China Gives Clearest Support for Russia's Invasion of Ukraine So Far

A senior Chinese official has offered Beijing's strongest support yet for the Kremlin's war in Ukraine, footage released by Russia's State Duma shows.

Li Zhanshu, who is the No. 3 in China's leadership, visited Moscow last week and pledged his country's "understanding and full support" during a meeting on September 9 with senior Russian figures. They included Vyacheslav Volodin, chair of the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament.

Li, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, told the Russian lawmakers: "On the Ukraine issue, for example, the United States and NATO are expanding directly on Russia's doorstep, threatening Russia's national security and the lives of Russian citizens.

"Given the circumstances, Russia has taken necessary measures. China understands, and we are coordinating on various aspects."

China Official Supports Russia In Ukraine
Li Zhanshu, chairman of China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee, meets with senior figures from Russia’s State Duma in Moscow on September 9. Li pledged Beijing’s support for the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine. Duma TV

In a video published on the Duma's website, Li said in Chinese: "I believe Russia was cornered. In this case, to protect the core interests of the country, Russia gave a resolute response."

The Duma had previously released Li's interpreted remarks, including a translation of "coordinating on various aspects" as "we are providing our assistance." The parliament's transcript also said the U.S. and NATO had "put Russia in an impossible situation."

In China, state media outlets that reported on Li's trip, which began with a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, did not mention his comments about Ukraine. Before the Duma's footage was released, it wasn't possible to verify independently what Li had said about Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Official Chinese media hasn't reported on the Duma video, a sign of the sensitivity surrounding its content.

China Official Supports Russia In Ukraine
Li Zhanshu, left, chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, meets with Vyacheslav Volodin, chair of the State Duma, in Moscow on September 8. State Duma

Li's No. 3 status comes from his seat on China's seven-man Politburo Standing Committee, the Chinese Communist Party's top decision-making body, behind President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

Recent remarks by Li Zhanshu and others have set the tone for an upcoming meeting between Xi and Putin, their first in-person talks since February and Xi's first foreign trip in more than two years. The two leaders, both 69, are attending a Shanghai Cooperation Organization leaders' gathering in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on September 15 to 16.

Li and Volodin also met for one-on-one talks on September 8, the Duma said, during which the Chinese official expressed similar sentiments.

"Our cooperation is based on the most important interests of our two nations and brings certainty and stability to a chaotic world," he was quoted as saying, before calling for "new formats of cooperation" in light of Western sanctions against Moscow.