Marking the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a 12-point position paper calling for Russia and Ukraine to cease hostilities and “stop unilateral sanctions” on Friday.
Though China continues to project a neutral stance on the war without outright support of either side, Beijing has historical ties with Moscow, and a Russian defeat would leave the country with no other major world power as an ally.
“We highly value the sincere desire of our Chinese friends to contribute to the settlement of the conflict in Ukraine through peaceful means,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in response to the paper’s publication, but added that any settlement must recognize “the new territorial realities.”
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday that “China talking about Ukraine is a good thing.”
“But it begs the question, what will these words be followed with?” he added.
China watchers also weighed in on the new position paper. Here’s what they have to say:
The View From Manoj Kewalramani
Manoj Kewalramani, the author of the daily newsletter Tracking People’s Daily, described China’s paper as a “nothing-burger,” saying that the 12 points are merely public positions that Beijing has held since the start of the war.
“No one who reads this can come away with the idea that China is in any way a neutral mediator,” he wrote.
Kewalramani noted that Beijing is encouraging peace talks to be broadly about “European security architecture,” rather than the war itself, which he said will have implications on the Indo-Pacific region. China also offered to help with post-war reconstruction in the paper, which left Kewalramani with this question:
“Beijing’s already positioning to get in for building contracts. If this is something it desires, would it make sense to provide weapons to Russia and alienate Ukrainians and Europeans further?”
The View From Wen Ti-Sung
Wen Ti-Sung, a political scientist at the Australian National University in Canberra, dissected the paper’s 12 points in a Twitter thread, calling it a “thinly-veiled attempt to help Russia achieve an upper hand over Ukraine.”
Commenting on the second point, which calls for the prevention of “bloc confrontation,” Wen wrote: “When China says the Ukraine-Russia war should not be a contest between ‘blocs’, China is effectively saying Ukraine shouldn’t get support from other countries in the Western camp.”
This reduces the war to a bilateral confrontation, rather than a multilateral one, he said. In such a scenario, Wen added, “Russia will be a lot more likely to prevail over the smaller Ukraine.”
The View From Wolfgang Ischinger
On Twitter, Wolfgang Ischinger, the president of the Munich Security Conference, called the Chinese paper a “disappointment,” saying that “China is missing a great opportunity to enforce the UN Charter.”
All United Nations member states, which include Russia and Ukraine, are bound by the UN Charter, which is seen as an instrument of international law.
According to Article 51 of the legislation, Ukraine has a right to defend itself in the face of Russian shelling.
The paper’s only positive point, Ischinger said, was China’s “reaffirmation of the rejection of nuclear weapons.”