On his way to Moscow, China’s president is trying to cast Beijing as a peacemaker after more than a year of war.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is due to arrive in Moscow later on Monday for talks, has called for a “rational way” out of the Ukraine crisis but has acknowledged it will not be easy to reach a solution.
Writing in the Russian newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, a daily published by the Russian government, Xi said discussions could be based on China’s 12-point proposal for a political settlement published last month.
“The document serves as a constructive factor in neutralising the consequences of the crisis and promoting a political settlement,” Xi wrote, according to a Reuters translation of the article. “Complex problems do not have simple solutions.”
Xi added that the paper reflected “as much as possible” the views of the global community.
Xi’s visit to Moscow is his first since Putin sent Russian troops into Ukraine in February 2022, with Beijing casting itself as a neutral party even after it reaffirmed its close ties with its northern neighbour. The Chinese president will be the first world leader to meet Putin since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against him last week.
The Chinese and Russian presidents met shortly before Putin sent his troops into Ukraine, committing themselves to a “no limits” partnership. It is not clear whether Xi was aware of Russia’s plan to invade Ukraine, a close trading partner of Beijing.
Xi has been seeking to present China as a global peacemaker, arguing that a way out of the crisis could be “found if everyone is guided by the concept of common, comprehensive, joint and sustainable security, and continue dialogue and consultations in an equal, prudent and pragmatic manner”.
Putin has welcomed China’s willingness to play a “constructive role” in ending the conflict in Ukraine and has “high expectations” of Monday’s talks with Xi.
“We have no doubt that they will give a new powerful impetus to the whole bilateral cooperation,” Putin wrote in an article written for a Chinese newspaper and published by the Kremlin on Sunday.
He said Sino-Russian relations were “at the highest point”.
China has not condemned the war in Ukraine or called it an invasion although it has criticised international sanctions imposed on Russia and some of its most prominent political and military figures.
Xi may also hold phone discussions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after his visit to Moscow, according to reports.
Zelenskyy gave qualified support to the peace plan when it was released in February noting the need to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Foreign Minister Qin Gang held a rare phone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba last week to urge a political solution, saying China was concerned that the war could spin out of control. Qin urged Ukraine to seek a political solution with Moscow.
China, he told Kuleba, had “always upheld an objective and fair stance on the Ukraine issue”.
In turn, Kuleba reiterated the importance of territorial integrity and the key points of Zelenskyy’s peace plan, which includes the restoration of Ukraine’s borders, the withdrawal of the Russian military and the cessation of all fighting.
In the Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Xi said that his trip to Russia is aimed at strengthening the friendship between the two countries, “an all-encompassing partnership and strategic interaction,” in a world threatened by “acts of hegemony, despotism and bullying”.
“There is no universal model of government and there is no world order where the decisive word belongs to a single country,” Xi wrote. “Global solidarity and peace without splits and upheavals is in the common interests of all mankind.”