As the world marked one year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Friday, China ventured from the sidelines of the war with a call for peace that was swiftly rejected among Western powers as a publicity stunt.
The 12-point plan from China calls for dialogue to “deescalate” the conflict, which has brought tensions between West and East to their highest since the Cold War.
“All parties should support Russia and Ukraine in working in the same direction and resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible, so as to gradually deescalate the situation and ultimately reach a comprehensive ceasefire,” the proposal says.
China intervenes in Ukraine
China’s proposal also calls for an end to sanctions against Russia, which is likely to be a non-starter for Western governments that have insisted on a full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
The United States was dismissive of the proposal, with Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan saying the plan could be revised to just one point.
“This war could end tomorrow if Russia stopped attacking Ukraine and withdrew its forces… This was a war of choice,” Sullivan said.
While China claims neutrality, the West is skeptical. China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion, and like Russia, China has blamed the conflict on NATO’s eastward expansion.
Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China is trying to have its cake and eat it, too.
“China’s been trying to have it both ways,” Blinken said Friday. “It’s, on the one hand, trying to present itself publicly as neutral and seeking peace, while at the same time, it is talking up Russia’s false narrative about the war.”
The cease-fire proposal also says that nuclear weapons “must not be used and nuclear wars must not be fought,” an acknowledgment of concerns about the conflict escalating into a world war. But a peaceful resolution appears elusive as the U.S. and Russia each double down.
President Biden sought to rally the West this week with a swing through Ukraine and Poland, where he vowed that Russia would “never” achieve victory. For his part, Vladimir Putin pledged to finish what he described as a struggle for Russia’s survival against Western aggressors.
“They started the war, and we used force in order to stop it,” Putin said.
While China plays the peacemaker, the U.S. has accused China of seeking to escalate by supporting Russia with military aid.
China has dismissed the “smear” while pointing the finger at the U.S., which has sent billions in weaponry to help Ukraine. President Biden doubled down Friday with another $2 billion in military aid, as well as new sanctions.