China’s Peace Plan For Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and United States: Latest Updates And New Analysis
By Chris Devonshire-Ellis
Latest Update (March 17, 2023): China’s President Xi Jinping has now been confirmed as visiting Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin from Monday 20 to Wednesday, March 22.
This article has been completely revised and rewritten from the piece that appeared on Thursday, February 23, to better reflect the latest Chinese proposals released on Friday, February 24.
Beijing has released a document titled “China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis” which contains 12 points for achieving a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia. These and analytical commentary are provided below.
1. Respecting the sovereignty of all countries. Universally recognized international law, including the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, must be strictly observed. The sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld. All countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are equal members of the international community. All parties should jointly uphold the basic norms governing international relations and defend international fairness and justice. Equal and uniform application of international law should be promoted, while double standards must be rejected.
CDE: The issue with this, while apparently reasonable, is that differing opinions of what ‘international law’ actually is, and who should define it have appeared, making its construction and compliance almost impossible.
2. Abandoning the Cold War mentality. The security of a country should not be pursued at the expense of others. The security of a region should not be achieved by strengthening or expanding military blocs. The legitimate security interests and concerns of all countries must be taken seriously and addressed properly. There is no simple solution to a complex issue. All parties should, following the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security and bearing in mind the long-term peace and stability of the world, help forge a balanced, effective, and sustainable European security architecture. All parties should oppose the pursuit of one’s own security at the cost of others’ security, prevent bloc confrontation, and work together for peace and stability on the Eurasian Continent.
CDE: This is largely a reference to NATO expansion and a call for ‘all countries’ – a reference to the UN – to become involved in order to separate NATO and Russian differences of opinion.
3. Ceasing hostilities. Conflict and war benefit no one. All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiraling out of control. All parties should support Russia and Ukraine in working in the same direction and resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible, so as to gradually de-escalate the situation and ultimately reach a comprehensive ceasefire.
CDE: Calls for mutual dialogue between Russia and Ukraine will be very difficult to achieve without Ukrainian President Zelensky taking a less aggressive tone in Ukranian terms for dialogue. Yet the conflict has many Fathers and some of these have been Ukranian. Until this is recognized getting the two sides together will be extremely hard.
4. Resuming peace talks. Dialogue and negotiation are the only viable solution to the Ukraine crisis. All efforts conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis must be encouraged and supported. The international community should stay committed to the right approach of promoting talks for peace, help parties to the conflict open the door to a political settlement as soon as possible, and create conditions and platforms for the resumption of negotiation. China will continue to play a constructive role in this regard.
CDE: Apparent calls for the UN to be involved in structuring the conditions for dialogue.
5. Resolving the humanitarian crisis. All measures conducive to easing the humanitarian crisis must be encouraged and supported. Humanitarian operations should follow the principles of neutrality and impartiality, and humanitarian issues should not be politicized. The safety of civilians must be effectively protected, and humanitarian corridors should be set up for the evacuation of civilians from conflict zones. Efforts are needed to increase humanitarian assistance to relevant areas, improve humanitarian conditions, and provide rapid, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access, with a view to preventing a humanitarian crisis on a larger scale. The UN should be supported in playing a coordinating role in channeling humanitarian aid to conflict zones.
CDE: Arguably the most important issue, again with reference to moving the onus for conflict resolution to the United Nations rather than with the United States, EU, and NATO alone.
6. Protecting civilians and prisoners of war (POWs). Parties to the conflict should strictly abide by international humanitarian law, avoid attacking civilians or civilian facilities, protect women, children, and other victims of the conflict, and respect the basic rights of POWs. China supports the exchange of POWs between Russia and Ukraine and calls on all parties to create more favorable conditions for this purpose.
CDE: Both sides appear to have committed atrocities with Ukraine dehumanizing Russian soldiers as ‘Orcs’ and similar language. Wars are fought by human beings and rhetoric suggesting otherwise should be toned down while the agreed rights of POWs and civilians are upheld by both parties.
7. Keeping nuclear power plants safe. China opposes armed attacks against nuclear power plants or other peaceful nuclear facilities and calls on all parties to comply with international law including the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS) and resolutely avoid man-made nuclear accidents. China supports the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in playing a constructive role in promoting the safety and security of peaceful nuclear facilities.
CDE: The IAEA are brave in sending inspectors into the nuclear facilities that have on occasion been bombed by both sides. Their absolute authority around such facilities should be respected by both Russia and Ukraine.
8. Reducing strategic risks. Nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear wars must not be fought. The threat or use of nuclear weapons should be opposed. Nuclear proliferation must be prevented and the nuclear crisis avoided. China opposes the research, development, and use of chemical and biological weapons by any country under any circumstances.
