Peace initiative: what are Beijing's goals?

After announcing a Chinese peace initiative for Ukraine in Munich, the country's top diplomat Wang Yi has travelled to Moscow to present the plan there. It is due to be officially revealed in detail on 24 February, one year after the Russian invasion began. The Russian foreign ministry has said it appreciated China's efforts. Ukraine said that its own peace plan had priority, but that it was open to ideas. The press focuses on Beijing's motives.

Open/close all quotes
Valerii Pekar (UA) /

All about Chinese interests

In a post on his Facebook page, Valerii Pekar, publicist and professor at Kyiv-Mohyla Business School, argues that Beijing's initiative won't come to much:

“China is definitely not on Russia's side. China will never side with Ukraine either. China is on China's side. ... With its 'peace plan', which won't be a peace plan at all, China is sending one message to all parties: China is an important player and everything must be done to ensure that its interests are taken into account. How to take Beijing's interests into account is another matter. We will not get China on our side, but we can get it on the side of post-war peace. The peace after our victory.”

Kommersant (RU) /

Running out of patience with Russia

Kommersant discusses Wang Yi's goal with the initiative:

“It is to send a clear signal to Moscow that the ongoing confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine is becoming increasingly painful and problematic for China. Beijing, which is suffering losses from disruptions in global trade and numerous restrictions, is visibly uncomfortable with the situation. The West's 'red flags' are forcing China to think time and again about how to get around them. Consequently, Beijing does not want to wait for the situation to resolve itself; it wants to push for a solution as quickly as possible.”

Polityka (PL) /

Cheap raw materials are not everything

China will continue to maintain a guarded stance towards Russia, Polityka suspects:

“Concerns are growing in Beijing that European capitals see China's ties with Russia as evidence of Beijing's growing ambitions, and at the same time as a threat to Taiwan. European countries are also more likely to listen to Washington's arguments, for example regarding the controls on chip technologies, which directly affect China's economy and international position. In other words, the cheap raw materials from Russia and the opening of the Russian market to Chinese exports do not offset the risks posed by the restriction of China's access to Western markets and technologies.”

Postimees (EE) /

The West must not be fooled

Sinologist Märt Läänemets predicts in Postimees that China will do everything to ensure that the outcome of the war is positive for its strategic partner Russia:

“On the one hand, China is making efforts to save Russia, on the other it is trying to maintain and increase trade with the West. Hence the controlled rhetoric and seemingly neutral position. But the West should not be fooled and lulled. ... The war has had a global dimension from the start, and China could end up being decisive. For the West, who wins this war is a matter of life and death. So we must not only rethink our China policy, but also take steps to adjust it.”

Cumhuriyet (TR) /

Is China giving the US the boot?

Cumhuriyet sees the plan as viable:

“China's peace plan - about which, interestingly, the leaders of Germany, France and Italy were also consulted - has caused great concern in the US administration: the 'global South' is much more open to Chinese diplomacy because of the accompanying financial and diplomatic support and is therefore more likely to accept the peace plan. In this case, the argument 'Putin will be isolated' could turn into 'the US will be isolated'.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Not good prerequisites

The taz's China correspondent Fabian Kretschmer doesn't hold out much hope for a positive outcome:

“Rationally speaking, Beijing's initiative is little more than an attempt to present itself as a responsible player on the international stage after a catastrophic loss of image. ... Clearly Beijing also benefits from the current situation. Russia is increasingly dependent on the Chinese economy. And Beijing gets cheap oil, modern fighter planes and political backing from Moscow at the United Nations Security Council. Both states are also united by the will to break through the US-led Western dominance. ... These are not good prerequisites for a neutral mediating role.”

The Spectator (GB) /

Beijing could play a constructive role

As Russia's strategic partner China has a key role to play, The Spectator believes:

“China has far more to lose from openly siding with Moscow than it stands to gain - not least because Beijing does more than 1.5 trillion in annual trade with the US and only 100 billion with Russia. For Xi, the smart move is to continue to withhold serious military support to Moscow, instead seeking to play a constructive role in a post-war deal where Beijing would act as the kind of major military guarantor of Russia's future territorial integrity that would allow Putin a face-saving way to end his disastrous Ukrainian campaign.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Poised to become a political superpower

China could benefit massively from this initiative, writes MEP Bernard Guetta in La Repubblica:

“Beijing would avert an abrupt standstill in international trade that would have serious repercussions both for its economy and for its political stability. But that is not all. If it succeeds in silencing the weapons in Europe, China would simultaneously rise to the status of a key power - no longer only economically and militarily, but also politically. Its international ascendancy would be strengthened so considerably that it would catch up with the United States in the first quarter of this century and become the second of two superpowers.”