China’s President Xi Jinping has arrived back in Beijing after his two-day visit with President Vladimir Putin over the China-proposed Ukraine peace plan. On the Ukraine crisis, there was nothing that can be considered a breakthrough, but the talks did prompt swift reaction from Washington.
More important are the broader implications of the two ‘dear friends’ pledging to shape a new world order and signing multiple pacts on economic, technological, and strategic cooperation. These were the words captured in a Reuters headline Wednesday… “China’s President Xi Jinping and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin set their sights on shaping a new world order as the Chinese leader left Moscow, having made no direct support for Putin’s war in Ukraine during his two-day visit.” Arguably the most important exchange came during the sendoff before Xi’s entourage headed to the airport, and was captured by (or rather intended for) the cameras…
Xi Jinping: “Change is coming that hasn’t happened in 100 years and we are driving this change together.”
Putin: “I agree.”
Xi Jinping: “Change is coming that hasn’t happened in 100 years and we are driving this change together”
Putin: “I agree”pic.twitter.com/9myzS2BsXA
— Chief Nerd (@TheChiefNerd) March 22, 2023
Putin had told Xi that the peace plan “correlates to the point of view of the Russian Federation”; but the message out of Biden officials was “don’t be fooled” as it’s all about Moscow seeking to “freeze the war on its own terms,” in the words of Secretary of State Blinken. Also on Tuesday, NSC spokesman John Kirby said China is not an impartial mediator and that China “keeps parroting the Russian propaganda”.
On Wednesday the Chinese foreign ministry hit back, charging that Washington is “adding fuel to the fire” of the conflict by its “continuous supply” of weapons to the battlefield. Spokesman Wang Wenbin was asked directly about Kirby and Blinken’s comments from the day prior.
“The US side claims that China’s stance isn’t impartial. But is it impartial to continuously supply weapons to the battlefield? Is it impartial to constantly escalate the conflict? Is it impartial to allow the effects of the crisis to spill over globally?” Wang said.
“We advise the American side to rethink its own stance on the Ukraine issue, turn away from the erroneous path of adding fuel to the fire, and stop shifting the blame to China,” he added. The spokesman further insisted Beijing has “no selfish motives on the Ukraine issue, has not stood idly by… or sought profit for itself,” but that “what China has done boils down to one thing, that is, to promote peace talks.”
He went on to assert that contrary to popular assumptions in the West, the global community stands by China on the side of diplomatically pursuing peace. According to a transcript:
On the Ukraine issue, voices for peace and rationality are building. Most countries support easing tensions, stand for peace talks, and are against adding fuel to the fire. This is also China’s position. President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia is a journey of friendship, cooperation and peace. It has been warmly received internationally. We call on the US to reflect on its own role in the Ukraine issue, stop fueling the flames, and stop deflecting the blame on China.
Wang spelled out that “We will continue to stand firm on the side of peace and dialogue and on the right side of history and work together with the rest of the world to play a constructive part in facilitating a political settlement of the Ukraine issue.”
To the surprise of many, Ukraine’s President Zelensky on Tuesday invited China to start talks on a path forward based on offering a “Ukraine formula” for peace negotiations. It’s unclear what Beijing’s response will be, but it was widely seen as an unexpected and positive overture. It has also become clear that whatever peace talks might come to fruition involving China mediation, the US is not going to lead, but will likely be sidelined – despite the closeness to Kiev.
Read More: China Gives US Advice On Ukraine