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China’s Jumbled Positions on the Ukraine War Are Going to Complicate Its Diplomacy in Africa

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying gestures during the daily Press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Beijing on February 24, 2022. Noel Celis / AFP

China’s newly appointed Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Xue Bing, formally began his new role last week just days before the Russian military began its assault on Ukraine. The timing couldn’t have been worse for Xue who is already facing a steep learning curve due to his limited experience in African affairs combined with the fact that Beijing’s response to the Russo-Ukrainian war appears to contradict a number of its own longstanding positions.

All last year, China was adamant in its defense of Ethiopia and several other African governments who were all targeted by U.S. and European sanctions that it vehemently opposes unilateralism. More broadly, President Xi Jinping clearly stated at the Boao Forum last April that “international affairs should be handled by everyone through consultation” and that “rules made by one or more countries should not be forced upon others.”

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