Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Russia next week to meet with Vladimir Putin, officials from both nations said on Friday. China has proposed a plan to end Russia’s prolonged war in Ukraine, but the offer has been met with skepticism on both sides.
The plan attempts to protect civilian populations while also ensuring that Ukraine and Russia respect each other’s autonomy. Yet, the United States and NATO have regarded Beijing’s mediation efforts as untrustworthy since China has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow sees as a “unique military operation.”
The Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Wang Wenbin, indicated that Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia, his first in almost four years, was intended to promote “harmony,” but he did not expressly mention the Ukrainian crisis. He claimed that the two presidents will also discuss critical regional and international problems, strengthen bilateral trust, and expand economic cooperation.
According to a statement from the Kremlin, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin will discuss “relevant issues concerning the further development of comprehensive partnership relations and strategic cooperation between Russia and China.” The statement did not mention Ukraine.
Some media reports suggest that after his visit to Russia, Xi will have a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, but Beijing has not yet confirmed this.
During Putin’s visit to Beijing for the opening of the Winter Olympics in February 2022, China and Russia announced a “no limits” partnership. However, just days later, Putin sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine, resulting in the most significant conflict in Europe since World War Two.
Despite the ongoing conflict, Beijing and Moscow have reiterated the strength of their relationship. Bilateral trade has increased significantly since the invasion, with China now being Russia’s largest oil buyer, a crucial source of revenue for Moscow.
The invasion has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and millions of people being displaced from their homes. However, there are no indications of either side actively seeking an end to the conflict.
Ukraine has expressed concerns about Beijing’s proposals, as they do not mention the need for Russia to withdraw behind the borders established since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Nevertheless, Ukraine later stated that it was open to “parts of the plan.”
Russia has welcomed China’s initiative and said it would make a “careful analysis” of the plan, but it has also stated that it does not see any indication of a peaceful resolution at this time.
Moscow contends that Ukraine must acknowledge the annexation of four regions in the east and south of the country, as well as the loss of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia forcibly seized in 2014. While Kyiv and its Western allies argue that Moscow’s actions represent an imperial-style land grab, Russia claims that its actions in Ukraine are a defensive response to a hostile and aggressive West.