Can China broker peace between Russia and Ukraine?
STORY: China is seemingly positioning itself as a mediator in the Russia-Ukraine war.
Beijing has proposed a 12-point plan for peace in Ukraine
and China's foreign ministry has said it is in communication with both sides.
All of this has sparked speculation that China may try to get the rivals to the negotiating table.
Let's take a look at why the world power would try to mediate.
The country typically doesn't get involved in other countries' conflicts, especially the more distant ones.
But analyst Wang Jiangyu, a law professor at City University of Hong Kong, says that trying to broker peace is a low-cost venture that can yield high returns.
“If China can do anything, given the slightest to end the war, or to a lesser extent, to bring the parties together, to have the talk to have, for example, to suspend the war for some periods, for some months. That would be something of tremendous value to Chinese reputation and to a Chinese prestige. So it marks the beginning of China playing a global leadership role, which used to be solely played by the United States.”
So what does China propose as a route to peace?
In its 12-point paper on the "political resolution of the Ukraine crisis,"
Beijing urges both Russia and Ukraine to agree to a gradual de-escalation and ceasefire.
While the plan calls for the protection of civilians and that the sovereignty of all countries be respected,
China has refrained from condemning Russia for its invasion.
The plan got lukewarm welcomes in both Russia and Ukraine.
Ukraine says it will only consider peace settlements after Russian troops leave Ukrainian territory, though later said it was open to "parts of the plan".
Russia says it will take a "nuanced study" of the plan, but did not see any sign for a peaceful resolution for now.
The U.S. and NATO remain skeptical of China's proposals.
NATO says China does not have much credibility as a mediator on Ukraine.
So, what role could China play, if any?
Analysts say it will be hard for China to get Russia and Ukraine to negotiate at all.
However, some suggest that President Xi Jinping could spark momentum towards talks.
Here's Jiangyu again.
“...if the Chinese understanding is after several months, both parties are exhausted and they want to have the forum to start peace talks, China can offer that. And no other country can do that.”
A fruitless attempt by NATO member Turkey to host dialogue in the weeks after the war began last year underscores the difficulty.
But some analysts say China is in a better position than Turkey to mediate because it has more leverage over Russia.
China does also has some influence over Ukraine, which would not want to ruin its chances of Chinese support for its eventual reconstruction.
Whether China could be an honest broker is unclear.
China's close ties with Russia mean its role will be viewed with deep scepticism.
Days before Russia invaded Ukraine, China and Russia announced a "no-limits" partnership.
And while China has called for peace since the beginning of the war, it has largely reflected Russia's position:
that NATO threatened Russia with its eastward expansion, and Ukraine's Western allies fanned the flames of war by supplying it with tanks and missiles.