In Beijing, you wouldn’t necessarily know there was war in Ukraine.
In fact, several passers-by in the streets of the Chinese capital didn’t. “I haven’t really paid attention to that, sorry,” one young woman told Sky News.
A middle-aged man: “I don’t watch it, I’m very busy with work.”
47 people buried in mass grave in city – Ukraine live updates
Image: Support for Ukraine is only seen outside embassies, including the Canadian embassy in Beijing
Some of that is no doubt public reticence to speak to Western media. But the Chinese public’s perception of the war is very different to the rest of the world.
The conflict is getting limited coverage on state media.
On today’s 7pm show from China Central Television (CCTV), the most important news bulletin, it took more than half an hour to mention Ukraine, and it was only brief.
More on China
Image: Mrs Wu said the US needs to take more responsibility
Even then only a sanitised version is presented. Plenty of pictures of Russian troops handing out food to Ukrainian citizens, none of the residential buildings they have levelled or the refugees they have forced to flee.
On social media, calls to support Ukraine are censored. Posts praising Vladimir Putin are allowed to remain.
And whatever the platform, it is never called an invasion.
Image: Mrs Zhu said that she rejected the war and that responsibility for it lay with one man, Vladimir Putin
‘The US should take responsibility’
Blame for the war is also much more divided here. State media have pointed the finger at NATO and the US for provoking Russia – and some citizens are happy to follow that lead.
“I think the US should take most responsibility for this,” said a woman walking her rescue dogs who gave her name as Mrs Wu.
“American always think they could monopolise the world like years ago.”
Image: The coverage of the war in Ukraine is much more diluted in China, with pictures of Russian soldiers helping people aired
But she was still horrified by the war.
“I think no matter how the war was fought, the common people are innocent and deserve pity. I sympathise with the Ukrainian people. I think the Ukrainian people have nothing wrong.”
Despite the uniformity offered by Chinese media, though, people still have their own opinions.
Another woman, Mrs Zhu, said that she rejected the war and that responsibility for it lay with one man.
“It’s not Russia’s fault. It’s the problem of Putin. I think the people are innocent. Whoever launches the war is the one who should be blamed.”
Could China mediate peace talks?
China has walked an unconvincing diplomatic line ever since Russia invaded.
Image: Professor Shi Yinhong, from Renmin University, indicated that China’s sway on the international stage is not as strong as many think
It has said that countries’ territorial integrity and sovereignty should not be compromised.
But it has also said that Russia’s security concerns are legitimate and refused to condemn the invasion, abstaining on that motion at the UN.
Read more:China must ends its ‘chilling silence’ and act to bring about an end to the war, Australian PM saysChina warns US not to ‘add fuel to the flames’ as Russia continues attack
On the eve of the Olympics, Putin came to Beijing to meet President Xi Jinping. They declared a partnership that knew “no limits.”
That closeness has led some to speculate that China could mediate to bring about a ceasefire. Indeed, Xi Jinping reiterated the need “to jointly support peace talks”, according to Chinese state media.
Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player
How will China respond to Ukraine war?
Chinese influence is ‘limited’
But note the “jointly”. China isn’t as powerful or as proactive as many might think.
“China’s appeal, whether to any side, generally is not heeded by anyone,” Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University and advisor to the Chinese government, told Sky News.
“This is an embarrassment for China. And China wants to contribute something to peace, security and humanitarian assistance. But what we can do at this present situation is very, very limited.”
China is caught between its partnership with Russia and its rivalry with the United States, Prof Shi explained.
“China never in the past, present and I believe in future – will never support Russia’s military attack against Ukraine.
“It will not support any of Russia’s adventurist actions to disturb European security. As well, China will never support American sanctions against Russia.”
Zelenskyy addresses Commons: Ukraine’s plea to UK UKRAINE/ RUSSIA / VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY
Subscribe to the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker
For all its economic heft and aspirations to global leadership, China has so far in this crisis been defined by inaction.
From the outside, it can look like indifference.
Source : Sky News