After an initial degree of hesitancy, China’s state media has come out strongly in favor of Russia regarding the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17.
A number of editorials in Chinese state media in recent days have strongly condemned the Western response to the downing of MH17. The nationalistic Global Times, for instance, featured an editorial on Monday that ostensibly called for full disclosure from Russia, as well as an extensive and fair investigation led by either the United Nations or the International Civil Aviation Organization. Much of the editorial, however, was a scathing critique of Western efforts to implicate Russia in the attack.
”The West has fingered Russia as the main suspect in the tragedy. Under such circumstances, any hesitation on Russia’s part will provoke more blame from the West,” the Global Times editorial said. “If there is no result to the investigation, Russia will, by default, be named the perpetrator. Therefore, letting the facts of the case speak suits Russia’s interests.”
The Global Times’ editors continued:
“The Western rush to judge Russia is not based on evidence or logic. Russia had no motive to bring down MH17; doing so would only narrow its political and moral space to operate in the Ukrainian crisis. The tragedy has no political benefit for Ukrainian rebel forces, either.
“Russia has been back-footed, forced into a passive stance by Western reaction. It is yet another example of the power of Western opinion as a political tool.”
More generally, the GT editorial board opined: “The West has successfully put itself in a position to dictate ‘political correctness’ in international discourse. Those unwilling to work with Western interests will often find themselves in a tough position.”
An earlier Global Times editorial, which was published on its English-language website on Saturday, offered a more subtle defense of Russia. Similar to the position taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the GT’s Saturday editorial said that the ongoing fighting in Ukraine had caused the attack, indirectly implicating the Ukrainian government.
“The real culprit to blame, in fact, is the chaotic situation in Ukraine following the Crimea crisis. What Putin has said, that the tragedy would not have happened had there been peace in Ukraine, does make some sense,” the GT editorial stated.
While the GT editorials seemed to go the furthest in condemning the West and supporting Russia, other Chinese media outlets have also leaned heavily toward Russia. The day after the attack, for instance, an opinion piece in Xinhua News called the Western response “rash.” It added: “The one-sided accusation [from the West] is not surprising in light of their long-time stance on the crisis in eastern Ukraine, and their attitude towards Russia’s absorption of Crimea in March.” This is broadly consistent with the editorial stances taken by most mainstream Chinese publications.
The Chinese state media’s position on MH17 has therefore been consistent with its reaction to most of the events that have unfolded in the Ukraine over the last six months or so. Namely, China’s state media began analyzing the crisis with caution, before becoming increasingly anti-Western and pro-Russian.