Chinese leader Xi Jinping intends to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the first time since the start of the Ukraine war, likely after he visits Moscow next week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the Wall Street Journal which cites unnamed sources.
It has been suggested that Beijing’s desire for talks with both sides derives from their wish to help mediate an end to the war in Ukraine.
A direct conversation with Zelenskyy, if indeed it takes place, would represent a major step forward in Beijing’s efforts to bring about peace in Ukraine, which have so far been met with skepticism in Europe.
It would also boost Beijing’s credentials as a global power broker after it facilitated a surprise diplomatic breakthrough between Saudi Arabia and Iran last week.
Russia’s Tass news agency reported on January 30 that Putin had invited Xi to visit in the spring. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that a visit to Moscow could take place in April or early May.
China and Russia struck a “no limits” partnership in February of 2022, when Putin was visiting Beijing for the opening of the Winter Olympics, weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, and the two sides have continued to reaffirm the strength of their ties.
The overseas trip would mark Xi’s first after he secured an unprecedented third term as China’s head of state.
China’s last big play as a global peacemaker came in the early 2000s, when it launched six-party talks aimed at reducing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for aid. Talks, however, failed in 2008 when North Korea withdrew despite relying heavily on economic support from Beijing.
A breakthrough in Ukraine represents a tougher task, especially as both sides in the war believe too much remains to be played out on the battlefield. Neither has shown an inclination to stop fighting.