CDE: Russian rhetoric here has also been bellicose, and this also needs toning down. There have been allegations of sufficient credibility that US-financed chemical and biological weapons research had been conducted in Ukraine and this requires investigation.
9. Facilitating grain exports. All parties need to implement the Black Sea Grain Initiative signed by Russia, Türkiye, Ukraine, and the UN fully and effectively in a balanced manner and support the UN in playing an important role in this regard. The cooperation initiative on global food security proposed by China provides a feasible solution to the global food crisis.
CDE: Following the brokered grain deal between Russia and Ukraine, which was agreed primarily to ease shortages in poorer countries, much of the exported Ukrainian grain in 2022 went to Europe. China is calling for UN oversights to make sure a more balanced approach to distribution is achieved. Without this, Russia is unlikely to permit future transit from Ukrainian Black Sea ports which could lead to famine elsewhere.
10. Stopping unilateral sanctions. Unilateral sanctions and maximum pressure cannot solve the issue; they only create new problems. China opposes unilateral sanctions unauthorized by the UN Security Council. Relevant countries should stop abusing unilateral sanctions and “long-arm jurisdiction” against other countries, so as to do their share in de-escalating the Ukraine crisis and create conditions for developing countries to grow their economies and better the lives of their people.
CDE: This is a highly controversial call that will meet with intense pushback in the West, largely because of the political symbolism value there in imposing sanctions upon Russia, but also because it helps the West keep an edge over Russian technological development. Russia is now the most heavily sanctioned country in the world, yet its domestic economy is set to grow at 2.2 percent in 2023, double that of EU projections. China’s essential argument is that sanctions ultimately damage all parties when imposed on such a giant scale, and as this has never been attempted before the global outcomes remain economic guesswork – hardly conducive to creating global economic stability.
11. Keeping industrial and supply chains stable. All parties should earnestly maintain the existing world economic system and oppose using the world economy as a tool or weapon for political purposes. Joint efforts are needed to mitigate the spillovers of the crisis and prevent it from disrupting international cooperation in energy, finance, food trade, and transportation and undermining global economic recovery.
CDE: Of direct relevance to China and its BRI supply chains.
12. Promoting post-conflict reconstruction. The international community needs to take measures to support post-conflict reconstruction in conflict zones. China stands ready to provide assistance and play a constructive role in this endeavor.
CDE: A good point that hasn’t been raised before. The creation of a ‘post-conflict’ institution to manage the many issues arising from the conflict is a necessary step. It remains uncertain that the West is currently interested in such a step, yet China’s suggestion is one that would divert attention away from the immediate daily conflict issues to solving and mending it.
China’s 12-point plan isn’t as direct as I had suspected it would be in terms of dealing with the various contentious issues that exist between Russia and Ukraine. These include most of the regions involved in the heaviest fighting, namely the Donbas, where the conflict started nine years ago in 2014, not one year ago. That deep-rooted issue needs resolving for there to be any chance of reconciliation. China perhaps wisely has stayed out of immediate comment but has made it clear that the United Nations needs to step up and take effective control for there to be any chance of resolution.
That is a call that needs to be taken seriously, as much of the dialogue and ‘efforts to be seen’ have been US driven – as we have experienced with Ukrainian President Zelinsky visiting Washington and Biden’s recent appearance a few days ago in Kyiv. China essentially wants the conflict debates ‘kicked upstairs’ to the UN for a larger discussion and more international involvement.
Immediate Western political opinion towards the Chinese proposals has been however lukewarm and sometimes derogatory with statements that China is ‘seeking to split Western opinion’ bordering on the paranoic.
There appears to be a tipping point developing here between who is ultimately going to be responsible for the future of the conflict and its aftermath. At present, the controlling powers appear to be the US, EU, and Ukraine, with Russia in the opposing corner. China views this as an essential stalemate and a more globally concerning issue and wants a wider audience and responsibility to be placed with the United Nations to take action.
The key point here is control of the future of the conflict. The question being asked in Beijing is whether the West alone wishes to take responsibility for the future of the war, or does it let the responsibility for resolving it be resolved by the global community. The answer will decide in fairly short order whether or not East and West can be reconciled. China is saying it can. It remains to be seen how Washington and Brussels view this, but initial reactions are suggesting not.
In this case, the Chinese proposals can be seen to some extent as a flag-waving exercise to determine how the winds are blowing. The West’s response to them will be analyzed and considered as a national driver for the future direction China itself will take with respect to emerging global divisions, dependent upon the Western perspective. The reaction could influence decades of Chinese policymaking.
Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the Founding Partner of Dezan Shira & Associates. He may be contacted at email@example.com.
(This article was first published on February 24, 2023, and was last updated on March 17, 2023)
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