Will Beijing really bring peace in the Russo-Ukrainian war?

14 April 2023, China, Peking: Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Alliance 90/The Greens) and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang shake hands at the Diaoyutai State Guest House before the start of the German-Chinese Strategic Dialogue. Photo: Soeren Stache/dpa

By Chiara Mastini 

On the 9th of May, the head of the German Foreign Ministry, Annalena Baerbock said that, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has the power to influence and end the conflict in Ukraine assuming its responsibilities. At the press conference in Berlin also the Chinese colleague Quin Gang was present and he affirmed that Beijing urges both sides to end this war

China’s plan for peace

In Berlin, the Chinese Minister also recalled the Peace Plan presented by Beijing and argued that it was “positively greeted by both Russia and Ukraine”. As a matter of fact, China has presented a twelve-point plan in February which consisted in: respecting the sovereignty of all countries, abandoning the Cold War mentality, ceasing hostilities, resuming peace talks,  resolving the humanitarian crisis, protecting civilians and prisoners of war, keeping nuclear power plants safe, reducing strategic risks, facilitating grain exports, stopping unilateral sanctions, keeping industrial and supply chains stable and promoting post-conflict reconstruction.

The weaknesses of China’s plan

The Plan to end war in Ukraine has been described as lacking of details especially for Kyiv as for Ukraine a basic necessity would have been the withdraw of Russian troops. This was a focal requirement because also the US National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, pointed out that “if China wants to play a constructive role in this conflict, then it should put pressure on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine”.

It must be addressed that even the Russians were not entirely convinced of China’s peace plan and that is because, according to the Russian presidential spokesman, a great amount of the Chinese proposals “echoes the initiatives which Moscow had already put forward to the West and which were ignored”, so that the conflict would continue until its goals is attained as Russia had not the opportunity to bring its special military operation to a conclusion.

All things considered the document that Beijing released does not propose a territorial division but only a series of suggestions in order not to increase the tension on the batterfield. According to Beijing both Moscow and Kyiv must work in the same direction having a direct dialogue between each other, as both dialogue and negotiations seems to be “the only viable solutions to the Ukraine crisis”.

What do the Western Countries think of this willingness coming from China?

Opinion on China’s proposal differs between one another, and it is interesting to highlight at least two of them, which are considered to be polar opposite. 

The already mentioned US Secretary of State, Blinken, said that in February the intelligence found out that China was taking into account the possibility of providing arms to Russia suggesting that it might be a “trap”. Leaders form European countries have issued similar warnings and while referring to China’s role Baerbock wondered why Chinese positioning did not included “a call for Russia (the aggressor) to stop the war considering that President Vladimir Putin would have the opportunity to do so at any time, and the people from Ukraine would like nothing more than to finally be able to live in peace again”.

On the other side there are the Countries which are closer to China, for example the Brazilian President Lula. Lula believes, as he stated, that “the world should be taking advantage of the opening provided by China and move quickly to establish a group of countries not involved with the Russia-Ukraine war in order to broker a peace”.

What will the future hold?

Taking into consideration what has been said so far, it is necessary to focus the attention on some important reflections. Unfortunately, there are still too many factors that at the moment prevent the success of a truly effective negotiation that could lead to the end of the conflict. Moreover, despite China has talked about the possibility of peace, it does not seem eager to put too much pressure on Russian decisions.

The Russian-Ukrainian conflict, therefore, does not seem to have the conditions to dissolve in the short future and that most likely the “special military operation” initiated by Putin will continue until on both sides the costs (economic, of victim and global in a more general point of view) have become so unsustainable that they have to impose a stop to the conflict or go beyond the limits within which it had held until now.

The ongoing war has the appearance of a total war, as it involves the military, energy, food and economic area affecting the Western bloc as far as the United States. It must be stressed, however, that neither of the two powers will completely prevail over the other, achieving a full victory due to the many losses suffered and the fact that negotiations and meeting points will be needed to reach the end of the conflict.

Until that tipping moment has been reached there is very little hope that there will be any easy exit from the tragedy in Ukraine, one which had changed the security architecture of Europe for ever, transformed Russia for the worst, and further divided an already fractious World”.