China reaffirms commitment to ex-Soviet sovereignty after controversial comments

China reaffirmed its respect for the sovereignty of all ex-Soviet countries yesterday, following controversial comments made by its ambassador to France. The statements, which questioned the sovereignty of former Soviet states, have triggered a backlash in Europe and cast doubt on Beijing’s attempts to position itself as an impartial mediator in the ongoing Ukraine conflict.

Ambassador Lu Shaye’s remarks prompted the European Union’s three Baltic nations to summon Chinese envoys for an explanation. Lu was also asked to “make his public remarks in line with the official position of his country,” during a meeting with French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, yesterday.

In an interview with French broadcaster LCI last Friday, Lu claimed that countries that emerged after the Soviet Union’s collapse “don’t have effective status under international law because there is not an international agreement confirming their status as sovereign nations.” While he appeared to be referring to all former Soviet republics, including Ukraine, his comments also seemed to encompass nations established upon the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991.

Responding to the outcry, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, stated yesterday that Beijing had “duly clarified” the matter, and confirmed that China was not questioning the sovereignty of ex-Soviet countries. He added…

“Beijing has distanced itself from the unacceptable remarks of its ambassador to Paris.”

French President Emmanuel Macron also criticised the Chinese envoy’s statements. He said…

“It’s not the place of a diplomat to use that kind of language.” Macron expressed full solidarity with the countries affected, insisting that their borders were “inviolable.”

China has attempted to distance itself from Lu’s inflammatory statements while maintaining its claimed impartial stance on the Russia-Ukraine war. President Xi Jinping has been working to position China as a peacemaker in the conflict, striving for a larger global role for his nation. Nonetheless, Western leaders have accused Beijing of providing diplomatic support to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said…

“China respects the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries and upholds the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.”

Mao also noted that China was one of the first nations to establish diplomatic relations with the countries in question following the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Mao went on to accuse “some media” of misinterpreting China’s position on the Ukraine situation, accusing them of attempting to sow discord between China and the affected countries. She said…

“We will be vigilant about this.”

The French foreign ministry acknowledged the clarification from Beijing, taking note that Lu’s comments were made in a “personal capacity.”

Lu’s remarks have caused widespread outrage across Europe, particularly in the EU’s Baltic countries. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis questioned why the Baltic States should trust China to mediate peace in Ukraine after the Chinese ambassador’s assertion.

Estonia’s foreign ministry urged Chinese diplomats to refrain from expressing such opinions in the future. It said…

“We believe it was a single incident and we hope it will not affect the relations of Estonia and China.”

Latvia’s foreign ministry deemed the comments “totally unacceptable” and warned that they could hinder further EU-China dialogue. Samija Sherifa, head of the ministry’s bilateral relationship department, expressed her concern that such statements from the Chinese ambassador in France would be detrimental to diplomatic progress between the relevant parties.

Ambassador Lu Shaye has previously admitted to being part of the “Wolf Warrior” cohort of Chinese diplomats, a group known for vigorously defending China in the face of perceived hostility.

World News


With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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