China urges ceasefire in Ukraine war

China has called for a ceasefire in the war in Ukraine and a return to negotiations as Beijing seeks to position itself as a peacemaker in the conflict on the anniversary of Russia’s all-out invasion.

China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday released a 12-point paper on its position on a “political solution” to the war in Ukraine, although many of Beijing’s actions echoed earlier points of discussion.

Chinese diplomats have performed a difficult balancing act during the war, trying to appear neutral despite Beijing’s close ties with Moscow while accusing Washington and NATO of provoking the conflict.

“Dialogue and negotiations are the only viable solution to the Ukraine crisis,” the State Department said in the document, which it did not directly describe as a war. “All efforts conducive to a peaceful solution to the crisis must be encouraged and supported.”

Beijing’s call for a ceasefire is unlikely to find support in Kiev until Russia withdraws from the territories it occupies, an issue not addressed in the 12-point position paper.

Zhanna Leshchynska, chargé d’affaires at the Ukrainian embassy in Beijing, ruled out a ceasefire that would freeze the conflict along the current frontline.

“Our view is that Russia should unconditionally withdraw all of its armed forces from the territory of Ukraine,” she told reporters in Beijing on Friday. She later added that this meant Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, which include Crimea.

Jorge Toledo, head of the EU delegation to China, told a joint press conference that the Chinese position paper was not a “peace proposal”.

China's growing trade with Russia

Leshchynska added that China should demonstrate its neutrality by urging Russia to withdraw its troops and increase cooperation with Ukraine. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has not called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy since the Russian invasion, but has spoken to Putin several times.

Shi Yinhong, a professor at Renmin University, said Beijing is probably aware that neither side will heed his proposal. “China feels [it] necessary to reiterate here its neutrality on the war in order to preserve some international clout by not only criticizing NATO but also differing from Russia’s behavior,” he said.

China’s top diplomat Wang Yi appeared to be making little progress on pushing through the proposals on Wednesday when he met Putin, who insisted in an address to the nation this week that the war threatens Russia’s “common existence.”

Beijing’s newspaper also warned against the use of nuclear weapons in the war and called for protection of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants. It also called for an end to sanctions not approved by the UN Security Council, a reference to penalties imposed by the US and EU.

The peace proposal comes as Washington claims Beijing is considering sending Russia arms and other deadly aid to support Putin’s war goals. A year into the conflict, Russian and Ukrainian forces are locked in a series of bloody skirmishes in eastern Ukraine, with neither side clearly having the upper hand, prompting some Chinese nationalists to increase aid to Russia.

Hu Xijin, the former editor of the Chinese nationalist tabloid Global Times, defended Beijing’s reluctance to provide direct military aid.

China has already provided the “biggest support to Russia’s sanctioned economy” by increasing imports of energy and food and keeping the flow of Chinese “electronics, cars and microprocessors,” Hu said this week.

Chinese customs data shows imports from its northern neighbor rose 43 percent to $114 billion last year as it increased purchases of Russian oil, gas and coal, while exports rose 13 percent to $76 billion -dollars have gone up.

Additional reporting by Maiqi Ding and Nian Liu in Beijing China urges ceasefire in Ukraine war

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