Information Box: Can China bridge peace in Ukraine | Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) – Beijing on February 24 released a document outlining China’s position on the Ukraine crisis, calling on Russia and Ukraine to come together and pursue a total ceasefire. Xi Jinping is expected to visit Russia soon to meet with Putin, and is reportedly planning a virtual meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

China’s foreign ministry said it was in contact with both sides, but has not formally confirmed that Xi will meet with Putin or Zelensky. However, there are speculations that China is trying to invite Russia and Ukraine to the peace talks table.

◎Reasons why China is trying to mediate

China has traditionally adhered to the principle of not interfering in conflicts with other countries, especially those in regions far from China. But last week Beijing set up a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran to normalize diplomatic relations, and under Xi’s leadership China is trying to present itself as a responsible power, analysts say.

“Xi would like to be seen as a politician at least as influential in the international community as the US president,” said Wang Jiankyu, a law professor at the City University of Hong Kong.

China is also desperate to shake off criticism that it is siding with the aggressor Russia on the Ukraine issue.

Playing the role of intermediary is seen as a “low-risk, high-return” attempt for China, even if there is little prospect of an early breakthrough.

◎ China’s Peace Plan

In a document titled “Political Solution to the Ukraine Crisis,” China urged both Russia and Ukraine to gradually defuse tensions and reach a comprehensive ceasefire.

The document calls for the protection of civilians and respect for the sovereignty of all nations, but refrains from condemning Russia’s acts of aggression.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine have shown much of a welcome, and the United States and NATO have questioned China’s neutrality.

There are speculations that China is trying to invite Russia and Ukraine to the peace talks table. Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Taken in February 2022 in Beijing. Photo provided (2023 Reuters/Sputnik/Aleksey Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS)

Ukraine claims that peace will only be considered after Russia withdraws all troops from Ukrainian territory Ukraine objected to China’s proposal for failing to mention that Russia should fall back to the borders established after the collapse of the Soviet Union chanted. However, he later showed a willingness to think about some parts of the proposal.

Russia said it would consider China’s proposal, but said there were no signs of a peace deal so far.

The United States criticized China for presenting itself as neutral and seeking peace, while at the same time accepting Russia’s “hoaxes” about the war and providing non-military aid and considering military aid.

NATO said China could not be trusted as a mediator in Ukraine.

◎ Role played by China

Experts say it will be difficult for China to bring Russia and Ukraine to the table for peace talks, unlike Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“Saudi Arabia and Iran really want dialogue and better relations, but Russia and Ukraine don’t, at least for now,” said Yun Sun, China program director at the Stimson Center.

Yun said Xi could work behind the scenes to create momentum for a dialogue between Russia and Ukraine, which is currently unlikely.

However, Turkey’s unsuccessful attempt to invite Russian and Ukrainian representatives to Istanbul in the weeks after the start of last year’s war to provoke talks underscores how difficult compromises can be.

◎Means that China can use

Some experts say China has advantages over Turkey as an intermediary. The point is that it has more influence over Russia.

China is Russia’s most important ally, buying Russian oil and providing a market for Russian products that the West has shut off.

China also has some influence over Ukraine. Samuel Ramani, a Russia expert at the University of Oxford, said Ukraine would not want to ruin its chances of receiving help from China in its post-war reconstruction phase.

Ramani said China has expanded trade with Ukraine since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and has not recognized Crimea as Russian territory.

“Most importantly, Mr Zelensky does not want to go out of his way to provoke China into supplying weapons to Russia,” he said.

◎Can China act as a sincere intermediary?

China, with its strong ties to Russia, would be viewed with great suspicion if it acted as an intermediary. Shortly before launching its invasion of Ukraine, China and Russia had declared an “unlimited” friendship.

Although China has been advocating peace since the beginning of the war, it largely respects Russia’s position. In other words, NATO threatened Russia with its expansion to the east, and the West intensified the war by supplying Ukraine with tanks and missiles.

Andrew Small, senior fellow at the German Marshall Foundation, says China wants to be seen as part of the peace effort, but is not prepared to force Putin to end the war at the expense of his relationship with Russia. and analysis. “So far, China has not pressured Russia or forced it to do anything,” he said.