| 29 February 2024, Thursday |

China suggests this is the ‘most important thing’ that can end conflict between Russia and Ukraine

Moscow and Kyiv’s top officials must sit down at the negotiating table to establish a path to de-escalating aggression, said China’s permanent representative to the UN, Zhang Jun

“The most important thing right now is to return to the track of diplomatic negotiations and [create] a political settlement as soon as possible to help de-escalate the situation,” he claimed.
According to the diplomat, “China supports direct dialogue and negotiation between Russia and Ukraine,” which he insists is the definitive way to resolve the conflict. Zhang also said that the international community should “prioritize regional peace, stability and the universal security for all.”
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said during his briefing on Wednesday, ”China and Ukraine are keeping an open communications channel.”

It comes after Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba talked to his Chinese counterpart and he “appealed to the Chinese foreign minister to take advantage of their leverage on Putin, of their relations with Russia, and urge Putin to stop this war immediately.”

The Ukrainian top diplomat said that “constructive involvement of China is possible” and pointed to China’s abstention from a UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

China is the only friend that might help Russia blunt the impact of economic sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, but President Xi Jinping’s government is giving no sign it might be willing to risk its own access to US and European markets by doing too much.

Even if Beijing wanted to, its ability to support President Vladimir Putin by importing more Russian gas and other goods is limited.

Relations with Moscow have warmed since Xi took power in 2012, motivated by shared resentment of Washington, but their interests can conflict. While their militaries hold joint exercises, Putin is uneasy about the growing Chinese economic presence in Central Asia and Russia’s Far East.

“China-Russia relations are at the highest level in history, but the two countries are not an alliance,” said Li Xin, an international relations expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

Xi’s government might support Putin within those limits, and Chinese companies might use the situation to pursue better deal, but will balk at openly violating sanctions and being targeted for penalties, experts said.

“China doesn’t want to get so involved that it ends up suffering as a result of its support for Russia,” said Mark Williams, chief Asia economist for Capital Economics.

Chinese trade with Russia rose to $146.9 billion last year, but that is less than one-tenth of China’s total $1.6 trillion in trade with the United States and EU.

“It all hinges on whether they’re willing to risk their access to Western markets to help Russia, and I don’t think they are,” said Williams. “It’s just not that big a market.”

China, the world’s second-largest economy, is the only major government not to have condemned the invasion.

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