China calls for ceasefire in 12-point peace plan for Ukraine

China calls for ceasefire in 12-point peace plan for Ukraine
A symbolic action led Ukrainian refugees with thousands of teddy bears and toys representing the thousands of children abducted following the war in Ukraine, at the Rond-point Schuman, in Brussels, Thursday 23 February 2023. Credit: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck

The Chinese Government has marked the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by calling for an end to the war, detailing its own position in a 12-point peace plan.

Released early on Friday morning, the anticipated document states China’s support for the “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries,” referencing the UN Charter. Counterintuitively, last night China abstained from a UN General Assembly resolution calling for the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and for Russia to leave the country.

In the plan, China also stresses the need to cease the threat or use of nuclear weapons, most likely referring to Russia’s brazen use of making nuclear threats to achieve its strategic aims. “Nuclear proliferation must be prevented and nuclear crisis avoided,” the plan reads.

In a visible criticism of NATO and the West, China called for “abandoning the Cold War mentality,” adding that “the security of a region should not be achieved by strengthening or expanding military blocs.” It reiterated its support for “the legitimate security interests and concerns of all countries,” in a nod to Russia’s alleged reasoning for launching its bloody invasion, but not recognising the voluntary applications of states seeking to join NATO, rather than vice-versa.

Soldier in the street, during a visit to Borodianka in the Kyiv Oblast (province) on Sunday 27 November 2022. Credit: Philip Reynaers / Belga

Ukraine was not consulted for the development of the peace plan, and many experts in the US are questioning China’s ability to act as a neutral broker. This was not helped by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s trip to Moscow this week to meet Vladimir Putin, where he called for reinforced bilateral ties. China has not yet explicitly condemned the invasion and has previously stated it has an “endless friendship” with Russia.

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China is calling for restraint between all parties, who “must stay rational.” China has expressed interest in the post-conflict reconstruction of Ukraine. The document also criticised the use of unilateral sanctions unauthorised by the UN Security Council, a body that has been rendered toothless over the invasion by Russia’s permanent seat and veto.

Cautious reaction

The EU Ambassador to China, Jorge Toledo Albinana, responded on Friday morning by saying the document is “not a peace proposal,” and that its contents were already largely known. He reminded China to “fulfil its special responsibility” in face of Russian aggression. China has a vital role to play in defending the UN Charter against this kind of aggression, adding, “this is why we continue to call on our host China to fulfil its special responsibility.”

The plan has reportedly been cautiously welcomed by Kyiv. Speaking at a briefing in Beijing on Friday morning, Ukraine’s Ambassador to China Zhanna Leshchynska ruled out a ceasefire.

“Our view is that Russia should unconditionally withdraw all of its forces from the territory of Ukraine, ” Leshchynska stated. However, she believed it was a “good sign” China was taking a more involved interest, but she did not, at the moment, see China as supporting Ukrainian efforts. “We hope they also urge Russia to stop the war and withdraw its troops."

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