What’s in China's Ukraine peace plan?
As the world marked one year of war in Ukraine on Friday, China's President Xi Jinping – positioning himself as mediator-in-chief – presented a peace plan for the war-torn country. Beijing, maintaining its self-described neutral status, released a 12-point document calling for both Russia and Ukraine to end hostilities and move towards the negotiating table in hopes of “reach[ing] a comprehensive ceasefire.” To date, Beijing’s support of Russia has mostly been rhetorical and symbolic.
Xi urged the West to stop “unilateral sanctions” and called for “abandoning the Cold War mentality,” likely a reference to the US-led NATO alliance. What's more, the plan also cautioned against expanding the NATO bloc, though most of the principles were presented in general terms. Crucially, in what’s widely perceived as a veiled threat to Moscow, Beijing issued a warning against the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
So, what was the reaction? Ukraine’s top diplomat in China called the paper “a good sign,” while also reiterating Kyiv’s long-held view that Russia should immediately withdraw from Ukrainian territory, a position echoed by President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday in a video marking the anniversary of the war: “We are strong. We are ready for anything,” Zelensky said.
While the light-on-detail Chinese plan is unlikely to be endorsed by the US or EU, particularly after Washington recently warned that Beijing might send heavy weapons to Russia and a new German report found that Russia is in negotiations to buy Chinese drones – the overtures may play very well in the Global South. Indeed, much of the developing world has benefited from Russian and Chinese investment and isn’t on board with the conflict – a fact that was reiterated Thursday when many African and several Asian states abstained from a UN resolution calling for Russian troops to leave Ukraine.
Xi also plans to meet with Vladimir Putin in Russia in the months ahead. We’ll be watching to see whether he applies more pressure for the Kremlin to back down as Beijing seeks to help stabilize the global economy and its domestic economic performance after years of stagnation linked to its zero-COVID policy.