In an exclusive revelation, sources from Ukraine indicate that China has cautioned Kyiv about the potential damage to their bilateral relations due to Ukraine’s classification of more than a dozen Chinese companies as “international sponsors of war.” The warning, delivered last month by China’s ambassador to Kyiv during a meeting with senior Ukrainian government officials, underscores the sensitivity of the issue. The sources, requesting anonymity, disclosed these details to Reuters.
China’s Diplomatic Warning
China, maintaining close ties with Moscow, has refrained from openly criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, it has emphasized the importance of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries while offering to mediate in the ongoing war. Ukraine, on its part, has identified 48 global companies, including 14 from China, as “international sponsors of war.” According to Kyiv, these companies indirectly contribute to or assist Russia’s war efforts through their business activities.
One of the sources revealed, “The ambassador said that all this (the situation with the blacklist) could have a negative impact on our relations.” Notably, China has not presented specific conditions or temporary frameworks as a result of the warning but rather expressed its concerns regarding the designated list. The second source suggested a potential link between the matter and Chinese purchases of Ukrainian grain.
Economic Significance and Potential Implications
Before the full-scale Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, China held the position of Ukraine’s most significant trade partner. It remains a crucial consumer of Ukrainian commodities, including grain, sunflower oil, and iron ore. The blacklist, while carrying no legal implications for the listed firms, criticizes extensive cooperation between Chinese and Russian companies, particularly in sectors like oil and gas, which constitute a primary revenue source for Moscow.
Prominent Chinese energy giants featured on the list include China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec Group), and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). Requests for comments from Sinopec and CNOOC are yet to receive responses, while CNPC mentioned that the list represents no new development.
Ukraine’s Reputational Tool
Ukraine’s National Agency for Corruption Prevention views the blacklist as a “powerful reputational tool” with the potential to influence global supply chains and encourage international businesses to withdraw from Russia. Despite China being perceived as an ally of the Kremlin, Ukraine has carefully navigated diplomatic relations throughout the conflict, urging Beijing to participate in diplomatic efforts for peace.
The country has actively promoted its peace blueprint in various high-level international meetings, and China attended one such meeting in Jeddah last year. However, China has since abstained from attending. The significance of China in Ukraine’s export landscape is evident in the trade corridors, with the UN-brokered grain corridor, now defunct, initially being a vital route for Ukrainian food exports to China.
Current Trade Dynamics and International Concerns
Under Kyiv’s new Black Sea shipping corridor established in August, approximately 30% of Ukraine’s maritime exports, spanning food, metals, and ore, were directed to China. With 14 companies on the blacklist, China leads in numbers, followed by the United States, France, and Germany with eight, four, and four companies, respectively.
Recent diplomatic engagements between China and Ukraine involve a meeting between Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong and Ukraine’s ambassador to Beijing. During the meeting, both sides exchanged views on common concerns, emphasizing the importance of mutual respect and sincerity in their relations. As the situation evolves, international observers closely watch the diplomatic dynamics between China and Ukraine against the backdrop of the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe.