Espreso. Global

Beijing disrupting peace prospects in Russian-Ukrainian War, not Peace Summit

3 June, 2024 Monday

During a press conference on sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue Security Summit in Singapore, Zelenskyy openly accused the leadership of China of trying to disrupt the Peace Summit in Switzerland 


Volodymyr Zelenskyy emphasized that participation in the summit and assistance to Ukraine and the civilized world in ending the war were not mandatory. However, he pointed out that actions aimed at disrupting the Peace Summit, such as weakening the level of leaders' presence, preventing some leaders from attending, and exerting pressure on them, certainly did not bring peace any closer. In his view, this behavior not only supported Russia but also effectively supported the war, as it suggested that those who did not support the Peace Summit found the current situation acceptable.

It is worth recalling that China launched a real diplomatic offensive to weaken the influence of the Peace Summit and even disrupt the presence of many countries of the Global South a few weeks ago. By and large, the diplomatic tour of Chinese Foreign Minister Li Hui, his virtual meetings with national security advisors and other officials from many countries of the Global South, and the unveiling by the Chinese Foreign Ministry of its own vision of ending the war, which was agreed upon by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Putin, and Brazilian President Lula da Silva, have already become the first steps towards disrupting the Peace Summit and reducing the level of representation at it.

China's official refusal to send any delegation to the summit because its organizers did not fulfill China's main condition, which was the presence of a high-ranking Russian representative, apparently Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in Switzerland, can also be seen as a demonstration of not only unwillingness to participate in the Peace Summit, but also to influence the leaders of the Global South to not attend the meeting. But it's worth noting that Beijing is not just making public its own vision, as the Ukrainian president said, and not just emphasizing that its delegation will not be present in Switzerland. It is also recommending that other countries that value good relations with China also not participate in the Peace Summit and instead prepare an alternative international conference, which China obviously sees as organized either by its own country or by the BRICS member states close to China.

So we can clearly say that China has indeed decided to hold a real diplomatic duel with Ukraine. Moreover, China's leadership realizes that its weight in the world, and in the Global South in particular, is much more important and convincing than that of  Russia. By and large, Russia cannot put pressure on the countries of the Global South and threaten them with anything, because it is interested in those countries buying its oil. It is in its relations with the countries of the Global South that Russia sees a chance to reduce the effect of Western sanctions and, at the same time, to continue steps to further militarize the Russian economy and continue the war with Ukraine, which has been and remains the main political objective of the Russian leader.

But China is an important investor in the Global South. And of course, the leaders of countries hoping for good economic relations with China will now think twice before deciding whether to attend the summit in Switzerland themselves or send a representative delegation.

In addition, the attempt to disrupt the summit in Switzerland is precisely the publication of an alternative vision of peace in Ukraine, which is now being actively promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, offering leaders of the Global South to solidarize with the Chinese approach. And it must be said that there are already results here, because we know that this version of the peace plan is no longer even called the Chinese peace plan, but the Chinese-Brazilian peace plan.

To be honest, I think that in the coming days or weeks we will see some more important countries among the allies of China and Russia supporting this vision. Because there is a serious divergence here between the understanding of a just peace that Ukraine advocates, at least as an approach to negotiations. A peace that is associated with respect for international law, with the aggressor's responsibility for the war that Russia has waged against Ukraine, and so on, and the Chinese vision, which is primarily associated with freezing the Russian-Ukrainian war. If we take a closer look at the proposals put forward by the Chinese leadership today, we will see that Ukraine had to agree to suspend this war without any real guarantees for its own security, and this is already a rather serious blow to Ukrainian national interests; that there is no question of any negotiations on restoring Ukraine's territorial integrity in this regard.

China, on the other hand, is trying to promote as the most important points what it is concerned about, primarily the preservation of financial institutions and international trade routes, and the prevention of nuclear danger. And here we can say that the Ukrainian and Chinese positions coincide only in the point related to the use of nuclear weapons. This is, of course, an important part of the Chinese position, which may somehow influence Putin's perception of his ability to use these weapons in a war with Ukraine. However, if Putin sees that he can continue this war indefinitely and that China is willing to help him both economically and in rebuilding the Russian military-industrial complex, then the question arises: why would Putin use nuclear weapons at all when instead of nuclear weapons he can cooperate with time - with time that will allow him to hope for a continuation of the war of attrition?

That is why Beijing today is not disrupting the Peace Summit, but the prospect that this peace will be achieved in the Russian-Ukrainian war, at least in the coming years.


About the author. Vitaliy Portnykov, journalist, winner of the Shevchenko National Prize of Ukraine

The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the blog authors.

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