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Friday, December 8, 2023

Mint Explainer: How China landed itself in hot water with Europe again

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China’s charm offensive in Europe suffered a setback after its ambassador to France, Lu Shaye, was lambasted for his comments on Ukraine. In an interview with a French media outlet, Ambassador Lu apparently questioned the sovereign status of Ukraine and other post-Soviet states such as Lithuania and Estonia. Mint breaks down the furore over his comments:

  • In an interview with French journalist Darius Rochebin, Chinese ambassador to France Lu Shaye seemingly questioned the legal status of Ukraine and other post-Soviet Baltic states.
  • “In international law, even these ex-Soviet Union countries do not have the status, the effective [status] in international law, because there is no international agreement to materialise their status as a sovereign country,” he said in response to a question on whether he saw Crimea as part of Ukraine.
  • His remarks created a furore in Baltic states such as Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, which also established their independence from the Soviet Union after it collapsed in 1991.
  • Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis tore into China, saying the ambassador’s comments highlighted why Baltic states did not trust China’s efforts to broker a peace in Ukraine. The foreign ministers of Latvia and Estonia also condemned Ambassador Liu’s comments.
  • Ukraine also took exception to the comments, which were seen as downplaying Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. When asked if Crimea was a part of Ukraine, Ambassador Lu said that “it depends how you perceive the problem”. This equivocal statement also attracted criticism from senior Ukrainian officials.
  • France’s foreign ministry and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell Fontelles also expressed concern at the comments.
  • What’s more, the comments seem to contradict China’s oft-repeated support for the sovereignty of nations. “The sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld. All countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are equal members of the international community,” reads a recent statement by China’s foreign ministry.
  • This latest furore is likely to strengthen voices in Europe that have called for a more hawkish stand on China. Beijing, for its part, has been on a charm offensive in Europe and has hosted senior figures such as French President Macron, German Chancellor Scholz and European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen.

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