China Tells Russia, Ukraine, to ‘Calm Down as Soon as Possible’ on War Anniversary

Volodymyr Zelensky
Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images // Inset: AP/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service

China debuted its heavily promoted “Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis” blueprint on Friday, using state media to declare that the solution to the year-long full-scale invasion is for both Russia and Ukraine to “calm down as soon as possible.”

In an editorial on Friday – the one-year anniversary of Russia’s “special operation” to oust Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – the Chinese government-run Global Times newspaper insisted that alleged American meddling in Ukrainian politics effectively forced Russian leader Vladimir Putin to launch a nationwide attack on Ukraine last year. The Global Times boasted this week that only China’s alleged wisdom could end the war, calling attempts by the West and Russia to resolve the dispute uncreative failures.

Neither Ukraine nor Russia appeared particularly enthusiastic about China’s declaration that it would singlehandedly end the war.

Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014, colonizing its Crimean peninsula and arguing that its Russian-speaking population was under threat of ethnically motivated attacks. Russia spent much of the past eight years before the “special operation” against Zelensky fueling a longstanding conflict in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region that did not result in any significant changes in the status quo despite the prodigious loss of life. In February 2022, Putin announced he was recognizing the two Donbass regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, as sovereign states and, in their defense, launching a “special operation” to remove Zelensky’s “Nazi” government.

In those remarks, Putin claimed that Ukraine had “no tradition” of being a sovereign state and that Ukraine was “completely created by Russia.”

The Chinese position paper on ending the war did not lay any blame on either side of the conflict, mostly offering uncontroversial statements such as “nuclear weapons must not be used” and “China opposes armed attacks against nuclear power plants.” The paper suggested that only dialogue could resolve the conflict, apparently conceding that a Russian military victory against a much smaller country was not possible.

“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 paper insisted.

China advised with little specificity that “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 deescalate the situation and ultimately reach a comprehensive ceasefire,” the position paper asserted.

The paper concluded by opposing sanctions on Russia and suggesting that China should be allowed to rebuild Ukraine following the war: “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.”

The Global Times editorial supporting the position paper also offered general advice that it did not explain how to implement.

“The Russia-Ukraine conflict should not continue any further. The parties deeply embroiled in the conflict need to calm down as soon as possible,” the editorial suggested, “and stop pushing the narrative of the conflict toward a bloc rivalry.”

The state newspaper insisted that the war between Russia and Ukraine was the product of a “confrontation between camps,” not a product of Russia invading the sovereign territory of a neighbor, and suggested that the war “requires the establishment of a universal and sustainable security concept, rather than a unilateral and hegemonic one.”

China debuted such a concept, the “Global Security Initiative,” last year. It has not clarified exactly what the “Global Security Initiative” is, but this week encouraged state actors to sign onto it.

The Global Times appeared to absolve of Ukraine of any significant role in the war it is waging to expel Russia, claiming the conflict was “a major outbreak of historical grievances between Russia and the West.”

“It is in itself a failure of the American and European diplomatic and security framework in Eurasia,” the Chinese propaganda outlet asserted.

The Global Times also claimed in passing that “some great powers,” presumably America, “are attempting to replicate a similar confrontation in the Asia-Pacific region,” without elaborating – an apparent reference to China’s repeated threats to invade the sovereign state of Taiwan. Multiple American presidential administrations have urged China not to attack its neighbor, although the United States does not recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty formally.

Asked about the Ukraine position paper on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin defended the fact that it did not mention Russia withdrawing troops from the sovereign territory of Ukraine as a way of ending the invasion.

“The Ukraine issue has a complex historical context. On this issue, China has all along upheld an objective and just position,” Wang claimed, “actively promoted peace talks, and determined our position on the merits of the matter itself. We stand firmly on the side of peace and dialogue, that is, the right side of history.”

Wang did not urge Russia to withdraw troops from Ukraine. Wang also refused to offer a clear answer when asked who, between Russia and Ukraine, was the “aggressor” in the conflict.

Elsewhere in his remarks on Friday, Wang lamented that “NATO continues to exist despite the end of the Cold War,” blaming NATO for the Russian invasion by claiming that it “constantly seeks to reach beyond its traditional defense zone and scope and stoke tensions and create troubles in the Asia-Pacific.”

“NATO needs to reflect on itself and must not seek to sow chaos here in the Asia-Pacific or elsewhere in the world,” Wang warned.

Wang was apparently referencing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s visit to Japan and South Korea this month, meant to solidify support for Ukraine.

China has spent much of the past year refusing to make any vocal comments on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, aside from condemning the United States, which opposed the attack. Beijing has enthusiastically opposed sanctions on Russia, which the Ukrainian government has repeatedly demanded, but maintained contact with Zelensky. Ukraine is a member of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s plan to ensnare poor countries with onerous debts incurred paying Chinese companies to build infrastructure projects, and Zelensky himself has repeatedly invited Chinese dictator Xi Jinping to bilateral talks.

“I would like to talk directly,” Zelensky said in August, referring to seeking personal ties with Xi. “Since the beginning of the large-scale aggression on February 24, we have asked officially for a conversation, but we (haven’t had) any conversation with China even though I believe that would be helpful.”

In those remarks, given to the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post, Zelensky also suggested that Chinese companies should help rebuild Ukraine when the war ends.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.



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