Ukraine dispatch: Chinese ‘peace plan’ represents more posturing than progress Dispatches
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Ukraine dispatch: Chinese ‘peace plan’ represents more posturing than progress

Ukrainian law students and young lawyers are reporting for JURIST on developments in and affecting Ukraine. This dispatch is from Yulii Kozub, a law student from Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv. He files this from Vienna. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry recently presented a “Peace Plan,” which contains 12 proposals to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. In this plan, China calls for respect for the sovereignty of all countries, the abandonment of the Cold War, an end to hostilities, unilateral sanctions, and the resumption of direct dialogue between Moscow and Kiev. The war is referred to as a “conflict” and a “Ukrainian crisis.” Ukraine was not consulted in drafting the document, although Chinese diplomatic chief Wang Yi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before publishing the plan.

US President Joe Biden and NATO have criticized the Chinese plan and consider it beneficial only to Russia. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg doubts its reliability, pointing out that the authors of the plan did not condemn the invasion of Ukraine. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also criticizes the plan because of the lack of a clause on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.

When the Chinese “peace plan” was published, Western media discussed rumors that China was ready to supply weapons to Russia. Despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine, trade between China and Russia has only grown, and China has become an important trading partner for Russia, buying large amounts of oil, gas, and coal. China did not condemn the invasion of Ukraine or join the anti-Russian sanctions, and before that, Russian President Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had declared their “boundless friendship”. At the same time, relations between the US and China have sharply deteriorated. China has an ambiguous position on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. On the one hand, it usually avoids interfering in the affairs of other countries, especially if those concern sovereignty and territorial integrity. On the other hand, China has interests in both Russia and Ukraine, so it may be interested in acting as a mediator in the conflict. China also has its own territorial problems, particularly with Taiwan and South China, so it can support the international order and the principle of non-interference in the affairs of other countries.

Regarding the resolution of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, there are various proposals, such as diplomatic efforts, international pressure on the parties to the conflict, a ceasefire, demining, and other measures that would help reduce violence and achieve a peaceful resolution through negotiations.  There are proposals to resolve the conflict that involve China in the peace process. This may include China’s involvement in international organizations that play an important role in maintaining international order and conflict resolution. Given the vagueness of the wording and ineffectiveness of China’s proposed text, however, it is unlikely that any party will take up the “peace plan” and require Beijing to take further steps to implement it. The parties’
reactions play an important role.

The Russian government will surely support the Chinese initiative, given that Putin proposed a truce and talks as early as last September following the annexation of four regions of Ukraine. The Kremlin claims that it is always ready for “peace,” but the “Ukrainian regime” and its “Western masters” do not make it possible. Mikhail Podolyak, advisor to the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, has already criticized the document. This reaction of the parties is fully in the interests of China. The refusal of the West and Ukraine to accept Chinese proposals is just a gift. Now Beijing can always refer to it when Western partners accuse China of quietly supporting Putin’s aggression. Despite the ineffectiveness of China’s proposed plan, China continues to play an active role in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. In March 2022, China gave Russia a $3 billion loan that could be used to develop economic projects in Crimea and Sevastopol. This provoked outrage from Ukraine and its Western allies, who accused China of violating international law.

In addition, China is increasing its military aid to Russia. In 2020, China exported 121 pieces of military equipment worth over $1 billion to Russia. This allows Russia to strengthen its position on the eastern front and continue military operations in Donbas. It is also worth noting that China influences other countries that can influence the conflict. For example, China is Germany’s largest economic partner, which in turn is a key player in the European Union. China can use its economic leverage to influence the decisions of Germany and other European countries regarding the conflict in Ukraine.

I believe that this document is superficial and serves more as a way for China to express its position to the United States and developing countries. It cannot be taken seriously and is not meant to be implemented. The main purpose of the document is to show non-Western countries that they don’t have to choose between the West and Russia in this conflict. Instead, they can stay on the sidelines and call for peace by trading with both sides.