Amid heightened tensions around Taiwan, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday stressed the importance of Chinese neutrality over the war in his country as Russia finds itself increasingly isolated by the West.
“I would like China to join the unified global position on Russia’s tyranny against Ukraine,” Zelensky said at a meeting with thousands of students hosted by the Australian National University. “For now, China is in equilibrium and indeed has neutrality. I will be honest: this neutrality is better than if China joined Russia.
Mr Zelensky said in an interview with the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, that he would like to speak with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. “I had a conversation with Xi Jinping a year ago,” he said in the interview published Thursday. “Since the beginning of the large-scale aggression on February 24, we have officially requested a conversation.”
Reflecting the delicacy of the moment, Ukrainian officials have remained largely silent on President Nancy Pelosi’s high-stakes visit to Taiwan this week. The Kremlin said on Tuesday that its visit to Taiwan was “provoking the situation” on the island.
US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken urged China last month to join the United States, which is trying to muster a global effort to punish Moscow for its aggression in Ukraine and to “stand up” against the war of Russia. In response, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing was neutral and criticized the United States for what he called “China phobia” and policies that offered “a dead end”.
From the start of the war, Washington was able, under the threat of heavy sanctions, to dissuade China from supplying arms and economic aid to Russia. China asserts that it is neutral because it has refrained from such explicit support.
In the South China Morning Post interview, Mr. Zelensky suggested that China could use its economic clout to counter Russia. “I’m confident, I’m sure that without the Chinese market for the Russian Federation, Russia would feel completely isolated economically,” he said.
Mr. Zelensky’s remarks at the Australian National University event came in response to a student’s question, and he offered a nuanced response that acknowledged the geopolitical realities of the moment.
His government, he said, is working tirelessly to persuade nations around the world to unite to isolate Russia. “Every day Russia is losing more allies,” he said. But each nation, he says, makes its own calculations.
“I think the Chinese people will make a careful choice,” he said. “It is important for us that China does not help Russia.”
He made the same appeal to students that he has made to world leaders over the past five months – pointing to the atrocities committed by Russian forces and asking what would happen to the world order if Moscow succeeded in imposing his will to a sovereign. nation by brute force.
Asked by a student what has been the hardest part of leading a nation at war, Mr Zelensky said it was about understanding what people are capable of – both heroism of those who defend their homes, he said, and the horrors inflicted upon them. by the invading army.
“I never thought people were capable of these things,” he said.