Ukraine wants help from China, but Beijing’s attention is elsewhere

(CNN) — As Ukraine struggles to maintain international support as the Russian invasion enters its third year, its leader has made clear he would like to include one country in his push for peace: China.

Increasing pressure on Beijing, Moscow’s most powerful political ally, was one of the main talking points of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other officials during a meeting of the world’s elite in the Swiss resort of Davos.

There, Zelensky told reporters that he would “very much like China to participate in the Ukrainian peace plan”. Interfax-Ukraine reported that his foreign minister said the country wanted greater contacts with China “at all levels”, while Zelensky’s chief of staff also opened the door for the leader to meet with China’s top representative on the sidelines of the meeting. Kept open.

However, Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang left the World Economic Forum earlier this week without meeting Zelensky, and did not directly address the conflict in a nearly 25-minute speech, which mostly told his audience about the faltering Chinese economy. Focused on reassurance.

Although Chinese officials stepped up efforts last year to position the country as a potential peace mediator in the war, analysts say Beijing is using its deep and growing ties with Russia to promote its end. It is unlikely to find time to take advantage, especially in the conditions of Ukraine. ,

“China believes it is already playing an important role in moving toward peace,” said Yun Sun, director of the Stimson Center’s China Program, a Washington-based think tank. “It’s just that China of peace is “is not what Zelensky wants to see.”

Following a Russian drone strike in Bilohorshcha outside Lviv in western Ukraine on January 1, 2024.  (Ukrainform/Nurfoto/Getty Images)

Following a Russian drone strike in Bilohorshcha outside Lviv in western Ukraine on January 1, 2024. (Ukrainform/Nurfoto/Getty Images)

Last year, Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke to Zelensky for the first time, nearly 14 months after the war, with Beijing sending an envoy to both Kiev and Moscow. He has also made public his own peace proposal, which, contrary to Ukraine’s demands, advocates a ceasefire without the prior withdrawal of Russian troops illegally occupying Ukrainian territory.

According to the analysis, the former attracts the attention of the world.

“Earlier, China might have wanted to mediate because it didn’t want Russia to lose too much. But now there is less concern on that front… China has more incentive to see how the battlefield will develop, based on According to Banega Sun, for any talks (of peace).

“Now that the United States has disengaged from Gaza and the resources available to Ukraine are more limited, things have changed in Russia’s favor. China has the responsibility to ‘promote a just peace advocated by the West and Ukraine.’ There is less reason.” ” he claimed.

China reacts to Gaza conflict

While Li focused on the economy in Davos, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier this week focused his attention on Gaza.

In Cairo, as part of his first traditional visit of the year to Africa, Wang issued a joint statement with the Arab League calling for an “immediate and comprehensive ceasefire” to end the more than three-month-long war in Gaza. Called for. Struggle since his early days.

Wang also said China called for the convening of a “larger-scale, more authoritative and more effective international peace conference”, as well as a specific timetable for implementing a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

Although it is unclear to what extent China has the influence in the region to play a major role in supporting this effort, an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel is consistent with Beijing’s long-term foreign policy. China was one of the first countries to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state in the late 1980s and has long advocated a two-state solution.

However, analysts say the conflict also represents an opportunity for Xi to position China as an alternative international leader to the United States, particularly for the Global South, and promote this perception. That US policies have disrupted global stability.

Alex Gebeuw, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center in Berlin, said, “(World) frustration and anger has spilled over into the massive Gaza conflict… and this is where China is trying to establish itself as a diplomatic force for good.” “He tries and scores points.” ,

“When it comes to the Gaza war, most countries in the global South are strongly opposed to what Israel is doing (…). This is a conflict in which it positions itself as an agent of peace And “a negotiated solution generates much more sympathy (in the global South), unlike the Ukraine war, where most countries are staying neutral and only the West is so united,” he said.

peace summit

The upcoming peace summit announced on Monday will test whether Beijing is interested in joining the growing number of countries – including those in the Global South – that want to come to the table with Ukraine and listen to its peace terms. Are willing to.

The meeting, which Switzerland said it would host at an undisclosed date at Zelensky’s request, is expected to see world leaders discuss how to end the conflict as it enters its third year. Zelensky described it as an event “to which all countries that respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine are welcome.”

Asked whether an invitation had been extended to Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry earlier this week avoided a direct answer, saying China’s stance “focuses on promoting peace talks” and “does not accept any means for peace.” “Effort”.

Analysts say the talks are unlikely to translate into a high-level presence in which Ukraine’s views, but not Russia’s, will be the starting point.

Russia has not been represented in any of the four closed-door international peace talks held so far, although its participation would be essential to a peace agreement. Of those three, China only participated in an event hosted by its close strategic partner Saudi Arabia.

Beijing sees Moscow as a key partner in countering what it sees as a hostile West, and the two countries have been strengthening their security, diplomatic and economic ties since Russia launched a full-scale invasion. Have continued.

“Unless Russia accepts it, what happens at the peace conference is irrelevant. China will not support positions that Russia opposes,” Sun declared in Washington. “Any attempt to drag China into such a scenario will fail as China also understands the prospects of attending such a session.”

For now, China may remain on the sidelines until it believes the time has come for a compromise between Kiev and Moscow, an opportunity in which it can attempt to strengthen its role.

But when it comes to how Beijing might maneuver for peace talks in Gaza, China likely does not believe it has yet seized the opportunity to “present itself as a mediator in the conflict,” Sun According to. “So there’s more on the way.”

CNN’s Radina Gigova and Svitlana Vlasova contributed reporting.

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