China, a firm Russian ally, has called for a cease-fire between Ukraine and Moscow and the opening of peace talks as part of a 12-point proposal to end the conflict.
The plan issued Friday morning by the Foreign Ministry also urges the end of Western sanctions imposed on Russia, measures to ensure the safety of nuclear facilities, the establishment of humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians, and steps to ensure the export of grain after disruptions caused global food prices to spike.
China has claimed to be neutral in the conflict, but it has a “no limits” relationship with Russia and has refused to criticize its invasion of Ukraine or even refer to it as such, while accusing the West of provoking the conflict and “fanning the flames” by providing Ukraine with defensive arms.
China and Russia have increasingly aligned their foreign policies to oppose the U.S.-led liberal international order. Foreign Minister Wang Yi reaffirmed the strength of those ties when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a visit to Moscow this week.
China has also been accused by the U.S. of possibly preparing to provide Russia with military aid, something Beijing says lacks evidence.
Given China’s positions, that throws doubt on whether its 12-point proposal has any hope of going ahead — or whether China is seen as an honest broker.
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Before the proposal was released, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called it an important first step.
“I think that, in general, the fact that China started talking about peace in Ukraine, I think that it is not bad. It is important for us that all states are on our side, on the side of justice,” he said at a news conference Friday with Spain’s prime minister.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said earlier Thursday that the U.S. would reserve judgment but that China’s allegiance with Russia meant it was not a neutral mediator. “We would like to see nothing more than a just and durable peace ... but we are skeptical that reports of a proposal like this will be a constructive path forward,” he said.
Price added that the U.S. hopes “all countries that have a relationship with Russia unlike the one that we have will use that leverage, will use that influence to push Russia meaningfully and usefully to end this brutal war of aggression. (China) is in a position to do that in ways that we just aren’t.”
The peace proposal mainly elaborated on long-held Chinese positions, including referring to the need that all countries’ “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity be effectively guaranteed.”
It also called an end to the “Cold War mentality” — its standard term for what it regards as U.S. hegemony and interference in other countries.
“A country’s security cannot be at the expense of other countries’ security, and regional security cannot be guaranteed by strengthening or even expanding military blocs,” the proposal said. “The legitimate security interests and concerns of all countries should be taken seriously and properly addressed.”
China abstained Thursday when the U.N. General Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution that calls for Russia to end hostilities in Ukraine and withdraw its forces. It is one of 16 countries that either voted against or abstained on almost all of five previous resolutions on Ukraine.
The resolution, drafted by Ukraine in consultation with its allies, passed 141-7 with 32 abstentions, sending a strong message on the eve of the first anniversary of the invasion that appears to leave Russia more isolated than ever.
While China has not been openly critical of Moscow, it has said that the present conflict is “not something it wishes to see,” and has repeatedly said any use of nuclear weapons would be completely unacceptable, in an implied repudiation of Putin’s statement that Russia would use “all available means” to protect its territory.
“There are no winners in conflict wars,” the proposal said.
“All parties should maintain rationality and restraint ... support Russia and Ukraine to meet each other, resume direct dialogue as soon as possible, gradually promote the de-escalation and relaxation of the situation, and finally reach a comprehensive ceasefire,” it said.