China will send a special envoy to Ukraine, Russia, and other European countries beginning Monday, the highest-ranking Chinese diplomat to visit the war-torn Ukraine since Moscow’s incursion last year, Beijing announced on Friday.
From Ukraine to the Middle East, Beijing has pushed to position itself as a mediator with a key role in resolving the world’s issues in recent months. However, while China claims to be a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, it has been chastised for neglecting to condemn Moscow for the invasion.
Last month, more than a year into the battle, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone with his Ukrainian colleague Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Chinese government then announced that Li Hui, who served as China’s ambassador to Russia from 2009 to 2019, will lead a mission to Ukraine.
The goal of Li’s travel to Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany, and Russia, according to China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, is to “communicate with all parties on the political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.”
Wang said Li’s trip demonstrated China’s “commitment to promoting peace and dialogue.” “It amply demonstrates that China is firmly on the side of peace.”
“China is willing to continue to play a constructive role in building more international consensus on the cease-fire, cessation of war, opening of peace talks, and avoidance of further escalation of the situation,” he added.
“We all worry about the situation, and we all call for peace and a political solution, which China stands for and has been calling for since the outbreak of the conflict,” said Qin Gang, China’s foreign minister, who is now in Norway.
China issued 12-point position paper
However, the appointment of Li as the Chinese government’s special envoy for Eurasian affairs has raised suspicions. President Vladimir Putin bestowed the Order of Friendship medal on him just before he left Moscow as ambassador.
Xi’s phone talk with Zelensky, which the Ukrainian president hailed as “long and meaningful,” comes after Beijing issued a 12-point position paper on Ukraine in February, calling for discussion and respect for all countries’ territorial sovereignty.
Western countries slammed the report for its ambiguous language, prompting Zelensky to indicate he would be willing to meet with Xi.
The first argument it made was that “the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld.” However, China has continuously declined to elaborate on how this ties to the circumstances of the Ukraine conflict.
Experts agreed on Friday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine requires a rethinking of Europe’s approach to security and its transatlantic connection with the US.
Academics and think-tank specialists joined Baltic prime ministers on a panel at the Lennart Meri Conference to debate how the continent might effectively adapt to and overcome ongoing economic and political difficulties.
The conflict’s impact on Europe
According to the panel, the Russia-Ukraine crisis has put European unity to the test, but it has also exposed the hollowness of Europe’s military capabilities and emphasised the need to strengthen its defence industrial capability.
The conflict’s impact on Europe’s relationship with the United States was also a major topic on the agenda.
Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said the turmoil in Ukraine and China’s growing power have brought Europe and the US closer together, with Washington now more involved in European matters than before.
“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we can strengthen this relationship, because I’m convinced from the European side it’s in our interest, but equally convinced it’s in the US side’s self-interest,” he said.
“We’re all starting to realise that we have full military dependence on the United States through NATO; it’s there.” The question is, what else can we do to strengthen our relationship with the US? We must not disconnect because we and the United States face numerous obstacles.”
According to Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, the EU is fundamentally a peace endeavour. She went on to say that the situation in Ukraine has forced the EU and its allies to evaluate the best methods to defend their hard-won peace, even if it meant using less-than-peaceful measures.
“I don’t want to say we have a special (perspective) in the region; we just have a living memory of our past,” she continued.
“Even for myself, I have (a memory) of the Soviet Union’s 15-year occupation of Lithuania, and never again means never again.” I really don’t want that to happen again.”
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said it was critical that Europe and the rest of the West work together to hold those responsible for Russia’s “crimes of aggression” accountable.
“Russia must be held accountable,” she stated. There is no such thing as impunity or immunity.
“A year ago, it was thought unthinkable that the ICC (International Criminal Court) would issue an arrest warrant for (Vladimir) Putin.” Only six months ago, few were willing to publicly embrace the notion of a special tribunal for war crimes. We’ve reached the point of no return.”
“There will be no sustainable peace in Europe if Ukraine falls,” Simonyte concurred. Russia will reorganise, re-arm, and move on to the next target.
“To avoid this, Russia must be expelled from Ukrainian territory, bear the costs of its recovery, and war criminals must be brought to justice.”