Premier Li Keqiang said China was ‘extremely worried’ about the Ukraine crisis

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow on September 18, 2019.

Pavel Golovkin | Afp | beautiful pictures

BEIJING – China is “deeply” worried about the crisis in Ukraine, Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday, warning that sanctions would hurt global growth.

“Regarding Ukraine, the current situation is really serious, and China is deeply concerned and saddened,” Li said in Mandarin, according to an official translation.

The Prime Minister answered two questions about the Ukraine war at the start of his annual press conference. Since Russia’s attack on Ukraine about two weeks ago, Beijing has refused to call this an invasion and said China would maintain normal trade with both countries, not participating in US, EU and other countries’ sanctions against Russia.

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said relations with Russia were “rock”. He pointed to a joint statement with Russia issued after a high-level meeting in early February between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

During Friday’s briefing, Li asserted that China had “followed an independent peace policy” and repeated Beijing’s line of encouraging Russia and Ukraine to negotiate. “The urgent task now is to prevent tensions from escalating or even spiraling out of control.”

Mr. Li did not say specifically whether China would support Russia economically, but noted that China supports “all efforts conducive to the peaceful resolution of the crisis.”

He added that the sanctions would only shock the world economy, which is already struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the weekend, the International Monetary Fund said the economic consequences of the war were “was very serious” with “adverse” shocks to inflation and business activity in many countries.

Last week, Oxford Economics estimated the war would reduce global GDP by 0.2 per cent, with a decline of 0.6 per cent this year if hostilities persist into 2023.

End of era

Read more about China from CNBC Pro

Foreign firms have long complained about forced technology transfer requirements and unequal access to the Chinese market, especially at the local performance level. In recent years, China has passed the law improve the business environment and allows foreign financial institutions full ownership of their local operations.

“It’s been forty years since China started its journey of opening up,” Li said. “Opening up has benefited the country and its people. We will not and must not close this door of opportunity. Thank you.”

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