China Vows to Defend Trade with Russia

By John Friend

In yet another rebuke of U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry told reporters yesterday that Chinese companies and individuals trading with Russia will be protected and defended.

China “will take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises and individuals,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian stated. Lijian also cautioned that America should “take China’s concerns seriously” in its implementation of restrictions and other sanctions against Russia to ensure China’s “rights and interests” are not harmed in any way.

Chinese leaders have been highly critical of Western sanctions imposed against Russia and other private companies and individuals doing business with Russia in the wake of its military operation in Ukraine, calling the unilateral sanctions yet another provocation which could potentially escalate the conflict. Lijian said the sanctions will result in “serious difficulties to the economy and people’s livelihood.”

“China always opposes unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction without the basis of the international law, as sanctions without limits hurt the global supply chain and relevant parties need to cool down and avoid conflict escalation,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters recently.

The comments come after U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told the New York Times in an interview earlier this week that Chinese firms may be cut off from U.S. equipment and software necessary for production if they do not abide by U.S. sanctions restricting trade with Russia.

Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), a leading semiconductor firm in China that is partially state-owned, and other Chinese firms could be “essentially shut down” by the U.S., Raimondo threatened.

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“We could essentially shut SMIC down because we prevent them from using our equipment and our software,” Raimondo told the New York Times.

Western-imposed sanctions targeting Russia appear to be strengthening cooperation between Russia and China, a burgeoning alliance and relationship that Washington views as a threat to their long-standing dominance of the world order.

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that “China is considering buying or increasing stakes in Russian energy and commodities companies,” including Gazprom, the largest natural gas producing company in the world that is backed by the Russian state, and Rusal, a major aluminum producing firm.

Some of the largest state-owned firms in China are reportedly involved in discussions with Russian officials about investment opportunities in Russia and with increasing energy exports from Russia to China, which has seen some of the largest economic growth in the world in recent years. Bloomberg noted that China National Petroleum Corp., China Petrochemical Corp., Aluminum Corp. of China, and China Minmetals Corp., representing some of the top companies in China, are part of the discussions.