Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
April 27, 2023
The Xi-Zelenskyy call yesterday gives a ray of hope for ending the war in Ukraine. Afterall:
- The war in Ukraine has already caused significant damages not only to the warning parties but also global economy. April 28 (UPI) — Europe’s economy flatlined in the first quarter with eurozone GDP up by just 0.1%, while the economy of the European Union as a whole did slightly better growing by 0.3%.US GDP 2023: Economy grew by an annualised 1.1% in first quarter. China’s economy grew 4.5% in the first quarter, the fastest pace in a year.
- It is a proxy war between Russia and the US led west. As such, the US led west is not a viable mediator for ending the war.
- China is the only major power in the world, and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, along with Russia, the USA, England, and French, that has the status to mediate a deal between the warning parties.
- It is not a cliché’ that starting a war is easy but ending a war is nearly impossible. It is not reasonable to ask the question now “does he have a plan?” A good question for the waring parties is “what is your plan for starting/ending the war?”
- China’s plan is a two-step approach, first stop the war with a cease fire. The next step is reaching a peaceful resolution with an end to hostility. Does anyone have a better approach?
- Reaching a cease fire is still a very complex task, because US led west has already sunk in billions of dollars supporting Ukraine so the group has a major sway. It will take the Chinese special envoy to the task.
- Zelenskyy is smart to formally recognize the “one China policy” so that China will be engaged in ending the war. But there is no need to drag Taiwan issue into this peace process.
With Zelensky call, Xi Jinping steps up bid to broker peace – but does he have a plan?
Analysis by Simone McCarthy, CNNcUpdated 5:59 AM EDT, Thu April 27, 2023
Hong KongCNN —
A long-awaited phone call between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday has received a tentative welcome in Washington and parts of Europe for its potential to increase dialogue toward resolving Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine.
It also marks the most concrete step made to date by China to take up the role of mediator that it has for months alluded to playing.
But the hour-long conversation, believed to be the first between the two leaders in the fourteen months since Russia invaded Ukraine, also comes with few tangible proposals for how China might help to bridge the devastating, war-torn divide between the two countries.
And its timing – at a moment when Beijing is acutely focused on strengthening ties with Europe amid cratering relations with the United States – also suggests there are more drivers than just peace in China’s calculus, analysts say.
Ties have been frayed thin since the outbreak of the war, as European leaders have watched in dismay while Beijing refused to condemn the invasion and instead bolstered its economic and diplomatic ties with Moscow, including joining the Kremlin in blaming NATO for fueling the conflict.
“It is hard to separate the timing of the Xi-Zelensky call from those events,” said Brian Hart, a fellow at Washington think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies’ China Power Project.
“Xi likely timed the call to quell fears in Europe, but it remains to be seen whether the call will help Beijing much… Higher-ups in Beijing walked back the ambassador’s statements, but the damage was done, setting back attempts by Beijing to smooth over worsening ties with much of Europe,” he added.
Zelensky, who had for months expressed interest in speaking with Xi, addressed hopes for China’s role in peace after the call, characterizing it in his nightly address to Ukrainians as an “opportunity to use China’s political influence to restore the strength of the principles and rules on which peace should be based.”
Xi, for his part, pledged China “would not sit idly by” and planned to dispatch a special envoy to push forward communication “with all parties” toward peace talks, according to a Chinese readout of the call – a move that is similar to steps Beijing has taken in other regional conflicts including Afghanistan and Syria.
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But what exactly China could or hopes to achieve remains far from clear, as few concrete details past the appointment of envoy Li Hui, a former Chinese ambassador to Russia, were released by Beijing.
Meanwhile the war rages on with Russia unwilling to give up illegally gained territories and Ukraine pledging to fight until it restores its rightful borders.
“The Chinese also have realistic expectations about what they can achieve as no one believes that either Russia or Ukraine is ready to sit down and talk at this time,” said Yun Sun, director of the China Program at the Washginton think tank Stimson Center.
“For China, (that) the war is not going to end soon doesn’t mean it should not exploit the opportunity to increase its diplomatic sway and influence, (and) strengthen goodwill with Europe… Success is not guaranteed for any mediation, but making the effort gains China many credits and that is not insignificant,” she said.
But another set of optics, Beijing’s close rapport with Moscow, has already embedded a deep skepticism in the West over China’s potential role as mediator.
A vaguely-worded “political settlement” to the conflict released by China on the one-year anniversary of the invasion – and raised by Xi to Zelensky on Wednesday – has been widely viewed in the West and Kyiv as being far more favorable to Russia than Ukraine. It calls for a ceasefire but includes no provision that Moscow first withdraw its troops from Ukrainian land.
This record and the close personal ties between Xi and Putin – further underlined during a three-day visit from the Chinese leader to Moscow last month – are likely to undermine Xi’s credibility in Zelensky’s eyes, analysts say.
But this rapport has also been the reason that some leaders, including Zelensky and Macron, have expressed hope that Xi could leverage his clout to influence Russia to respect international law.
“There is no indication that Xi is trying to get Putin or Russia to make concessions of any sort (and) the Chinese readout (of the call) does not include anything concrete that can start a peace process,” said Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London.
“Given that the war is an existential one for Ukraine, it cannot find any foreign mediation as credible if the mediating party is clearly supportive of the stance of Russia, which started the invasion,” he added.
Analysis: Xi Jinping’s self-serving call to Ukrainian president is bad news for Taiwan
Thu, April 27, 2023 at 4:13 AM PDT
Xi Jinping’s long-awaited phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has already proven useful for Beijing at a time when its relations are deteriorating with many foreign nations.
Without putting much skin in the game, the call has given China another chance to trumpet its position as a “responsible major country”, a theme state media is parroting today.
Sending Beijing’s special envoy for Eurasian affairs is a low-stakes gesture – not high-profile enough to get much done, and certainly not high-profile enough for it to be embarrassing if the visit flops. At best the envoy will likely bring a message and test the waters.
But the phone call between Mr Xi and Mr Zelensky has already benefited Beijing.
The third paragraph of Kyiv’s readout of the call “reaffirmed Ukraine’s unwavering position on adherence to the ‘One China’ policy”.
Beijing’s ‘One China’ policy denotes Taiwan, an island nation with a democratically-elected government, as Chinese territory.
Mr Xi’s is the only major government on friendly terms with Russia, positioning it as a potential go-between with Ukraine. It did, after all, manage to negotiate a near-impossible: the resumption of diplomatic ties between rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia after a seven-year freeze.
But whether or not Beijing does so depends on if it proves favourable to Chinese interests.