China‘s communist government said Wednesday that it will not be joining a wide-ranging sanctions campaign by the U.S. and countries around the world against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, adding it opposes “unilateral” measures and doubts they would be effective.
The Biden administration, European and Asian countries have all joined in a string of punishments targeting Russia and top members of the government of President Vladimir Putin, including trade and travel bans, blocking Russia’s central bank from the global financial clearinghouse network and closing airspace to Russian aircraft.
Mr. Putin, his aides and top Russian business figures also have had their personal fortunes frozen or restricted.
But China, which recently signed a broad cooperation agreement with Russia ratifying their joint opposition to the U.S.-led international order, said Wednesday it will continue to buy Russian natural gas and will not observe the financial sanctions designed to starve the funding for Moscow’s week-old military invasion of Ukraine.
“As far as financial sanctions are concerned, we are not in favor of such unilaterally initiated sanctions, because they are not effective and have no legal basis,” Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission and the country’s chief banking regulator, said during a press conference held at the State Council Information Office, according to the state-controlled Global Times news website.
Separately, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily briefing in Beijing that China also would not observe the trade sanctions.
“China and Russia will continue to carry out normal trade cooperation in the spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit,” Mr. Wang said.
China-Russia bilateral trade hit an all-time high of $140 billion in 2021. Mr. Wang said Beijing believes the sanctions will harm ordinary people and make a diplomatic end to the crisis more difficult.
Mr. Guo said any fallout for China‘s economy from the sanctions should be modest.
“Generally speaking, it will not have much of an impact, since our economy and our financial system are very stable and resilient,” the regulator said.
The government of President Xi Jinping has offered Mr. Putin an economic lifeline since the crisis began and stiff-armed efforts by the Biden administration to pressure Mr. Putin not to invade.
But China has been walking a fine line in the war. Beijing also has significant military and economic ties with Ukraine and has long argued for strong protections for the principle of national sovereignty.
Ukraine has signed on as a member of Mr. Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative and was supposed to be part of the route of a major freight rail line linking China with Western markets.
China‘s state-controlled press has blamed the U.S. and NATO for provoking Russia by expanding into eastern Europe, but Beijing has also abstained on U.N. measures condemning the Kremlin for the invasion.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yangyi spoke by phone with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Tuesday. China‘s Foreign Ministry said Mr. Wang would support any effort to end the fighting through diplomacy.