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China caused twice an uproar at the Munich Security Conference. First, with the offer by top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi to mediate in the Ukraine war. And then with the US accusation that China wants to expand its support for Russia to include weapons.
Michael Radunski was in the Bavarian capital for China.Table to find out how these contradictory statements fit together.
On the one hand, the supposed advance for peace does not mean any policy change at all. Our analysis thus comes as a disappointment to all those who have been yearning for Chinese mediation in the war. Wang indicates that a Chinese peace plan would result in harsh territorial losses for Ukraine. He wants to consider the interests of both sides equally. Russia, however, has defined its interests completely unilaterally and ruthlessly, which is why this proposal will unlikely be considered by Ukraine.
On the other hand, the US remained vague about its “evidence” on possible Chinese arms deliveries to Russia. “Providing lethal support” can mean many things. At the conference, it came down to a China-US clash that allows for at least one clear insight: China is getting more involved again. And pretending to be a bit more authoritative in the process. Even if Wang calls the USA “hysterical” because of its reaction to the balloon flight.
Background information on the balloon was provided to us at the conference by renowned political scientist Ian Bremmer. He believes “Xi Jinping was aware of the balloon surveillance program.” But according to Bremmer findings, the fact that the balloon ended up over Montana was not intentional. China’s balloon program simply was “sloppy executed” here, he says. Bremmer thus does not believe there will be an escalation in the long term. He also hopes that Xi would think twice about an invasion of Taiwan by now because he sees that the “West’s response to the Russian invasion has strengthened the West.”
Intense clash between the US and China
Things must have gotten pretty rough between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China’s top foreign policy official Wang Yi. On late Saturday, they retreated to the back rooms of the Bayerischer Hof Hotel for a confidential discussion. The exchange was very direct and controversial, the US delegation said afterward. Blinken himself said that he admonished China about the Chinese spy balloon: Something like this “must never happen again.”
Throughout the weekend, both world powers attacked each other sharply. And yet, the 59th Munich Security Conference (MSC) was a good meeting for international diplomacy, with China announcing its own peace plan for Ukraine. Meanwhile, the US used the opportunities provided by the MSC to resume direct communication with China after the balloon incident. However, neither side could – or wanted to – gloss over the fact that relations between the two world powers are not too good at the moment.
China announces peace plan
Thus, also in Munich, the Chinese stuck to their version of the balloon incident of it merely being a flying object used for civilian purposes that had accidentally veered off course. The US had reacted “absurdly and hysterically.” It was an “abuse of force” and a “violation of international practices,” Wang complained in Munich. He said it was up to the US to repair the damage it had done.
- Antony Blinken
- Antony Blinken
- Wang Yi
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