Beijing defends Chinese delegation’s trip to Crimea
By Illia Ponomarenko. Published March 15 at 5:54 pm
Days after a Chinese delegation paid a visit to Crimea, Beijing officials defended the trip and called on Ukraine to “stop politicizing” Chinese business activities in the Russian-occupied peninsula.
“Chinese companies maintain contacts with Crimea and cooperate with it in compliance with market principles,” as Russian state-run media quoted Zhao Lijian, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, as saying during a briefing on March 15. “One must not politicize this commercial cooperation.”
The official added that Chinese businesses had “historic ties with Crimea” and that Beijing hoped that “the interested parties, via dialogue and talks, will find a decent settlement of the corresponding problem.”
On March 11, Russian occupational authorities in Crimea reported a visit of a Chinese delegation consisting of “Chen Shanwen, deputy chairman with the Association of Russian-Chinese Friendship, Zhao Kai, the director-general with Beijing-based export-import trade company Kai Sheng, and Chen Yung, the board chairman with public stock company Hao Lang.”
According to Russian authorities, the Chinese delegates visited Crimean wineries and resort centers.
Many in Russian media interpreted this a yet another omen of Chinese business expansion in the occupied zone. But judging from pictures showing the meeting of the Russian occupational authorities and the Chinese, the delegation was not numerous and barely significant, consisting of only 3 abovementioned persons.
Besides, open sources bear almost no information regarding the delegates and the organizations and businesses they represent.
All of the three Chinese delegates were included in the Myrotvorets, a Ukrainian non-government database of individuals allegedly posing a threat to Ukraine’s national security, for their illegal visit to Crimea via Russian occupational authority.
The controversial visit took place amid an acute crisis in Ukrainian-Chinese relations as on March 11, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council ruled to nationalize Motor Sich, a paramount Zaporizhia-based aircraft engine manufacturer.
The decision followed months in tension as Chinese businesses tied to the country’s military tried to obtain the control stock of the Ukrainian enterprise’s shares, which was fiercely opposed by the United States.
Amid pressure from the U.S., the Ukrainian authorities decided to terminate the deal and impose sanctions upon the Chinese investors in late January.
The Chinese companies are waging a legal battle against Ukraine demanding $3.5 billion in compensations, while the official Beijing condemned the Ukrainian decision and called on Kyiv to respect the rights of Chinese businesses in its territory.
Ever since Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory in early 2014, Kyiv deems all unauthorized visits and activities in Crimea illegal and subject to sanctions and penalties, including entry bans.
China, unlike Western nations, has been abstaining from condemning the Russian occupation imposing economic sanctions upon Moscow. Beijing remains Ukraine’s top partner, with import and export amounts in 2020 reaching $8.3 billion and $7.1 billion, respectively.
Vadym Rabinovych, a notorious pro-Kremlin lawmaker with Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, called the Crimean visit “China’s backlash against Ukraine’s stance regarding Motor Sich.
“China has been staying neutral on Crimea for a long time,” the politician wrote on his Facebook page on March 14.
“And it has suddenly changed its mind and sent a…delegation to “facilitate the partnership.” The Chinese businessmen… have reached an agreement to establish relations with local enterprises, marked a plan of actions in tourism and the health rehabilitation of Chinese nationals. Besides, they are ready to invest a lot into the recreational business.”
Nevertheless, none of the pro-Kremlin lawmaker’s assertations are supported by any evidence.