Neither here nor there: China's balancing position on Russia-Ukraine war
    Foreign pundits comment on Beijing's peace plan

    INTERVIEWS  27 February 2023 - 17:02

    Vadim Mansurov

    Something new in Beijing's policy - this is approximately how we can characterize the package of China's proposals submitted to the world community to resolve the crisis in Ukraine. Given the fact that the document consists of a number of points and considers the war in Ukraine in the context of global geopolitics, many respected experts and analysts assess it as China's attempt to outline its "red lines" and express its attitude towards global instability in this way.

    It should be noted, however, that China's proposals came almost immediately after the shattering statements of Putin and Biden, who engaged in a kind of duel between Moscow and Washington. China has decided to jump in with its agenda into the verbal tussle between the two powers, seeking to establish itself as a third force in the world order. Maybe, however, the situation is more prosaic: Beijing is simply tired of suffering losses from the confrontation between Moscow and Washington, and it decided to make a "knight move".

    In any case, one thing is clear so far: China is, in fact, the only superpower equally distant from the centres of power in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, and therefore has the ability to assess what is happening with a cool head, soberly calculating the pros and cons.

    On the one hand, Beijing is in a kind of advantageous situation - it can, without interfering, observe the situation and the weakening of the main players, reaping the benefits here and now. On the other hand, there is a growing feeling in Beijing that by staying away from the political scramble, China may find itself on the wrong side of the distribution of roles in the new geopolitical world order.

    "It is difficult to say how realistic Beijing's plans are; there are too many vague formulations and vague demands on Russia, either to stop the war immediately or to suspend hostilities for the time being," Ukrainian international political scientist Maxim Yali told Caliber.Az, noting, however, that Beijing's plan "is largely based on Chinese national interests, but it tries to play on the mood of the parties".

    "There have also been statements on nuclear security and calls not to use nuclear weapons, which may be positively perceived in Kyiv. At the same time, there is talk of extending the 'grain deal', while before the war China was one of the largest importers of grain.

    The statement on the inadmissibility of the expansion of blocs signals playing along with Russia which, as you know, declares that war is a forced measure against NATO expansion," the Ukrainian political expert stressed.

    Beijing, he says, also opposes unilateral sanctions, which is one of the main mechanisms for limiting Russia's financial capacity to prolong the war.

    "There seems to be a statement about the need to recognise the territorial integrity of states and follow the UN Charter, but at the same time the Chinese draft does not name Ukraine and does not demand the withdrawal of Russian troops from its territory, which can be understood as that the Chinese are in favour of maintaining the status quo and starting negotiations," the political scientist concludes.

    At the same time, he notes, there is nothing particularly surprising or significant in the fact of a large-scale Chinese political proposal.

    "The anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine has passed - a symbolic date - and all the major players have made statements to this effect. Beijing has talked about its peace plans on the conflict before, so the timing is rational. Given the above, we can conclude that the Chinese peace plan will not be accepted by Kyiv, because its position is unambiguous and unchanged - namely the complete de-occupation of Ukrainian territories, a return to the status quo of 1991, which implies the withdrawal of troops from the entire territory of Ukraine. The latter is also not specified in the Chinese plan, which means that it will not satisfy the Ukrainian side," Maxim Yali said.

    Belarusian analyst Yury Tsarik has his own opinion on the matter. By and large, he believes, the released position of China on the Ukrainian crisis is not at all the "settlement plan" that was announced in the media during the week. This document, the political scientist believes, rather publicly captures Beijing's official position on the conflict, which is quite balanced and contains theses, some of which are complimentary for each of the parties.

    "It should be noted," Tsarik points out, "that the first point of the document is respect for sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of the countries, which unequivocally represents at least disapproval of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

    In fact, the Chinese leadership thereby proclaims its independent position in this conflict and its national interests in the context of this conflict, including preventing its expansion, preventing escalation to the nuclear phase, rejecting unilateral sanctions and other actions that disrupt logistics, supply chains, and cooperation, the political scientist is convinced.

    "These interests are understandable and self-evident, but their proclamation alone does not contribute to the resolution of the conflict. However, it is quite possible that along with this official position, there is a non-public one, which represents the actual settlement plan. But so far we have no information on this," Tsarik concludes.

    At the same time, according to Tatyana Poloskova, a doctor of political sciences and a first-rate state councillor, the Russian media need to give up illusions and fakery regarding both the allegedly forthcoming visit of China's head to Russia and China's statement.

    "We need to stop grasping at the opportunity of presenting our victories in a favorable light, which are not really there," says Pavlova.

    In her view, China's statement clearly shows that it plans to maintain its external neutrality.

    "The information that China is allegedly helping Russia is also very controversial. China only outwardly speaks about neutrality, but it hits us very hard in the pocket, and Beijing has denied rumors that China supplies arms to Russia, and I am more inclined to trust the Chinese in this matter," Poloskova added.

    "In the presented package of proposals, China points out that it is necessary to support the territorial integrity of the states. Well, how much more explicitly to say that China is not going to help the Russian authorities to resolve their issues in Ukraine," she said.

    "Obviously, China has confirmed that it will follow international agreements and has conceived some sort of stratagem. China, on the other hand, thinks in ideologemes and stratagems - let's not forget that.

    If we are talking about current Sino-Russian relations, they are also very much in limbo. I am now actively communicating with Chinese colleagues and I can see that they themselves are now trying to understand what level of cooperation Russia is willing to go to with China. They want to understand how many structures and groups there are in the Russian government that do not want to cooperate with China and are willing to prevent this. They want to understand how many groups in the Russian government are not willing to cooperate with China. They are willing to prevent this. They are in search of information themselves, they do not have enough of it and it is very difficult for them to understand Russia.

    Russia's big information rumour - that China with all its might is rushing towards us - is yet another attempt of Moscow to save face on the background of all geopolitical failures. But the ability to save face is also something we should learn from China. And one more thing - in China there is a hieroglyph "Zhen" which means "patience". So now my country is completely in the 'Zhen' position in front of China," Poloskova summed up.


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