China released a new position paper outlining its stance on the Ukraine conflict on Friday, the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
The 12-point document mostly reiterates Beijing’s existing standpoint on the conflict, while portraying China as a neutral party and urging the two sides to enter into peace negotiations.
But Beijing’s claim to neutrality has been questioned by the United States and other Ukrainian allies, with Russia and China describing their bilateral relationship as having “no limits” just weeks before the invasion.
Recent accusations from Western countries that China is considering arming Russia have been dismissed as “false information” by Beijing.
Here are some of the key takeaways from China’s new position paper:
The document’s first point is that “the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld”.
But China has consistently refused to expand upon how that relates to the specifics of the Ukraine war, which was triggered when Moscow’s forces invaded their neighbour.
US President Joe Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan said his first reaction to the paper was that “it could stop at point one”.
“Ukraine wasn’t attacking Russia. NATO wasn’t attacking Russia. The United States wasn’t attacking Russia,” he added.
Beijing called on Russia and Ukraine to resume peace talks, stating that “dialogue and negotiation are the only viable solution”.
“The international community should stay committed to the right approach of promoting talks for peace, help parties to the conflict open the door to a political settlement as soon as possible, and create conditions and platforms for the resumption of negotiation,” the paper reads.
No nuclear war
The paper discouraged the threat and use of atomic weapons, stating that “nuclear proliferation must be prevented and nuclear crisis avoided”.
The comment comes on the heels of President Vladimir Putin’s declaration on Tuesday that Russia was withdrawing from the New START treaty, the last remaining nuclear weapons pact between Moscow and Washington.
The paper stated that China also “opposes the research, development and use of chemical and biological weapons by any country under any circumstances”.
It added that both sides should “strictly abide by international humanitarian law, (and) avoid attacking civilians or civilian facilities”.
Abandon ‘Cold-War mentality’
The position paper said all parties should “abandon the Cold War mentality”, a consistent rallying cry of Chinese diplomacy.
In a veiled criticism of NATO, the paper affirms that “the security of a region should not be achieved by strengthening or expanding military blocs”, and that “the legitimate security interests and concerns of all countries must be taken seriously”.
China’s foreign ministry has frequently lambasted Washington and its allies for providing arms and equipment to Ukraine, accusing them of reverting to Cold War-era proxy conflicts.
The position paper also criticises the unilateral sanctions imposed on Russia by Western powers, arguing that they “cannot solve the issue; they only create new problems”.
Limit economic impact
Some points are concerned with protecting the global economy from the wide-ranging impacts of the war.
China called on all parties to uphold the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows for the uninterrupted shipment of vital goods needed to alleviate an ongoing global food crisis.
Another point calls for “keeping industrial and supply chains stable”, and urges all parties to “oppose using the world economy as a tool or weapon for political purposes”.
The position paper has been met with scepticism from Ukraine and its allies.
Speaking after the paper’s release, a representative from the Ukrainian embassy in China said: “If it is neutral, then China should talk to both sides… And now, we see the Chinese side mostly talks to Russia but not with Ukraine.”
Jorge Toledo, the European Union’s ambassador to China, said Beijing had “a special responsibility” to uphold the goals and values of the United Nations, especially when it came to war and peace.
“Whether this is compatible with neutrality, I’m not sure, it depends on what neutrality means,” he added.
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