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China’s Proposed Ukraine Peace Plan Sparks Unease in US as Xi Jinping Meets with Putin in Moscow

By Vusala Abbasova March 25, 2023

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Washington has publicly expressed deep skepticism about the Chinese initiative, arguing that it could consolidate Moscow’s territorial gains in Ukraine. / AP

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s three-day visit to Russia, which included talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding China’s proposed peace plan for resolving the Ukraine crisis, has put the Biden administration in an uncomfortable position as the US has deemed the proposal unacceptable.

“The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the war on its own terms,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on March 20, the first day of the Chinese president’s visit to Moscow.

Meanwhile, Bonny Lin, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, believes that if Washington rejects the proposal “China will likely ramp up messaging that the US is opposed to a ceasefire, that the US is opposed to the end of the war.”

“There will be lots of ways in which China will try to spin whatever comes from the China-Russia meeting in a way that seeks to portray the US in negative light,” Bloomberg quoted Lin as saying.

Prior to President Xi’s visit to Russia, US officials had expressed significant doubts about the Chinese proposal, arguing that its call for a ceasefire would reward Moscow’s invasion by consolidating its territorial gains in Ukraine. According to US National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby, such a move “would, in effect, recognize Russia’s gains, and its attempt to conquer his neighbor’s territory by force, allowing Russian troops to continue to occupy sovereign Ukrainian territory and, of course, it would be another continued violation of the U.N. Charter.”

China’s foreign ministry released a 12-point position paper on Ukraine on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion. The paper, among others, calls on the international community to create conditions for negotiations to resume and claims that China will continue to play a constructive role in resolving the conflict. While the paper does not provide specific steps for resolving the conflict, it emphasizes the importance of respecting the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all countries, and calls for all parties to avoid exacerbating tensions and to abide by international humanitarian law. Additionally, the paper opposes the threat or use of nuclear weapons and criticizes unilateral sanctions against Russia, as well as the expansion of military blocs. 

The paper was severely criticized by Western leaders, who questioned Beijing’s credibility in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

During President Xi’s visit to Moscow, the two leaders had an opportunity to convey a message to the West, asserting their commitment to advancing a world order that opposes what they perceive as Washington and its democratic allies’ leadership.

“Many provisions of the Chinese peace plan can be taken as the basis for settling of the conflict in Ukraine, whenever the West and Kyiv are ready for it,” President Putin said in a joint news conference after talks with the Chinese leader ended. 

But Russia had yet to see such “readiness” from the other side, he added.

President Xi, in turn, expressed his government’s support for peace and dialogue, stating that China was on the “right side of history.” He reiterated that China maintains an “impartial position” on the Ukraine conflict, positioning Beijing as a potential mediator for peace.

The Chinese government has repeatedly stated its impartial stance on the Ukraine conflict, indicating its readiness to act as a mediator between Moscow and Kyiv.