The Prime Minister has declared China has more power than any other country to halt Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the war in eastern Europe continues to intensify.
- Mr Morrison accused Russia and China of banding together to undermine international rules
- Russia is increasingly financially dependent on China, particularly as Western-led sanctions begin to bite its economy
- The EU has also said China has a responsibility to mediate talks between Russia and Ukraine
Scott Morrison has repeatedly tried to ramp up pressure on Beijing over the conflict in Ukraine, criticising China’s government for liberalising wheat imports from Russia, and urging top Chinese leaders to use their leverage over Russia to press for peace.
And Mr Morrison ramped up his rhetoric during a major foreign policy speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney, declaring it was “up to China” to demonstrate its commitment to global peace at a “hinge point in history”.
“No country will have a bigger impact on concluding this terrible war in Ukraine than China,” he said.
Russia is increasingly financially dependent on China — particularly as Western-led sanctions begin to bite Russia’s economy — and the two countries declared a new “no limits” partnership just weeks before Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine.
China has also abstained from several key United Nations votes condemning Russia’s invasion and has criticised Western-led sanctions imposed on Moscow, accusing the United States of inflaming tensions and ignoring President Vladimir Putin’s “security concerns” about NATO’s expansion.
On the weekend, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his US counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Beijing wanted to see the violence stop “as soon as possible” and urged Russia and Ukraine to resume “direct negotiations”.
Mr Blinken responded by saying the “world was watching” to see “which nations stand up for the basic principles of freedom, self-determination and sovereignty”.
‘There is no alternative’
Mr Morrison’s declaration is similar to the one issued over the weekend by the European Union’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, who said China had a responsibility to mediate talks between Russia and Ukraine because neither the US or Europe could play the role.
“There is no alternative … it must be China, I am sure of that,” Mr Borrell said.
“We have not asked for [the mediating role] and neither have they [China], but since it has to be a power and neither the US nor Europe can be [mediators], China could be.”
Australia and other Western nations have watched with suspicion as China and Russia drew closer together and Mr Morrison accused the nations of “instinctively” banding together to undermine global rules.
Mr Putin had “chosen the path of violence in seeking to overturn the global order” and China had an obligation to respond, Mr Morrison said.
“The world has heard China’s words about its commitments to global peace and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and playing a positive role in the national community for a very long time now,” he told the Lowy Institute.
China is not the only country that has refused to isolate Russia over the invasion — India has also refrained from directly criticising Moscow, and has not joined international sanctions targeting Russian leaders and financial institutions.
But when pressed on India’s position late last week, Mr Morrison said he “certainly wouldn’t put them in the same category as China, not even remotely”.
“We want to see the world not throw Russia a [financial] lifeline, and India certainly are not doing that. I mean, they’re not easing their trade restrictions on Russia, but China is,” he said.