China’s Xi wants to be peace envoy between Russia, Ukraine during Moscow visit

Chinese President Xi Jinping traveled to Russia on Monday hoping for a breakthrough on Ukraine as China seeks to position itself as a peacemaker.

Mr. Xi, freshly re-elected for a third term, is pushing for a greater role for China on the global stage and played a key role in mediating an unexpected rapprochement between Middle Eastern rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia this month.

Rumors that he may soon hold his first phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky since the outbreak of the war have raised hopes in Western capitals that Xi may lean on his “old friend” Putin for a three-day to stop his bloody invasion during his state visit.

Announcing the trip on Friday, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China would “play a constructive role in promoting peace talks.”

“Stopping the war is everyone’s wish, because Europe will lose so much and the U.S. may not be able to support Ukraine for long,” said Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs in Beijing’s Renmin University of China.

“China can speak out on both sides — can say it’s a trusted friend of both Ukraine and Russia. I think that’s very important.”

Beijing, Russia’s main ally, has long sought to portray itself as a neutral party in the conflict.

But it has refused to condemn the Russian incursion and sharply criticized Washington’s support for Kiev – leading Western leaders to accuse Beijing of providing diplomatic cover for Russia’s strikes against its European neighbors.

“Beijing has so far done very little to encourage peace in Ukraine, because any credible effort would require pressure on Russia, or at least calling Russia outright,” said Elizabeth Vishnik, a professor at Montclair State University and an expert on Chinese foreign policy. come out.” .

Xi’s trip, which came after the International Criminal Court announced on Friday that it had issued an arrest warrant for Putin on war crimes charges, was aimed at “providing his strategic partner with all the support he can, except aid that would lead to sanctions,” she told AFP.

– More talk, less substance –
Playing the role of peacemaker, China published a 12-point position paper on the Ukraine war last month, calling for dialogue and respect for the territorial sovereignty of all countries.

Beijing also touts its Global Security Initiative (GSI), a signature policy of Xi Jinping that aims to “promote lasting peace and development”.

Both documents have drawn outrage in the West because they focus on broad principles rather than practical solutions to the crisis.

Ja Ian Chong, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore, said China’s recent diplomacy around the war appeared to be “an attempt to highlight” GSI and “build momentum for its foreign policy and re-engagement with the world”.

“Whether (China) is really stepping up its efforts to act as a peacemaker in a meaningful way will depend on the substance of what it presents in its meetings with the Ukrainian and Russian leaders,” said Zhuang, who specializes in Beijing’s international relations. .

“Their previous peace plans were more about general principles than actionable proposals.”

– ‘Injustice’ –
This month, Beijing worked hard to present itself as an international mediator as it oversaw a deal to restore diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

It was later revealed that Xi himself had offered China to act as a “bridge” between rivals, challenging Washington’s long-standing role as the Middle East’s main external power broker.

Audrye Wong, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California, said: “The (Saudi-Iran) deal was facilitated in line with the Chinese government’s narrative that the Chinese government is a positive and global player promoting peace and cooperation, which is in stark contrast to Washington’s allegedly destabilizing actions. .”

But Renmin University’s Wang said quelling the war in Ukraine would be “harder” than the Saudi-Iran deal, pointing to China’s “limited” leverage over Moscow and U.S. support for Kiev.

He suggested that Beijing could help broker “an armistice similar to the Korean War” that would stop the fighting but further raise questions about territorial sovereignty.

But Montclair State University’s Weshnik said Ukraine was “unlikely to accept China as a mediator because China is not seen as neutral or impartial”.

“Xi Jinping may be eager for diplomatic success, but I don’t see success on the horizon in Ukraine,” she said.

“Neither side is willing to give up hope of competing for territory on the battlefield.”

(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from syndicated feeds.)

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