On the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, China has called for a ceasefire and a return to talks in Ukraine as Beijing tries to position itself as a peacemaker in the conflict.
However, Western leaders immediately questioned China’s intentions, accusing Beijing of already taking Russia’s side in the war.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday Published a 12-point paper It outlined its position on a “political solution” to the war, though many of the measures reiterated Beijing’s previous talking points.
Chinese diplomats have been engaged in a difficult balancing act over the war, seeking to appear neutral despite Beijing’s close ties to Moscow, while blaming Washington and NATO for fueling the conflict.
“Talk and negotiation are the only viable solutions to the Ukraine crisis,” the Foreign Ministry said in the document, which was not directly described as a war. “All efforts conducive to a peaceful resolution of the crisis should be encouraged.”
The heads of NATO and the European Commission said the proposal was tainted by Beijing’s failure to condemn Russia’s invasion.
“Of course we will look at the policies, but we will look at them against the background that China has taken a side,” said Commission President Ursula van der Leyen. “This is not a peace plan.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “China does not have much credibility because it cannot condemn its illegal occupation of Ukraine.”
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Washington was looking at the plan, but insisted the war would “end tomorrow” if the first point about respecting sovereignty was observed by Moscow.
“Nobody loves peace more than Ukrainians, and any plan that advances peace is something to watch,” Blinken said Friday. “At the heart of this is Putin’s blatant disregard for Ukraine’s sovereignty. The war could end tomorrow if he withdrew his forces.
Beijing’s plan is unlikely to gain support in Kiev until Russia withdraws from occupied territories, which is not addressed in the 12-point position paper.
“This is an important signal that it looks like China is going to participate [a peace formula]. I don’t know what will come next. . . I want to believe that China will stand by the idea of peace,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday.
The charge d’affaires of Ukraine’s embassy in Beijing, Zhanna Leshshinska, ruled out a ceasefire that would freeze the conflict on the current front line.
Leshshinska told reporters in Beijing on Friday that China should demonstrate its neutrality by getting Russia to withdraw its forces and increase engagement with Ukraine.
Shi Yinhong, a professor at Renmin University, said Beijing may have known that neither side would heed its proposal. “China feels [it] “It is necessary at this moment to reiterate its neutrality in the war, not only to criticize NATO, but also to save some international influence by distinguishing itself from Russia’s behavior,” he said.
When Wang Yi, China’s top foreign policy official, met with Putin on Wednesday, he made little headway in presenting the proposals.
Beijing’s newspaper warned against using nuclear weapons in war and called for Ukraine’s nuclear power plants to be protected. UN It demanded an end to sanctions not approved by the Security Council and a reference to sanctions imposed by Western countries.
Lily McElwee, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the position statement aimed to convince Europe that Beijing could play a constructive role in the conflict while maintaining its partnership with Russia. A third objective may be to justify the countries of the “Global South”, many of which do not share the Western view of the war.
“China fears the international environment is sour for its global ambitions and it sees the Global South as a useful partner,” McElwee said.
The proposal comes after the US said China was considering sending arms and other dangerous aid to Russia. Stoltenberg said he had no evidence of doing so so far.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, “China will not grant any arms deals to any conflict zones or warring parties. What we are doing is promoting peace talks”.
Hu Xijin, former editor of the nationalist Chinese newspaper Global Times, supported Beijing’s reluctance to provide direct military aid.
China has already provided “tremendous support to Russia’s sanctioned economy” by increasing energy and food imports and maintaining the flow of Chinese “electronics, cars and microprocessors,” Hu said this week. Chinese customs data showed imports from its neighbors rose 43 percent last year to $114 billion.
Additional reporting by Maiqi Ding and Nian Liu in Beijing