China insists Russia is 'most important strategic partner' despite fury over Ukraine war

China is one of the few countries that has refused to condemn Putin’s military advance and impose sanctions on Russia

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China’s foreign minister Wang Yi has said Russia is his country’s “most important strategic partner,” despite Putin’s continued invasion of Ukraine.

At a news conference, Mr Wang emphasised that China’s ties with Moscow are “one of the most crucial bilateral relationships in the world”.

He added: “No matter how perilous the international landscape, we will maintain our strategic focus and promote the development of comprehensive China-Russia partnership in the new era.

“The friendship between the two peoples is iron-clad."

Unlike much of the Western world, Beijing has so far refused to impose sanctions on Moscow under the belief they are “ineffective”.

Guo Shuqing, the chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission said last week: “We will not join such sanctions, and we will keep normal economic, trade and financial exchanges with all the relevant parties.”

He added when speaking at a news conference: “We disapprove of the financial sanctions, particularly those launched unilaterally, because they don’t have much legal basis and will not have good effects."

This week, Beijing issued a further warning to the US as to not “add fuel to the flames” when it comes to Russia’s continued attacks on Ukraine.

Mr Yi has urged the West to consider Moscow’s concerns about NATO expansion and has expressed the need for negotiations to take place.

Along with denouncing trade and financial sanctions on Moscow, Beijing says Washington is to blame for the conflict for failing to take Russia’s security concerns into consideration.

According to a copy of instructions that appeared on the social media account of the newspaper Beijing News, Chinese state-controlled media outlets were told to post only pro-Russian content and to censor anti-Russian or pro-Western views.

The post was later deleted.

On Friday, a translation by state TV of remarks by the head of the International Paralympic Committee during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Paralympics skipped portions that expressed horror about the war in Ukraine, as it called for peace.

Online and in Chinese social media, expressions of sympathy for Ukraine and support for Russia appear but not criticism of Moscow.

State-run newspaper Capital News appeared to support Mr Putin’s demand that Ukraine become a neutral buffer between Russia and Europe and give up the possibility of NATO membership.

“Ukraine should be a bridge between East and West, rather than a frontier of confrontation between major powers,” Capital News said.

The most senior Chinese leaders have avoided mentioning the war in public.