Here’s how the New York Times reported China’s abstention from the vote on the recent U.N. Security Council draft resolution (absurdly) condemning the Crimean referendum of self-determination as illegal:
…American and European diplomats at the United Nations pushed for a vote on a resolution declaring the Sunday referendum illegal, essentially forcing Russia to veto the measure. In the end, Russia cast the only vote against it; even China, its traditional ally on the Council, did not vote with Moscow but abstained, an indication of its unease with Russia’s violation of another country’s sovereignty.
And here’s what the Chinese representative actually said with regard to the violation of sovereignty:
China always respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States. Those are long-standing and fundamental elements of China’s foreign policy. At the same time, we note that foreign interference is also a significant factor, giving rise to violent clashes on the streets of Ukraine and resulting in the crisis in the country.
He was referring, of course, to Western interference in Ukrainian affairs, i.e., support for protests seeking the overthrow of the elected government. And the reason for the abstention from the vote on the resolution? “It is not in line with the common interests of both the people of Ukraine and the international community.”
Declaring an expression of the will of the people in their exercise of the right to self-determination never is. China understands that. That is why it abstained; not because of “unease” with Russia’s actions, but because of unease with the actions of the U.S. and its Western allies.
Dissatisfied with China’s reason for abstaining from a UN vote on a resolution condemning Crimea’s referendum, the New York Times simply invents another.
UPDATE (3/18/14): Amusingly, another New York Times piece from the same day provides these insights into China’s decision:
China does not want to be seen as speaking against its strategic partner, Russia. It also does not want to be seen as endorsing the secession of Crimea, which might encourage a vote on independence for Tibet or Taiwan.
“China has always respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states,” said the Chinese ambassador, Liu Jieyi, in explaining his abstention, while also jabbing a finger at the West. “At the same time we have noticed foreign interference is also an important reason leading to violent clashes on the streets of Ukraine.”
There you have it. Nothing about “unease with Russia’s violation of another country’s sovereignty” in this more truthful version.