtedly use all weapon resources at our disposal,” says Putin. “It’s not a bluff.”
“We cannot afford any further escalation,” outgoing Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told a press conference. Referring to Scholz who was standing next to him, Li said, “We two…hope the crisis will end soon.”
Scholz wants business
Xi’s show of opposition to Putin’s nuclear threats was hailed as a major diplomatic victory by Scholz, who has faced weeks of criticism for leaning too heavily towards Beijing.
“We have agreed that the threat of nuclear attacks is irresponsible and dangerous,” Scholz told reporters, referring to his meeting with Xi. “I told President Xi the importance for China to exert its influence on Russia.”
Scholz brought with him a delegation of big business and also recently approved a deal by a Chinese state-owned company to acquire part of a terminal in the strategically important port of Hamburg.
Indeed, during the opening speech of his meeting with Xi, Scholz again recalled his earlier career as mayor of Hamburg, while urging Xi to deepen trade ties with Germany, the world’s largest economy. EU.
Scholz named few deliverables other than an agreement for expats — not local Chinese — to get the BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in China, and promised cooperation on climate change and disease prevention.
Tensions in Taiwan
Before the press conference ended without a single question from reporters, Scholz spoke about the escalating tension in the Taiwan Strait.
“Any change to Taiwan’s status quo can only take place by mutual agreement and peacefully,” he said, adding that he also raised the issue of human rights abuses against the Muslim minority. Chinese in Xinjiang.
Scholz alluded to Beijing’s economic coercion against Lithuania as the Baltic country pursued closer ties with Taiwan, saying, “It’s also important to be clear: economic measures against EU member states are directed against the entire internal market of the EU, and the sanctions against EU parliamentarians are also unacceptable to us.
Although Scholz did not emphasize trade during his trip, his Chinese host made sure to send a clear message to German companies, which China sees as a major source of stability in EU relations. – Otherwise fragile China.
“We continue to stand ready to help Germany gain access to our market,” Premier Li told reporters at the press conference, calling for a “sound and stable” relationship with Germany. “We support a multipolar world, free trade and want to meet our partner on an equal footing.”