26 September 2023

Analysis: There is no record of China donating 50 ambulances to Ukraine in January

A five-year-old photo of an ambulance donation from China to Ukraine was used in recent online posts with a claim that the vehicles were given this year in January. But Annie Lab found no record of such donation by Beijing to Kyiv since the war in Ukraine began a year ago.


Numerous articles published on Chinese news portals recently said China has given Ukraine 50 ambulances worth four million euros in January.

This has drawn heated debates among Chinese netizens who questioned if Beijing’s long-held “neutrality” over the war in Ukraine has been shifted.

The earliest article with this claim was published by an unidentified writer on WeChat public account on Jan. 31, as far as Annie Lab could tell.

It came with a photo showing two rows of neatly parked ambulances and a red banner in Chinese that reads (when translated into English): “Warm Congratulations on the Successful Dispatch of 50 JAC Ambulances from China to Ukraine.”

Similar articles were subsequently posted on at least two mainstream news portals — one on Feb. 2 on NetEase and the other on Feb. 3 on iFeng.

More than 10,000 users then engaged in heated discussions, leaving tens of thousands of comments.

However, Annie Lab discovered that the photo in question was posted more than five years ago by the Twitter account @GreenroadGlobal that belongs to an international logistics company.

According to the tweet posted on June 8, 2017, the freight forwarder company shipped 50 ambulances to Ukraine at the time.

Screengrab of Greenroad International Logistics’ Twitter post on June 8, 2017.

Meanwhile, we could not find any record of another 50 ambulances donated to Ukraine in January.

We reached out to Oleh Malyi, first secretary of Economic Affairs at the Embassy of Ukraine in Beijing.

He told Annie Lab in a written response on Feb. 14 that “China delivered 50 ambulances to Ukraine back in 2018 as a technical aid project.”

Old news articles from China’s state-owned Xinhua and the National News Agency of Ukraine also said the ambulances arrived in Kyiv on Jan. 10, 2018.

The vehicles were reported to have been sent to “18 regional centers of emergency medical aid and catastrophe medicine.”

However, Malyi neither confirmed nor denied that Ukraine had received another batch of ambulances in January from Beijing this year.

He wrote, “the Chinese officials make public announcements through the official channels on all the decisions of [the] Chinese Government to render humanitarian aid to Ukraine” and suggested “follow the Chinese official sources.”

Annie Lab also contacted the press office of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs but our repeated requests via Fax and emails have not been answered as of this writing, while the articles with the five-year-old photo seem to have been taken down from the Chinese internet.

To further corroborate, we also tracked down a 2017 Social Responsibility Report by JAC Motors, a Chinese automobile and vehicle manufacturer.

This 2017 report mentioned a batch of “50 Sunray ambulances produced by JAC Motors” being sent to Ukraine. It also contained the same photo that was used in the 2023 articles we investigated.

Screengrab of JAC Motors’ 2017 Social Responsibility Report over the ambulance donation.

A news report about the latest humanitarian aid from China to Ukraine that Annie Lab can find was published by China Daily in March 2022.

It said “food, sleeping bags, powdered infant formula, cotton quilts, and waterproof mats” were given to the country. Ambulances were not mentioned.

On Feb. 24, upon the first anniversary of the war, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement that said “Humanitarian operations should follow the principles of neutrality and impartiality, and humanitarian issues should not be politicized.”