The "new era" that has opened with this visit, according to Xi Jinping, brings with it a proposal that aims to put an end to the conflict that erupted 13 months ago due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In addition to the economic and diplomatic progress achieved by the leaders of two of the world's major powers, there is also an initiative that, at least in the first instance, Moscow is not closed to considering. An important factor to bear in mind is that China has been keen to emphasise the union that its country should form with Vladimir Putin's NATO, especially at a time of Russia's isolation.
A month ago, China presented a document setting out twelve points aimed at 'a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine'. While Putin does not fully agree with the plan presented by Xi Jinping, he has said that 'many of the provisions of the peace plan presented by China are in line with Russian approaches and can be taken as a basis for a peace agreement when the West and Kiev are ready for it'. A view that is not entirely shared by Ukraine, which has called for the prior withdrawal of Russian troops from its territory in order to consider the agreement.
The twelve points with which Beijing aims to end the conflict between Ukraine and Russia are as follows:
- Respect for the sovereignty of all countries.
- Abandon the Cold War mentality.
- Cessation of hostilities.
- Resumption of peace talks.
- Resolving the humanitarian crisis.
- Protection of civilians and prisoners of war.
- Keeping nuclear power plants safe.
- Preventing nuclear proliferation.
- Facilitate grain exports.
- Stop unilateral sanctions.
- Keep industrial and supply chains stable.
- Promoting reconstruction.
China's mediating role does not seem straightforward. However, there is no better precedent than the one Beijing has set in recent days in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia and Iran, whose diplomatic relations were severed in 2016, have been restored thanks to Xi Jinping's country's stance. Now, China faces an even more complex task, although this does not prevent it from aiming for a peace that, a priori, these twelve points will not achieve.
That is not to say that it is not an interesting starting point for both sides. While it is true that neither side intends to accept the conditions proposed by China, they have not refused outright. Volodimir Zelenski, during his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Kiev, rejected Xi Jinping's plan, focusing on allowing Russian troops to remain on Ukrainian territory. Any solution, at least for the Ukrainian leader, must involve the total withdrawal of Soviet forces, something that the Kremlin does not contemplate for the time being.
On the other hand, the United States has been quick to express its disagreement with China's approach. John Kirby, spokesman for the US National Security Council, believes that this peace plan "does not give hope for an early end to this war". Therefore, it does not seem that the idea put forward by Beijing is going to be a success, far from it, but it is a basis on which to work. And above all, the key step that China wants to push for is the return of Ukraine and Russia to the negotiating table. It will be complicated, as was the situation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but if there is one thing that is clear it is that Chinese will plays a key role at any point on the international chessboard.