China is paying a “reputational cost” for sitting on fence on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, US Secretary of State Tony Blinken told lawmakers on Tuesday. On February 24, Russia launched military offensive on Ukraine.
“I think it’s seeing that play out in its relationships with other countries, notably in Europe,” Blinken said when lawmakers asked him about China’s role in the Ukrainian and expressed concerns over Chinese behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region. “China is paying a reputational cost for — to be charitable about it, sitting on the fence when it comes to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, never mind falling on – the Russian side of the fence, something that it has to factor in,” Blinken said in his appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was in Europe for a dialogue on China. “She had a very, I think, productive session with the European Union (EU). You saw the results of the summit between the EU leaders and President Xi Jinping, which I think did not go to — to China’s benefit because of the increasingly deep scepticism about China in Europe,” he said.
“One of the things that it’s focused on is Chinese investment that poses potentially a strategic challenge or threat to us. We have been going across the continent in urging countries to adopt investment screening tools. I’ve done that personally,” he said in response to a question.“It’s in virtually all of my engagements with countries that don’t have them for the purposes of making sure that they can identify and as necessary do something about potential investments by China that could pose a security threat,” Blinken said.
“The purpose is not to cut off trade or investment from or with China. That’s not the issue. The issue is focusing on specific areas of strategic importance including ports as well as telecommunications and other things that we have eyes on it and that we or they have the tools to do something about it,” he said.
In response to a question, Blinken said that President Joe Biden made directly clear to President Xi Jinping that it would not be in China’s interest to materially support Russia in this aggression or for that matter to undermine sanctions.
“This is something we’re looking at very, very carefully. I think you’re seeing that China is having to deal with the significant reputational risk that it’s already incurring by being seen as — in the most charitable interpretation on the fence and more practically supportive of Russia,” he said. “We can in a different session get into more detail. But for now, we’re not seeing significant support by China for Russia’s military actions,” he said.