China has released some details of a peace plan to bring an end to the war in Ukraine. Top Chinese diplomate Wang Yi toured Europe last week to lobby for the plan, ending his trip in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Beijing released some more details of its 12-point proposal.
1. Respecting the sovereignty of all countries.
2. Abandoning the Cold War mentality.
3. Ceasing hostilities.
4. Resuming peace talks.
5. Resolving the humanitarian crisis.
6. Protecting civilians and prisoners of war (POWs).
7. Keeping nuclear power plants (NPPs) safe.
8. Reducing strategic risks.
9. Facilitating grain exports.
10. Stopping unilateral sanctions.
11. Keeping industrial and supply chains stable.
12. Promoting post-conflict reconstruction.
Beijing has been an important Russian ally in the showdown with the West but now is calling for a ceasefire, protecting NPPs, resuming peace negotiations and eliminating unilateral sanctions on Russia. However, the proposal appears to have little chance of winning support from those backing the government in Kyiv.
The draft deal, released by China's Foreign Ministry on February 24, lists many of Beijing's long-held foreign policy positions in dealing with the US on issues like Taiwan. The blueprint avoids the question of land that Russia has seized in eastern Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been adamant that Kyiv will not concede any land to Russia as part of a potential peace settlement. He was initially sceptical of the Chinese proposal, but warmed to China’s entry into the process as an important “first step.” But Bankova is likely to reject the Chinese proposals, as the government in Kyiv has stated that it will fight until Russia leaves its borders, and Moscow has shown no sign of stopping its attacks.
Ukraine and other countries are unlikely to view China as an impartial mediator to end a war that has killed tens of thousands of people and driven millions into exile. In a sign of Beijing’s continued support for Russia, it abstained from a symbolic United Nations vote on a resolution calling for an end to the war on the day before the anniversary of the start of the war. The measure passed 141-7, with 32 abstentions and the same half dozen Russia supporters voting against the motion.
China’s entry into the peace talk diplomacy has been met with some scepticism in Europe. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock backed Kyiv’s position, saying a Russian troop withdrawal must be a condition of any peace deal. "A just peace cannot mean that the aggressor gets rewarded," she said at a recent security forum in Munich.
Another problem China faces is the growing suspicion that it is providing banned military and technology to Russia, which has already drawn strong words from Washington. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on February 23 that Beijing probably approved of Chinese firms providing Russia non-lethal, "dual-use" support for its war in Ukraine. These remarks underscore growing US concern that Beijing may help arm Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces. China has rejected the allegations and has accused the US of fanning the conflict by providing weapons to Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden recently visited Kyiv and pledged "unwavering support" for Ukraine. After his departure, the US Department of Defense detailed a $460mn aid package, which includes artillery ammunition, long-range missiles, anti-armour systems and air surveillance radar.
China's peace proposals for Ukraine and Russia have met with a lukewarm reception, as they avoid the key issue of Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territory and do not deal with the problem of withdrawal. However, the draft proposal is also seen as an opening gambit ahead of more substantial diplomacy in the months ahead.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to be in Moscow for the annual May Day victory parade with Putin and also intends to tour Europe ahead of his visit to Russia, during which he will lobby for a version of the plan. As Russia’s key trade partner and ally in its opposition to the US, China is the country with the most influence over Putin and is in a position to apply a substantial pressure on the Kremlin.
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