Don’t expect China to mediate in Ukraine dispute anytime soon, experts say

Xi also said that China is ready to play a constructive role in resolving the conflict.

But Russian missiles continued to target residential and energy infrastructure, while Russia said a Ukrainian missile strike at around midnight on New Year’s Eve killed 89 of its soldiers in the Donetsk region.

Many see China as engaged in a balancing act between the West and Russia – adjusting its position during the war.

After it was announced “No Limit” Partnership With Russia and Moscow harshly scrutinized by the West for refusing to condemn it, China has recently become more vocal in warning against the use of nuclear weapons, with the European Union using its influence on Putin to help Xi was also pressured to do so. Warning.

But while China has signaled its willingness to be a mediator, experts said the timing and conditions for playing such a role have yet to materialize.

Ilya Kusa, an international politics expert at the Ukraine Institute for the Future, said he believed China was willing to mediate in the Ukraine conflict for some strategic reasons, including concerns over and impact on expanding US security partnerships around the world. China’s economy.

“The war in Ukraine gives the United States an additional opportunity to rally allies in Europe and Asia, mobilize resources, and expand the NATO-led partnership, which is contrary to China’s interests,” he said.

The Russia-Ukraine war was discussed at the meeting of the leaders of China and the European Union amid rising tensions

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The Russia-Ukraine war was discussed at the meeting of the leaders of China and the European Union amid rising tensions

China’s economic growth last year is expected to be the slowest in decades and relations with the US have deteriorated amid growing restrictions on access to high-tech components and rivalry in the Indo-Pacific region.

But China has benefited from buying subsidized Russian oil and gas, whose prices have plummeted due to Western sanctions.

Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as China’s biggest oil supplier for several months last year, when Sino-Russian trade was expected to record a record growth of about 25 percent.

Cusa said that China would be able to mediate in the conflict because of its economic and energy leverage over Russia, good economic ties with Ukraine, and influence over non-Western countries, but its involvement would depend on the dynamics of Sino-US relations. The coming year

“China will be willing to put pressure on Russia only if the US is interested in including China in talks about a possible post-war security architecture,” he said. “For example, they could agree to jointly engage Russia diplomatically, politically and economically, but that would require Washington and Beijing to engage in a meaningful dialogue. Right now I don’t see that happening.” Am.”

Wang Yiwei, a professor of European studies at Renmin University in Beijing, said that China has little power to prevent Russia from fighting, and that Moscow will not give up in a war.

President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin hold talks via video link on December 30.  Photo: AP

President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin hold talks via video link on December 30. Photo: AP

“China is not an involved party, so can’t do anything about it,” he said. “This is wishful thinking from the West, hoping that China will put pressure on Russia.”

Wang said that China would not have much of a role in arranging a ceasefire or talks until Russia and Ukraine agreed to negotiate, for example by calling for the principles of the UN Charter to be upheld.

Talks between Ukraine and Russia have largely stalled since a few rounds of talks in March last year. Many observers doubt that either side has much interest in resuming them anytime soon, with Ukraine having annexed more occupied territory in recent months.

Yun Sun, director of the China Program at the Stimson Center, a Washington-based think tank, said China’s mediation would depend on whether Russia and Ukraine are willing to resolve their conflict, and whether they agree to China being a mediator.

“For China to mediate would require the consent of both sides to talk about peace and for China to be the mediator,” he said. “I don’t think we’re there yet. If Europe presses China to mediate, Beijing will be more eager to consider it.”

Zha Daoxiong, a professor of international relations at Peking University, said that a resolution to the Ukraine conflict would require diplomatic efforts from multiple parties, including NATO, and that it would be best for China to “prevent any involvement in the process”. Observe calmly and act steadily”. ,

“The political-diplomatic dynamics between the direct parties to the conflict is going to be the driving force of change,” he said.

“In other words, even in the event of a formal request for a role, China must be prudent – ​​by consulting, for example, with all those direct parties before firming up its position.”

Calls have grown among EU members for an expanded Chinese role in resolving the conflict. Fu Kang, the new Chinese ambassador to the bloc, said the conflict had put China “in a very difficult position” and “great strain” on China-EU relations.

Philippe Le Corre, a Harvard Kennedy School research associate who specializes in Sino-European relations, said he believes the war’s impact on Chinese projects in Europe has put further strain on already strained economic relations. Was put

“Because of the Ukraine war, belt and road initiative has stalled and many Eastern European countries have lost hope of receiving Chinese foreign direct investment… A strong message from Beijing to encourage an end to the Ukraine war would greatly help China’s image in Europe,” he said. .

China–Europe Railway express services have been reduced following the separation of the Ukraine section, and many European operators have opted out of transport through Russia and Belarus due to sanctions on Moscow.

Further investment in the New Eurasian Land Bridge Route that used to pass through Russia has also been put on hold, with China now focusing on a shorter alternative route to Europe through Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan that would bypass Russia.

The land bridge is one of the six major economic corridors under the Belt and Road Initiative that link China and Europe.

New China-Europe Railway Express Line Faces Challenges Amid Russia-Ukraine War

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New China-Europe Railway Express Line Faces Challenges Amid Russia-Ukraine War

Chinese investment in Europe is also declining amid growing pandemic and security concerns.

However, total trade between China and Europe showed strong resilience last year – growing 8.1 percent year-on-year in the first 10 months – with the majority of cargo shipped by sea.

EU-China relations have shown signs of warming in recent months, despite tensions over Ukraine, human rights and economic overdependence.

Xi discussed cooperation with several EU leaders during the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia in November, and later hosted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Beijing, followed by European Council President Charles Michel in December. Of.

Wang said he hoped China’s relations with the European Union would improve in the coming year, despite their different attitudes toward Ukraine.

“The European Union has already realized that China cannot deliver what it expects,” he said. “And unlike before, it will not ask China to express its position first before talking about other things. They should cooperate in the areas in which they are competent and should not be sentimental because China’s situation is different from theirs.

“The human rights dialogue has now to be restarted. So if there is any dispute or problem, let’s talk first, and don’t get distracted from the issue of Ukraine.

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