China denies asking Russia not to invade Ukraine until after the Olympics

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet Feb. 4 in Beijing, shortly before the opening of the Winter Olympics.
(Alexei Druzhinin / Pool Photo)

China on Thursday denounced a report that it asked Russia to delay invading Ukraine until after the Beijing Winter Olympics as “fake news” and a “very despicable” attempt to divert attention and shift blame over the conflict.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin also repeated China’s accusations that Washington provoked the war by not ruling out NATO membership for Ukraine.

“We hope the culprit of the crisis would reflect on their role in the Ukraine crisis, take up their responsibilities and take practical actions to ease the situation and solve the problem instead of blaming others,” Wang told reporters at a daily briefing.


He said a New York Times report that China requested a delay in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “purely fake news, and such behaviors of diverting attentions and shifting blames are very despicable.”

The article cited a “Western intelligence report” considered credible by officials.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Feb. 4, hours before the Winter Games’ opening ceremony. Following that, the sides issued a joint statement in which they declared that their countries’ friendship “has no limits — there are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spurred comparisons to China and Taiwan. Taiwanese wonder if they’d be ready.

In that statement, China also endorsed Moscow’s opposition to further NATO expansion and its demand that the transatlantic alliance “respect the sovereignty, security and interests of other countries.” Russia, for its part, reaffirmed its support for China’s claim over Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing threatens to annex by force if necessary.

The New York Times report said that it wasn’t clear whether the communication about an invasion took place between Xi and Putin or at a lower level, but that the intelligence report indicated that “senior Chinese officials had some level of direct knowledge about Russia’s war plans or intentions before the invasion started last week.”

In 2008, Russia launched an attack on Georgia during the Beijing Summer Olympics, angering some in the Chinese leadership and the general public.

For China’s leader, a successful Winter Games means international validation. It proves that he has strengthened China and the world must play along.

China is the only major government that hasn’t criticized Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and has also ruled out joining the United States and European governments in imposing financial sanctions on Russia.

Instead, Beijing has endorsed the Russian argument that Moscow’s security was threatened by NATO’s eastern expansion.

China abstained in Wednesday’s United Nations General Assembly emergency session vote to demand an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops.

China and Russia recently signed a letter solidifying their relationship. Then, Ukraine happened

“Regrettably, the draft resolution submitted to the General Assembly emergency special session for vote had not undergone full consultations with the whole membership, nor does it take into consideration the history and the complexity of the current crisis,” Wang said.

“It did not highlight the importance of the principle of indivisible security or the urgency of promoting political settlement and stepping up diplomatic efforts,” he said. “These are not in line with China’s consistent position. Therefore, we had no choice but to abstain in the voting.”