Doubts about Biden administration and U.S. allies China Western diplomats and former U.S. officials said China could play a decisive role in ending the war in Ukraine, given Beijing’s tendency to play it safe in the diplomatic arena and its reluctance to alienate Russia.
Although China has made a peace proposal and plans to send an envoy to the region next week, there has been no sign that it is ready to step in as a full-fledged mediator and take all the risks that come with it, the former U.S. official and two Western diplomats said.
“We are skeptical,” said one Western diplomat. “Their language is anything but neutral.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping did not speak to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky until more than a year after Russia invaded Ukraine, and Beijing continued to echo Moscow’s talking points on the causes of the conflict, avoiding the term “war” when referring to it Word Ukrainian battle.
Biden administration Evan Medeiros, a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and then a senior adviser on Asia, said he wanted to convey the impression of being at least open to the possibility of an active role for China, but expectations remained low — US President Barack Obama.
“I think they are properly skeptical China Might actually play,” Medeiros said.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said earlier this month that the U.S. welcomed any efforts by China to help end the war, saying “it would be a good thing if they would play an active role in trying to bring about peace.”
But he added that China needed to support the principle that “there are victims and there are aggressors” in conflicts. “I have to say that until recently, it was not clear that China had accepted this basic principle. I’m still not sure if they did, but at least President Xi has now had a dialogue with President Zelensky.”
Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, said China’s position on the conflict in Ukraine was “consistent and clear.”
“China has been committed to promoting peace and talks to achieve a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine,” he said, adding: “President Putin and President Zelensky both welcome China’s important role in restoring peace and resolving the crisis through diplomatic means .”
During discussions in Vienna on Tuesday and Wednesday between U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jack Sullivan and China’s top foreign policy adviser Wang Yi, the U.S. side “urged some constructive engagement” on Ukraine and reiterated U.S. concerns that Beijing should Avoid military aid to Russia, senior administration officials told reporters.
China is increasingly portraying itself as a powerful country with global influence, but its diplomatic approach remains cautious. Former U.S. officials say there is no precedent for it to get caught up in difficult peace talks, put its own reputation at risk, or put pressure on a key partner like Russia.
“There’s no question that they’ve become more and more ambitious diplomatically, as they have in many other areas of world affairs,” said Jacob Stokes, who served as then-Vice President Biden in the Obama administration. Deng’s national security staff. “The question is, how ambitious are they willing to be, what costs and burdens are they willing to bear?” said Stokes, now a senior fellow in the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security think tank.
For years, Washington has hoped that Beijing will use its influence to push Pyongyang to make concessions on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
“The point of view at the time was this,” said one of the six party nuclear talks More than ten years ago, it included the United States, Japan, Russia, and two North Koreas. “It never really worked.”
He said China’s diplomacy was designed to avoid taking risks, and that Beijing’s approach to the North Korea talks was one of inviting parties to meet rather than trying to shape the substance of the talks.
“If you want to be a mediator, you have to put more emphasis on the success of the negotiation than simply creating a place for people to talk,” Cha said.
The Six-Party Talks, held in six rounds from 2003 to 2009, “was an experience that revealed China’s true motives,” said Medeiros of Georgetown University.
China is not prepared to take substantive action on North Korea’s nuclear weapons issue, “because in the final analysis, they are more concerned with maintaining influence on the Korean peninsula and maintaining North Korea’s status as a buffer state than nuclear non-proliferation issues,” he said.
Medeiros said China’s interests on North Korea do not align with those of the United States or its allies. “I think eventually in Russia we’ll find the same thing.”
How Beijing calculates its interests in Ukraine remains an open question. Some experts believe that for the sake of the global economy, China would like to see the fighting cease and ensure that its partner, Russia, does not suffer a devastating defeat.
A senior Senate aide said it was uncertain “what kind of influence or pressure Beijing would be willing to exert on Moscow to end this conflict, and what benefit they would gain from doing so.”
Some Western officials said China could play a more limited but useful role in encouraging Russia to hold ceasefire talks without negotiating detailed proposals or forcing compromises from Moscow.
Currently, neither Russia nor Ukraine appear ready for peace talks or ceasefire discussions, as both sides believe they can gain something on the battlefield. CIA Director William Burns said in February that Russian President Vladimir Putin believed his military could weaken Ukraine in a war of attrition and that Western support for Kiev would fade over time.
Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, said in Washington last week that her government was “ready to work with anyone who will help us.”
“I think we should focus — and that’s our goal — not on how to get Russia to the negotiating table, but how to get them out of Ukraine,” Markalova said at an event organized by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies think tank explain.
Asked if Ukraine supported China’s prospects as a peace mediator, she said: “We don’t need a middleman. Russia doesn’t need a middleman to leave Ukraine, you know that?”
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