The current peace plan put forth by Beijing in response to the Russia-Ukraine War appears to be intended to improve its relations with the rest of the world by Trojan-horsing a peace settlement between Russia and Ukraine to meet its needs. The Russia-Ukraine War began in 2014 with Russia’s invasion of Crimea, an
autonomously recognized region of Ukraine, which was continued by Russian
soldiers who had crossed into Ukrainian territory while wearing disguises.
This story of the Russian invasion of Ukraine had been going on for the previous 8
years, but this mission by Russia was accelerated in 2022 when it began a full-scale invasion by indiscriminately bombing and shelling various areas of Ukraine, killing more than 14000 civilians and disproportionally destroying civilian infrastructure and properties all over Ukraine.
Genesis of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia
Since the beginning of time, Russia and Ukraine have been at war. Since the early
1700s, when Ukraine was freed from Mongol and Lithuanian rule and the Russians
saw an opportunity to amalgamate it within the autocratic Russian regime, these close neighbours without fences have been at war, indicating that good fences would have made good neighbours.
Alas, following Russia’s act of converging Ukraine within its territory, Ukraine had
initially declared its independence in 1918, but fate had for it, another 70 years of
However, even throughout these 70 years of cruel dom, Ukraine realized its
independent position in the 1930s after the mass suicide and death of many
Ukrainian farmers as a result of a famine called Holodomor. This disaster had
intensified and subsequently established Ukrainian’s national identity sense. All this culminated in the complete separation of Ukraine from Russia with the disintegration of the USSR- Union Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991 which broke into 15 nations, providing Ukraine with the most appropriate opportunity to break out too.
Post this separation, Ukraine being a newly born nation had wished to improve its
ties with all the upcoming countries of the post-cold war world, including Russia as Russia was, in comparison to Ukraine a much larger superpower. And so was the United States of America, the contemporary friend to all in a newly liberated world an arch-rival of the USSR Successor state- Russia.
Since Ukraine was a newly independent country that was in danger of colonization by more powerful forces, the fundamental objective of Ukraine since its independence has been to safeguard its independence and sovereignty, which required it to maintain balanced collaboration with the European Union.
The US, EU, and Russia were all more than prepared to give the eastern European
region the structure and authority it needed in the post-cold-war era. In the same way that the US desired to retain cordial connections with Eastern Europe to keep control over the Euro-Atlantic, which it worried may be lost if Russia were allowed to gain influence, Russia had been attempting to forge its sphere of influence.
Then the deeply divided yet united EU emerged, with ambitions to establish its own hegemonic power over the world, the key to which was held by the European subcontinent. This desire to establish the EU’s world-dominating position was evident in its efforts to push the Euro forward to compete with the strong Dollar. The rest, as they say, is history, and since Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, the conflict has continued.
China’s Role in Peace and Distress
But how does China fit into this story of a world dominated by Russia, Europe, and
China, which seeks to hide its gains by bridging the widening gap between China
and the EU, which is part of the larger goal of bridging the gap between China and the West, actually fits exactly into this picture of power politics. All of this may be explained with the use of a basic backstory and the straightforward tenet that an enemy’s enemy is a friend. Relations between Russia and the West have never been good before, during, or after the Cold War.
At the same time, recent trade conflicts initiated against China, first by President Trump and then later by President Biden in the form of tariffs, have pushed China and Russia closer together than ever.
Due to its violations of numerous humanitarian laws and harsh practices, Russia has taken on a relatively isolated position in the globe, which has caused both Russia and any bilateral relations it may have to be called into question. About the recent controversy, China has experienced over their shared friendship with Russia. The idea of mediating peace between Russia and Ukraine is dominated by China’s wish to keep its connections with the West and the EU.
China needs the support of Ukraine in a highly symbolic manner to win the trust and partnership of the West. Still, it also needs the support of Russia more overtly to maintain its power competition with the West and to advance its position of
replacing the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency with the Chinese Reminbai. And it’s this same goal that drives China to want a more subservient Russia so that, even though it has a strong ally in its corner, it doesn’t remain strong enough to challenge its hegemony.
As a result, China has devised its diplomatic strategy to ensure that everyone’s needs are addressed, taking the shape of a peace accord known as the Beijing Peace Plan. This strategy seeks to facilitate a settlement between Russia and Ukraine to cast Beijing as the “peacemaker” in the international limelight.
In a 12-point statement, China emphasized that “Conflict and War benefit No One” and anchored the entire peace treaty around advocating an end to Western boycott movements and sanctions imposed against Russia, as well as the evacuation of civilians, to put an end to the current humanitarian catastrophe.
The plan also emphasizes maintaining grain exports, which were previously
interrupted by a rise in food prices last year. The strategy has opposed the use of nuclear weapons and guarantees that each nation’s independence will remain intact. Additionally, it has suggested that the “Cold War mindset” that still prevails in the world, which essentially despises the role played by the West in world affairs, should be abandoned.
Both the West and Ukraine have had negative reactions to this peace proposal. This is primarily due to the Chinese peace plan’s recommendation that a ceasefire be declared to officially usher an end to the war in Ukraine. According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, this is not the proper way to put an end to this saga because it only points to Ukrainian defeat and a Russian genocide victory in the face of international peace.
Ukraine maintains that the only way to end the conflict is for Russian soldiers to completely withdraw from Ukraine and return to the area that was designated as the boundary in 1991.
For the West, the eagerly anticipated document issued by the Chinese foreign
ministry is believed to have only suggested a set of principles rather than any new initiatives or a plan. They contend that the fundamental reason for this document’s ambiguity is that China has chosen a side and is silently but firmly backing Russia, as can be explained by the treaty of friendship that the PRC and Russia signed for an infinite amount of time.
According to experts, China has not provided a constructive plan because there are no “action elements” in it, and because China is biased, it is not the institution that should be mediating peace between Russia and Ukraine.
- Aljazeera. (2014, May 21). China proposes Ukraine peace plan. Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2014/05/china-proposes-ukraine-peace -plan-20145218335926045.html
- BBC News. (2014, May 21). Ukraine crisis: China proposes peace plan. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27510479
- Chan, T. K. (2015). China’s response to the Ukraine crisis: A case of strategic opportunism. International Affairs, 91(1), 53-71. doi: 10.1111/1468-2346.12183
- Cui, L., & Hu, Y. (2016). Russia-China cooperation in Ukraine crisis: Motivations and limitations. Journal of Contemporary China, 25(99), 230-249. doi: 10.1080/10670564.2015.1106708
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- Kuzio, T. (2014). China’s Ukraine policy: An analysis of Chinese views and interests in the Ukraine crisis. Journal of Contemporary China, 23(90), 57-780. doi: 10.1080/10670564.2013.854435
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. (2014, May 21). Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying’s regular press conference on May 21, 2014. Retrieved from https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2511_665403/t1 157869.shtml
- Reuters. (2014, May 21). China proposes three-step plan for Ukraine. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-china-idUSBREA4K0N8201 40521
Nayana Sharma is a Research Intern at IMPRI.
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