China speaks out on the anniversary of the attack on Ukraine to call for a ceasefire. In a 12-point paper, Beijing also calls for the start of peace negotiations. The paper does not say what role China itself could play in such a process. Since last week’s Munich Security Conference there had been speculation about a Chinese “peace plan”. According to the Italian government, China’s top foreign policy leader, Wang Yi, even announced a “peace speech” by head of state and party leader Xi Jinping. There is no talk of that in Beijing on Friday. Instead, the State Department merely publishes a paper on its website that contains little more than China’s well-known positions and generalities. Sentences like: “There are no simple solutions to complex problems.”
From a Russian point of view, the paper should be welcome. There isn’t much in it that could even be read between the lines as a condemnation of Russian aggression. While China calls for “a refraining from attacks on civilians and civilian facilities”, it does not mention that it is Ukrainian civilians who are being attacked by Russian soldiers. Beijing is committed to protecting the territorial integrity of all states and opposes the use of nuclear weapons or a threat to do so, without mentioning that Russia violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and threatened to use nuclear weapons. The European Union’s ambassador to China, Jorge Toledo, commented that this was “a little strange” and “worrying” at a press conference on Friday. Instead, the document contains the well-known Chinese sayings that the war was allegedly caused and fueled by America.
China is ready to “continue to play a constructive role in this” and provide “a platform for resuming negotiations,” the paper said. The Wall Street Journal, citing Beijing sources, reported that Xi Jinping wanted to travel to Moscow to see Vladimir Putin with the proposal for multi-party talks in the spring. That could serve to dampen Western criticism of the visit. If Putin is open to this while Ukraine dismisses the proposal as dishonest, that would be a win from China’s perspective. To war-weary Europeans, in the Global South, and at home, it would stand out as a supporter of peace.
Is Beijing producing kamikaze drones for Moscow?
With the statement that it wants to “continue” to play a constructive role, Beijing is also continuing the myth that Xi Jinping had already successfully advocated talks between Russia and Ukraine in the past, but that “some people” stopped them be. That’s what Wang Yi said in Munich last week. He spoke of people who “do not care about the life and death of Ukrainians and the damage that Europe suffers”. I mean the United States.
Beijing is also aware that a ceasefire and peace negotiations for Ukraine are out of the question as long as Russia does not withdraw from the occupied territories. This raises the question of what the Chinese leadership is aiming for with its push. The paper is the provisional conclusion of a diplomatic offensive that China’s top foreign policy leader Wang Yi had brought to France, Italy, Hungary, the Munich Security Conference and finally to Russia in the past few days. His visit to Moscow shortly before the anniversary of the invasion was thus given the guise of a supposed shuttle diplomacy. However, Wang Yi did not travel to Kiev, but only met the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Munich. Chargé d’Affaires at the Embassy of Ukraine in Beijing, Zhanna Leshynska, said at a press conference at the European Union Representation on Friday that requests are being made “all the time” to Beijing for Xi Jinping to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. So far in vain.
Meanwhile, a report in the magazine “Der Spiegel” makes people sit up and take notice. It spoke of alleged negotiations between the Russian military and the Chinese company Xi’an Bingo Intelligent Aviation Technology to mass-produce kamikaze drones for Russia. It would be the first known arms supply contract between China and Russia that was negotiated after the start of the Russian war of aggression. The magazine does not name a source, but speaks of “information” that they have received.
According to the report, the company has allegedly committed to supplying 100 prototypes of a ZT-180 drone by April and to providing Russia with knowledge and components so that the country can manufacture the drones itself. The authors quote military experts as saying that the aircraft can carry warheads weighing up to 50 kilograms. The Chinese Foreign Ministry denied the information without giving details. The report underscores the warning signals that the US government, NATO, the EU and European countries like Germany have been sending to Beijing in recent days. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington had information that China was considering supplying arms and ammunition to Russia. He spoke of “serious consequences for our relationship”. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on the program “Maybrit Illner” that he had “clearly said” to China that arms deliveries to Russia would not be accepted.