China released a new position paper on the Ukraine conflict on Friday, the anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
The 12-point document basically reiterates Beijing’s existing position on the conflict, portraying China as a neutral side and calling on both sides to enter into peace talks.
But Beijing’s claim of neutrality was called into question by the United States and Ukraine’s other allies, with Russia and China describing their bilateral relationship as “borderless” just weeks before the invasion.
Recent Western allegations that China is considering arming Russia have been dismissed by Beijing as “false information.”
Here are some key takeaways from the new China position paper:
– Respect sovereignty –
The first paragraph of the document is that “the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively protected.”
But China has consistently refused to expand on how this relates to the specifics of the war in Ukraine, which began when Moscow’s forces invaded a neighboring country.
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US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said his first reaction to the article was that “it could stop at the first stage.”
“Ukraine did not attack Russia. NATO did not attack Russia. The US did not attack Russia,” he added.
– enter into negotiations –
Beijing called on Russia and Ukraine to resume peace talks, saying “dialogue and negotiations are the only viable solution.”
“The international community must remain committed to the right approach to advance peace talks, help the parties to the conflict open the door to a political settlement as soon as possible, and create conditions and platforms for the resumption of negotiations,” the document says.
– No nuclear war –
The document disapproved of the threat and use of nuclear weapons, stating that “it is necessary to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and avoid a nuclear crisis.”
The comment followed President Vladimir Putin’s announcement Tuesday that Russia was withdrawing from New START, the last remaining nuclear weapons treaty between Moscow and Washington.
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The document states that China also “opposes the research, development and use of chemical and biological weapons by any country under any circumstances.”
He added that both sides must “strictly respect international humanitarian law (and) avoid attacking civilians or civilian objects.”
– Abandon the “cold war mentality” –
The position paper says that all parties should “abandon the Cold War mentality,” a consistent rallying cry of Chinese diplomacy.
In a veiled criticism of NATO, the document argues that “the security of the region should not be achieved through the strengthening or expansion of military blocs” and that “the legitimate security interests and concerns of all countries must be taken seriously.”
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The Chinese Foreign Ministry has repeatedly criticized Washington and its allies for supplying weapons and equipment to Ukraine, accusing them of returning to proxy Cold War conflicts.
The position paper also criticizes the unilateral sanctions imposed on Russia by Western powers, arguing that they “cannot solve the problem; they only create new problems.”
– Limit the economic impact –
Some points concern the protection of the world economy from the wide-ranging consequences of war.
China called on all parties to support the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which ensures the uninterrupted delivery of vital goods needed to alleviate the ongoing global food crisis.
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The other paragraph calls for “maintaining the stability of industrial and supply chains” and calls on all parties to “oppose the use of the world economy as a tool or weapon for political purposes.”
– International reaction –
The position paper was met with skepticism from Ukraine and its allies.
Speaking after the newspaper’s release, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian embassy in China said: “If it is neutral, then China should be negotiating with both sides … And now we see that the Chinese side is mainly negotiating with Russia, not with Ukraine.”
Jorge Toledo, the European Union’s ambassador to China, said Beijing has a “special responsibility” to uphold the goals and values of the United Nations, especially when it comes to war and peace.
“I’m not sure if that’s compatible with neutrality, it depends on what neutrality means,” he added.